If God Is A Bullet… (Music for Mondays)

I was just checking the archives and realized it’s been a long time since I shared a music post. Ever since the HHS Mandate naked power grab reared it’s ugly head, my muse has been under a cloaking device. But today, I’m going to break out and share a few tunes that I haven’t heard for a long, long time. I’m curious how many of you remember them too, so sound-off in the combox. They’re all from the Big Eighties, and share a similar theme. [Read more...]

Because Jesus Haunts Us In Song (Music for Mondays)

 

Last year around this time for Eastertide, I started exploring Jesus in terms of popular culture through music. There were classical posts, and posts on polyphony, naturally. But there were also posts built around songs about the Lord through pop-rock songs, rhythm & blues, and country tunes as well.

Maybe it is an American phenomenon (though I hope not), but Jesus Christ haunts us. It’s like today he still asks of us, “who do the people say I am?” And then he still asks us individually, “and who do you say I am?” [Read more...]

This Novel By Johnny Cash Helped Me Become Catholic

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Johnny Cash and Jesus Christ share the initials “J.C.” Johnny Cash is an adopted son of my home state of Tennessee. Johnny Cash wrote a novel called Man in White, which I read as I began my journey to the Catholic Church. It is the story of the conversion of St. Paul, and it was so good that I couldn’t believe Johnny Cash wrote it. [Read more...]

Jesus Goes Mainstream, Old and New (Music for Mondays)

Maybe you should buy “The Head In The Heart ‘s” new album…

Back in April, right when we rolled into Eastertide, I started a series of MfM posts on Our Lord’s presence in the music of mainstream culture. I called it, unsurprisingly, Jesus Goes Mainstream, remember?

Today, I’m revisiting the idea with five tunes that take to the four points of the compass, or to the Cross. The set starts off with a flashback to 1976 with David Bowie’s song about prayer and rapidly brings you to the present day and age with the four remaining songs having been recorded since the advent of the New Millenium. [Read more...]

Thoughts on the Economy: Catholic, and Not

Ok, class. Today’s lesson is on a little thing called “regression to the mean.” That’s a fancy way of saying that when something gets out of whack, you know, like when one thing shoots for the stars while everything else is holding steady, see, well, it will move back to where it belongs. And usually suddenly. Like a bursting bubble, which by now everyone with a pulse and a 401k is familiar with. Right? [Read more...]

Jesus Goes Mainstream, Classical Music Edition

Over the last several weeks here on Music for Mondays, I’ve been exploring Jesus in mainstream culture through music. So far I’ve covered pop hits from the 1960′s and 70′s, as well as the 1980′s up through the early 2000′s. Last week I took you back to the times of Spain shortly after the Protestant Reformation.

Yes, I’m zig-zagging all over the timeline. For this week, I’m moving forward a bit starting in 1723 with pieces by Bach, then to the mid 1700′s with Handel (that’s him in the portrait above) and ending in 1825 with something by Franz Schubert.

First up is a selection that I always remember fondly because my wife chose it for our wedding. What, you too? Ain’t it grand?

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, J.S. Bach. Performed to a standing ovation of proud parents and admirers, kids from the Joven Orquesta del Club Argentino do Bach’s piece justice here,

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St. John’s Passion, J.S. Bach (1724). Performed by The Chamber Orchestra of Kazan State Conservatoire. You know what is neat about this performance from Russia? It’s so well done, and since the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima was last Friday, what better than to hear classical Jesus music from Russia? Thank God folks are able to worship there again! And play music like this too.

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St. Matthew’s Passion, J.S. Bach (1727). Bach also wrote a Passion from the gospel of Matthew. Possibly the gospels of Mark and Luke as well. This selection is performed by the Brandenburg Concerto with tenor Martyn Hill. I love the oboe in this piece, don’t you?

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Behold the Lamb of God, George Frideric Handel. This is performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.” Handel wrote this in 1741, and revised it in 1754. FYI, Handel is buried in Westminster Abbey and has a feast day on the Episcopal Church calender.

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And the Glory of the Lord, George Frideric Handel. Also from “Messiah,” this time performed by the Bow Valley Chorus, from Alberta, Canada.

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Ave Maria, Franz Schubert This was played at my wedding too (I married a Catholic girl, remember?). From Schubert’s Lady in the Lake, based on poems by Sir Walter Scott, this is the prayer of the character Ellen Douglas, sung to Our Lord’s (and our) Mother. Led by violinist Joshua Bell, this is the Verbier Fesitval Chamber Orchestra, with guest Angelika Kirchschlager as the mezzo soprano. Bravo!

That’s about all the time we have for today. I promise more for next Monday. Ciao!

Jesus Goes Mainstream II (Music for Mondays)

"Jesus Christ and the rich young man," Heinrich Hoffman.

“Jesus Christ and the rich young man,” Heinrich Hoffman.

One week down, and 6 weeks to go before Pentecost. I’m still exploring Jesus in mainstream culture through song. Last week, I took us from the late 1960′s up until the early 1980′s.

This week, I dip back into the 1970′s briefly before vaulting back up into the Eighties and Nineties again before getting a toehold in the 2000′s. And all of these songs are well known and I would wager that most of you remember them.

First up is one of my favorite classic rock tunes that I forgot to share last week. See? There are more songs that reference Our Lord in the mainstream than even I can keep track of!

ZZ Top (1973), Jesus Just Left Chicago. From their album, Tres Hombres, I forgot this one from the 1970′s last week. I always liked this song too. The idea of Jesus riding a bus from Chicago to New Orleans is cool, not to mention realistic. And with beards like these, the band might be mistaken for monks from Mt. Athos (smile).

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John Cougar Mellencamp (1985), Small Town. What can I say? I like small towns, especially when I was “taught to fear Jesus, in this small town…”

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Mr. Mister (1985) Kyrie Eleison A reader suggested this one. What ever happened to these guys? They had a monster hit album in 1985 and then…poof! I didn’t even know that this meant “Lord, have mercy” until I became a Catholic—but I always liked this song. Hey, lookee! A live performance,

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U2 (1987), When Love Comes to Town. Remember what I said about U2 last week? They’re an undercover gospel band. This is from their live album Rattle and Hum released in 1988. Performed the first time in 1987 with special guest, and blues legend, B.B. King.

I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword
I threw the dice when they pierced his side
But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide

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Lenny Kravitz (1993), Are You Gonna Go My Way. Lenny Kravitz singing as Christ. See if you can see any resemblance. The original video has imagery to help, but it can’t be embedded here. But live is better anyway.

I was born long ago
I am the chosen, I’m the one
I have come to save the day
And I won’t leave until I’m done

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Carrie Underwood (2005), Jesus Take the Wheel. I never watch American Idol, because I live under a rock. But I can get twangy with the best of ‘em, and this is one of the best I’ve heard in a while.

Jesus, take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can’t do this on my own

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I wonder what I’ll dig up next week? Maybe I’ll head back to the Enlightenment era to see what I can find. See you here next week.

Jesus Goes Mainstream (Music for Mondays)

True enough, Elvis Presley loved gospel music. And though he never shied away from singing of his love for the Lord, did anyone else? I mean besides Johnny Cash. Did the culture at large recognize Jesus in song?

Well, that is what this first MfM post of Eastertide is going to focus on: pop songs about Jesus. Many of them were mega-hits, others were one-hit-wonders. Some you’ll remember easily, others probably not.

Eastertide is roughly seven weeks long, extending from the Easter Triduum up until the Day of Pentecost.  I’m willing to explore this over the next seven weeks if you are. To begin with, here are some modern songs that the mainstream culture created and embraced that relate in some way to the Son of Man.

For some of these, you might have to go directly to You Tube. First up is my all time modern favorite,

The Doobie Brothers (1972), Jesus is Just Alright. Yep, this is my favorite tune about Jesus that went mainstream. Wikipedia has the whole story: Jesus Is Just Alright” is a gospel song written by Arthur Reid Reynolds and first recorded by Reynold’s own group, The Art Reynolds Singers, on their 1966 album, Tellin’ It Like It Is. The song’s title makes use of the American slang term “all-right”, which during the 1960s was used to describe something that was considered cool or very good. Well, the Doobies version of this tune is the Gold Standard, in my book anyway. Even when it’s updated for 1996…

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The Velvet Underground (1968), Jesus. Yes, this is Lou Reed singing. That’s right, the same fellow who sang “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” This song is a prayer, pure and simple.

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James Taylor (1970), Fire and Rain. The third stanza begins with, “Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus…” You can claim that this song has no effect on you. And I would believe you just as much as I would believe that Ayn Rand didn’t hold grudges (which means not at all!).

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Norman Greenbaum (1969), Spirit in the Sky. I bet you never saw this video. I said once before that I used to think this was T-Rex. Norman’s “one hit wonder” jams! Listen to that guitar and these lyrics, and try to keep still. I dare you.

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Marvin Gaye (1970), Wholy, Holy. This song was eclipsed by several other great songs from Marvin’s smash hit album What’s Going On. I’m sure you remember the title track, as well as Mercy, Mercy Me. The second stanza of this song includes the following,

Jesus left a long time ago, said he would return
He left us a book to believe in
In it we’ve got an awful lot to learn…

And it will take an eternity to appreciate it all. I’m game, how about you?

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Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebalek (1969), Prepare Ye (The Way of the Lord). And certainly, we can’t forget the musicals from this era. Up first, Godspell. Wikipedia again: It started as a college project performed by students at Carnegie Mellon University and moved to La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in Greenwich Village. It was then re-scored for an off-Broadway production which became a long-running success.

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Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber (1973),  Superstar. From the Tony Award winning musical Jesus Christ Superstar.  This is the most famous song from the musical.  Here we have Judas and the Soul Sisters vs. the Angels.

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Donna Summer, (1980), I Believe in Jesus. Who says we stopped singing about Jesus in the 1970′s? They must have not have been paying attention. Donna Summer, the woman who launched her career with Hot Stuff, from her album Bad Girls,  gives us the right stuff with this song just one year later.

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Depeche Mode (1989), Personal Jesus. I’ve shared this one before too. Consider that prayer is a lot like making a phone call to God, or as I told my daughter this morning, like sending Him a text message (and you can do it as often as you text your friends). Yep, Dad is weird.

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U2 (1997), If God Will Send His Angels. If you need a modern group that doesn’t shy away from Jesus, look no further. As far as I’m concerned, Bono and the boys are an undercover gospel group.

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Because My Boys Needed to Know About Hildegard of Bingen

I received a note the other day in my e-mail inbox informing me of a movie that would soon be released on DVD. I noted the title of the film and realized that it was still playing in one of the theaters in our town.The movie I’m referring to is Visions: From the Life of Hildegard of Bingen.

Now, my plan was to take my wife with me to this film, but she and my daughter were engaged in another endeavor. [Read more...]

Asia On Our Minds (Music for Mondays)

Image credit: Jakub Hałun

Image credit: Jakub Hałun

In this edition of MfM, we showcase some songs from mega-hit artists and from one-hit wonders. Superstars and no-name acts too. It’s all a big smorgasbord but all related to the posts we’ve been doing here lately. Last Saturday’s post on John C.H. Wu, picked up the journey were Wu Li left off. And yesterday the story of Lou Tseng-Tsiang hit the stands, as well as Allison’s post on the readings. And today, Allison’s prayer for a friend, who doesn’t even know she has a friend named Allison. [Read more...]


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