Posts Tagged ‘music’

A song for Father’s Day

June 17, 2012

Not to be a downer on Father’s Day, but some fathers today are grieving the loss of a child through miscarriage. Here’s a bittersweet song by a Christian singer-songwriter about the miscarriage of his and his wife’s first child. I’m going to refer to it in today’s sermon. In the song, Taylor is coming to grips with the loss and finding hope in the midst of his pain.

The hardest part for me occurs near the end, in the song’s breakdown. Taylor sings, “A father gives/ The Father takes/ A father gives/ The Father takes her on up to heaven.”

The song was released in 1986. It has a nice Modern English/Psychedelic Furs vibe to it.

In case you didn’t believe me about Rez Band

May 27, 2012

Here is the song “American Dream” by the Resurrection Band from 1980—smart, political, tough. It still rings true today. And if you’re going to imitate Led Zeppelin, imitate them well. I love this song! My favorite part: “It won’t happen, 1950/ It may happen, 1965/ It will happen, JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT!”

Gratitude for Genesis and Jody Johnston

May 9, 2012

Genesis’s 1972 album, Foxtrot, includes their epic “Supper’s Ready.”

Last Sunday night, I fulfilled a childhood dream—sort of. I saw in concert the nearest facsimile possible of Genesis with Peter Gabriel, a band I fell in love with when I was 13. This version of Genesis mostly disappeared after Gabriel quit in 1975 (an experience Gabriel recounts in his 1977 song “Solsbury Hill”). Phil Collins, who was merely one of rock’s best drummers at the time, finally assumed lead vocal duties after a long search for Gabriel’s replacement.

The rest is history. Both Genesis and Gabriel found success in different pop-musical spheres. Except for a one-off reunion concert for charity in 1982, Gabriel never looked back. And Genesis would only briefly revisit the older material in concert. There was talk of a reunion tour seven or eight years ago, but it never materialized.

So for people like me, who discovered early Genesis long after Gabriel (and, later, lead guitarist Steve Hackett) left the band, the closest I’ll come to seeing the “real thing” was last Sunday night, when I saw the Genesis-authorized tribute band called The Musical Box at a sold-out Variety Playhouse. The band performed Genesis’s 1974 double-album rock opera The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in its entirety, using vintage instruments, with props and slide-show accompaniment from the original tour (featuring photos of New York, frozen in time in 1974).

You can tell that I loved this, right?

Genesis was an incredibly important part of my life. In the dark of my bedroom one night in 1983, after listening to the band’s 22-minute side-length song “Supper’s Ready”—which was at least partly about (I kid you not) the Second Coming—I felt afraid… for my life, for my soul. And I prayed my first real prayer, asking God to save me and make me a Christian, although I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. This experience began a journey that culminated a few months later in my public profession of faith and baptism.

Here’s a live performance of the song “Supper’s Ready,” from 1973, complete with Gabriel’s nonsensical introduction. (Before you wonder, Gabriel was not known to take drugs.) Wouldn’t this song frighten you?

While watching The Musical Box on Sunday, I was reminded not only of becoming a Christian, but also the person who introduced Genesis to me: Jody Johnston, my guitar teacher from 1982 to ’84. Jody taught lessons at Wallace Reed Musical Instruments, a music shop in a strip-shopping center called the Briarcliff Village in northeast Atlanta. Jody loved Genesis, and before long he taught me to love them (along with Jethro Tull, another favorite band of mine—or ours).

With Jody’s guidance and encouragement, I eventually acquired the early Genesis catalog on LP. It took a while. I couldn’t simply ask my parents for money to buy records. I mean, I could… if I wanted to buy one record every once in a while. My problem is I wanted to buy a dozen records now. What to do?

Some of you will fondly remember Turtle’s, and these things called cassettes.

For much of my eighth and ninth grade years, I saved the dollar bill my mom gave me each day for the cafeteria and fasted during lunch. This gave me $5 a week. My dad kept an ashtray on top of his dresser into which he emptied his pocket change every evening. Forget the pennies and nickels—quarters were what I wanted. If he noticed change missing, he never said anything.

The point is, I could usually scrounge enough money to buy a new album nearly every week. But I couldn’t let Mom and Dad know I was buying them. They wouldn’t understand or approve.

The good news was that Turtle’s was located in the same shopping center as Wallace Reed. So here’s what I did: After Mom dropped me off for my guitar lesson, I waited for her car to pull away, dashed down the sidewalk to Turtle’s, bought that week’s record, and hid it in my guitar case for the ride home.

Jody understood this behavior perfectly. He understood my passion for music. In fact, we would spend much of my 30-minute lesson talking about it. We also talked about friends, school, peer pressure, girls—my inability to fit in. If my parents knew how little we focused on guitar, they would have thought that they were wasting money. I would tell them now that guitar lessons were cheaper than therapy!

Jody helped to instill within me an abiding love for music, including guitar-playing (which I learned to play after a fashion) and, alas, record-collecting (a habit that continues to this day). But not only that: Jody listened to me. He encouraged me. He believed in me at a time when I struggled to believe in myself. For at least those 30 minutes, I didn’t feel like the weird, gawky outsider that I felt like the rest of the week. Jody showed me that there was a world in which I could belong.

What a gift that we have people like that in our life! That’s God at work. I’m very grateful.

If you’re out there somewhere, Jody, I hope you know that I love and appreciate you. Thank you.

I also hope you were at the show! It was awesome.

A beautiful Christmas carol you’ve probably never heard

December 16, 2011

My favorite musical discovery this year is of an English folk-rock band called Steeleye Span, not to be confused with the much more famous American band Steely Dan. The two bands have nothing in common except for the decade in which they did most of their work.

Regardless, I inherited a box of moldy records from a friend of a friend, who was obviously a fan of the Steeleyes. Now I’m one, too!

While they were mostly unknown on this side of the Atlantic, Steeleye Span were (and remain) beloved on the other side, charting several hits in the early- to mid-’70s, including the subject of today’s post. (Here is their biggest hit, “All Around My Hat,” which is amazing! Four-part harmony that also rocks.) Their success there reflects a quirky difference between British and American popular musical tastes. Britain embraced English folk-rock and Celtic music in a way that we never did.

They were also different from other popular English bands who frequently drew upon the style, like Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull, in that they only performed traditional songs—setting centuries-old Child ballads and other folk music to rock arrangements.

Here’s an a cappella Christmas carol that, believe it or not, was a Top 20 hit in Britain in 1973. Wikipedia tells me that it was one of only three Latin-language songs ever to make the charts.

The English translation is below. (Click to enlarge.) I appreciate the song’s theological richness. May we all “lustily rejoice” this Christmas!

“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”

November 14, 2011

Last Friday, Vinebranch played host to its best Coffeehouse yet. (Coffeehouse, in case you’re not from around here, is a free music event that Vinebranch worship leader Stephanie Newton organizes in the fall and spring.) I performed the Dylan song “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” with the Vinebranch Band. This version of the song was made famous by the Byrds on their Sweetheart of the Rodeo album in 1968.

For whatever reason, I’ve never been less nervous singing and playing in front of people. I hope you can tell that we’re having a lot of fun.

“You make beautiful things out of dust”

November 1, 2011

In Vinebranch on Sunday, the band performed this breathtakingly beautiful song called “Beautiful Things” by a group with the un-beautful name Gungor (it’s their surname).

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new
You are making me new

I ♥ the Vinebranch Band

July 27, 2011

There’s something special about a rock trio—bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Rush, the Police, Hüsker Dü, and Sleater-Kinney. They are the bare minimum necessary to get the job done, so they can’t afford to waste any notes. They practically have to be tighter, louder, and edgier.

While Stephanie Newton and the other members of the Vinebranch Band were leading worship in AFUMC’s traditional services on July 10, this trio led by Gary Wilder performed that same duty in Vinebranch. (The scheduled acoustic guitarist called in sick.) As you can see, they rocked!

Our many talented musician volunteers in Vinebranch are an embarrassment of riches. Thanks to all for helping to make this service so special.

Pray where you are

May 19, 2011

While running yesterday, I finally listened to the Lost Dogs’ second album, Little Red Riding Hood. This song jumped out at me. The homemade video is only mediocre—as these things tend to be—but the song is great.

I ♥ Arcade Fire

April 9, 2011

How does an indie rock band afford to pay so many members?

I resisted the charms of this band for years—until they won a Grammy in February, and I needed some new music to listen to on a long airplane flight. My being a thoroughly suburban kid and all, how could I refuse a concept album called The Suburbs? A few of these songs are almost as good as my two favorite songs about the ‘burbs: this one and that one.

Arcade Fire often touch on religious themes, but “City With No Children” includes these tasty lyrics:

You never trust a millionaire quoting the Sermon on the Mount
I used to think I was not like them, but I’m beginning to have my doubts
My doubts about it

When you’re hiding underground, the rain can’t get you wet
But do you think your righteousness could pay the interest on your debt?
I have my doubts about it

A pastor writes about country music

March 15, 2011

Miranda Lambert (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A month ago, I wrote a short post about the death of Charlie Louvin. This morning, in response to that post, I received a very thoughtful essay from Pastor Roger Newton (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) about a couple of contemporary country artists whose music has spoken deeply to his faith and calling.

Since his essay is stranded in the comment section of the previous post, I thought I’d re-post it below.

Good morning. After reading your post about country music, I thought I would share with you my essays about the inspiration I have received from two country musicians.

Pastor Roger Newton (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod)
Philadelphia, PA

First, Miranda Lambert. I am a husband, father, grandfather and semi-retired Lutheran pastor pushing age 70. I am also an alcoholic, sober for over twelve years but very aware of how my addiction weakened me physically, spiritually and emotionally to the point where I accomplished much less than hoped for in any of my callings.

A young country singer makes me reconsider my approach to faith, life and preaching. Listening to her songs, I am learning to use my experience as a forgiven sinner to help others understand what hurting and being hurt, forgiving and being forgiven, being addicted and being freed from it, are all about. The singer’s name is Miranda Lambert. Read the rest of this entry »