In many Christian churches this morning, the first reading would have been from Second Kings, chapter two, where the prophet Elijah is taken by God while his assistant and successor Elisha (who had repeatedly refused to leave him) looks on. They are walking by the river Jordan when it happens.
And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.
That image of chariots of fire coming for Elijah inspired the widely-beloved spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” which is credited to Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman who is believed to have composed it sometime circa 1860. Continue reading Swing Low, Sweet Chariot→
The 80-voice Melbourne Mass Gospel Choir will perform many of the gospel-era songs of Bob Dylan in concerts scheduled for this weekend, in Carlton (a suburb of Melbourne), Australia. Full story in the Melbourne Leader.
The leader of the choir is quoted as saying, among other things, that “They are powerful social critiques and the lyrics are now 30 years old but are as contemporary as anything you could imagine.” I usually cringe when hearing people talk about Dylan as a writer of “social critiques” and such-like, but when applied to his gospel-era songs, it strangely makes more a lot more sense than usual. I think it could definitely be argued that they are his protestiest songs ever.
From a performance in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1981, the YouTube clip below features Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins performing “I’ll Fly Away.”
Carl Perkins died in 1998. Johnny Cash in 2003. Elvis Presley, the fourth member of the famed “million dollar quartet,” passed away back in 1977. That’s the genesis of the title of a recent Jerry Lee Lewis album, namely Last Man Standing.As one of those latter-day albums of aging-stars-singing-duets-with-younger-stars goes, it’s not so bad at all. Continue reading Jerry Lee Lewis: Last man flying→
Tom Jones’ new album is called Praise & Blame,and has a distinct tilt towards songs of faith, like What Good Am I?, Didn’t It Rain, and Lord Help the Poor and Needy. Now, an e-mail from the vice-president of Island Records, David Sharpe, has been leaked by someone, and it indicates some extreme displeasure with the Tom’s latest musical direction. From WalesOnline:
Mr Sharpe fumed to colleagues: “I have just listened to the album and want to know if this is some sick joke?”
[The e-mail] stated: “We did not invest a fortune in an established artist for him to deliver 12 tracks from the common book of prayer.
“This is certainly not what we paid for.”
Jones is not happy about this and is making his feelings clear.
“In the press it says that I’ve gone off and made something that the record company didn’t pay me for and that they don’t like it.
“People tell me that all publicity is good publicity, that’s what I’ve been told.
“People say to me ‘well it’s being talked about’, but to me it’s being talked about in a negative way.
“Hopefully, if there’s any good that comes out of it, it’s that people will wonder about [the new album]. But it isn’t the way I would handle it by going and making a stupid statement. That’s not going to help it.
“They’ve apologised, they can’t apologise enough – and they’ve said ‘we’ll make good on this’.”
Some people, perhaps including Tom Jones, are not entirely sure if this e-mail reflected Sharpe’s real opinions or if the leaking of it is in fact a kind of publicity stunt. However, I think we may mislead ourselves by assuming too much deviousness, when in fact Sharpe’s scathing response to Tom Jones’ gospel music is pretty much par for the course amongst record executives when one of their secular artists makes this kind of move.
It’s well established history how the execs at Columbia hated Bob Dylan’s gospel stuff, and went out of their way to bury Saved.(Some conspiracy theorists even suspect they sabotaged the mix on that record.) I’ve written in a different venue on how Paddy McAloon’s masterpiece Let’s Change the World With Musicwas dismissed, if not suppressed, by those in control of the purse strings at Sony in the U.K. back in 1992, reportedly because of discomfort with numerous references to the divine in the songs’ lyrics.
The only thing I wonder is this: In these cases, do the record company executives oppose songs of faith because they genuinely believe that kind of music won’t sell (in which case I think they’re grossly mistaken) or does the attitude come from a deep antipathy towards the very concept of belief in God?
Motivations tend to be messy, so what’s going on is probably a combination of the two, but I would not at all underestimate the latter cause.
I do note that it’s quite sad that an Englishman would refer to the venerable old Book of Common Prayer as the “common book of prayer.”
Police said a cab driver who tried to take a purse from a woman fare beater was beaten by a group of good Samaritans who thought they were seeing a robbery. Police said it happened Saturday morning near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal when four woman[sic], who had been club-going, got into a fight with the cab driver over the fare. Continue reading The Parable of the Bad-Ass Good Samaritans→