The Devil gets all the good music

In spite of the fact that I’m what you might call a Zen Catholic, whenever I see the phrase “Christian Rock”, I back away slowly and avoid eye contact. I’m sure it’s not the Christian aspect that makes it stink — the Jewish band Black Shabbat isn’t any better, and the Beasties were smart enough to make their track Bodhisattva Vow an instumental.

(Whenever I ask why a kind and loving God doesn’t smite Christian rock bands, someone invariably says “Hey, Sixpence None the Richer are pretty good,” to which I reply, “Name one number they do that isn’t Kiss Me.” Really, the best Christian rock-and-rollahs are not categorized as such — one isn’t even a musician: U2, Moby and filmmaker Kevin Smith.)

Mark Gauvreau Judge agrees with me, and writes about it at length in this article:

I like to think that in the last few years I’ve tried to become a better Christian. I gave up drinking and smoking and staying out all night. Sunday mass is no longer optional. I read the Bible and theology.

But there is one Rubicon I will not, cannot, cross. I will never give up the music I love — rock and roll and jazz — and embrace “Christian” rock.

The great jazz critic Stanley Crouch once gave the best one-line description of great jazz I have ever heard: dealing with despair with grace and dignity. This not only works in the lyrics of great jazz, blues, and pop songs, which are often witty and self-deprecating (for all of Sinatra’s personal bravado, his songs are largely wracked with confusion and fear), but also forms the base of great sound that can elevate the self-pity found in much popular music to something more grand. Sure, a blues musician may adumbrate a life of misery and failure, but in direct contrast to what he is saying, at least if he is B. B. King or another great musician, is that strength, certainty, and inviting warmth of the sound that sustains him — as well as the cleverness with which he tells his sorry tale.

This is the great feat of the best popular music. It creates empathy with the listener but expressing the perils of being human, yet the uplifting sound of the music itself and the charm of the singer points to a kind of perfection, or at least a Christian humility. Dealing with adversity with grace and dignity, indeed.

In virtually all the Christian rock I’ve heard, and in the worst pop music today, this equation is destroyed.

Hear, hear.

Remember, folks, one the best ways to “love thy neighbour” is to rock their asses off.

[Thanks to Kathy “Relapsed Catholic” Shaidle for pointing this one out.]

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