Richard Thompson's Natural Law satire

Nobody could accuse singer-songwriter Richard Thompson of being a pawn of the religious right. Thompson expressed standard-issue contempt for fundamentalism in an October 2003 interview with writer Greg Kahill of Discussing Thompson’s album Old Kit Bag, Kahill wrote:

“Outside of the Inside” finds Thompson, a Sufi, discussing the way faith blinded the former rulers of Afghanistan to all things modern. “Generally speaking, it’s about fundamentalism — Muslim, Christian, whatever — and they’re not people I’m fond of. I think they are bigots and stupid people, who use a little bit of power to lord over others.”

Some writers have expressed surprise that Thompson, a longtime Muslim, would criticize others of his faith. “Well, I don’t know if I can be considered ‘a devout Muslim’ — that’s a comparative term,” he says. “I’d probably be at the liberal end of any religion, whichever one I chose. But I see the Taliban as medieval and ignorant, offering a very narrow interpretation of a religion.”

In recent months Thompson has been performing “Dear Janet Jackson,” a hilarious song that avoids both the hell-in-a-handbasket protests of the Right and the equally shrill it’s-all-about-Bush-administration-censorship murmurings of the Left.

Thompson’s song proposes a startling idea: that the female breast is designed to nourish a baby. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever heard to a bawdy rock & roll song built on a Natural Law assumption.

Here’s a portion of the opening stanza:

Now I couldn’t help but notice there
that you’ve got a pair of beauties
and if your other duties
as a diva give you time
there’s lots of hungry babes out there
that need something to chew
a new role as a wet nurse
might be just the thing for you

And a portion of the bridge:

That’s what they’re there for
That’s what they’re there for
Who are we to ask the why or wherefore?

The song is a crowd-pleaser, as is clear in this MP3 recorded in late March at Tarrytown, N.Y.

If this is typical liberal Sufi humor, let’s have far more of it, please.

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  • Wooderson

    “I’d probably be at the liberal end of any religion, whichever one I chose.”

    This is putting the cart before the horse, no? Choose your politics, then choose your religion (to fit those politics).

    And yes, Joe, this works both ways.

  • Darrell Grizzle

    I’m not sure there *is* such a thing as a “typical liberal Sufi”…




  • Brant Hansen

    Reminds me of a talk radio interview I had with filmmaker John Landis, an intelligent man who sees the ultimate human evil in what he called “fundamentalism.”

    I asked what he meant by “fundamentalist”; he responded,”Anyone who thinks he’s right.”

  • P.M. Summer

    Following are the lyrics to a Richard Thompson song written not long after his conversion to Islam. I’ve always found this to be chilling reflection of a nominal christian turning his back on the Cross of Christ.

    Calvary Cross

    I was under the Calvary Cross

    The pale-faced lady she said to me

    I’ve watched you with my one green eye.

    And I’ll hurt you ’till you need me.

    You scuff your heels and you spit on your shoes.

    You do nothing with reason

    One day you catch a train

    Never leaves the station.

    Everything you do

    Everything you do

    You do for me

    Now you can make believe on your tin whistle

    Ah, you can be my broom boy

    Scrub me ’till I shine in the dark

    I’ll be your light ’till doomsday

    Oh, it’s a black cat cross your path.

    And why don’t you follow

    My claw’s in you and my light’s in you

    This is your first day of sorrow

    Everything you do

    Everything you do

    You do for me