Rock Commentaries Chapter IX: After the Seventies and 30 Best Songs

IX: After the Seventies 

The Eighties                                                                                         272

Bob Seger             Against the Wind                                    276

The Pretenders          Back on the Chain Gang

Billy Idol               White Wedding

Talking Heads       Water Under Ground

U2                         Pride

Stevie Nicks           Seventeen

After the Eighties                                                       278

REM

Counting Crows

Joan Osborne

Creed                                                                               282

White Stripes

List: 30 Candidates for the Ten Best Lyric Songs                     288

1980 Bob Seger  

Being from metro Detroit, it is an obligatory contribution to our state to consider our rock poet laureate Bob Seger, a great success as a songwriter and maybe the most famous person I have ever seen in an informal circumstance. Since it is customary for writers of books of this sort to play up their proximity to the stars, I thought, for the editors, I should tell the tale. It was about the summer of ‘99, and I had joined up with an extreme carpenter to work on decks, a bridge and an outdoor bar area for a couple months, on Upper Straits Lake. Silver bullet guys were strewn all over our Northville neighborhood, the base player up by Phoenix lake and the old drummer in the condo’s where Cindy, a girl I dreamt of in High school lived, right up Eight Mile there. This is probably how my carpentry boss ran into contractors at the golf course, as business is conducted on many a Friday in these parts. I had been teaching philosophy at St. Mary’s, one lake over to the east, near Apple Island, so I knew the old Indian’s trail, now paved, that led there. I had a very bad old tape player, with very bad recordings of my favorite work day tunes, and one of the few words that the great one spoke to me in the month or so that we were there, was to ask that I turn this thing down, once while I was sanding on the bridge! Being poor, and caring most about the intelligible aspect of songs, I have a high tolerance for bad sound, and so the whole scene, a professional musician refined by the best sound, and this thing, with rapturous songs like “Suzanne” and “Winter Sky” coming out all scratchy, was a bit comical. I was then very proud of my folkish collection of workday songs terribly recorded on the beaten cassette player. Once I admitted to a fellow worker that I did not spin much Seger. I was then doing a lot of Zeppelin and fine lyric tunes, and this set me to thinking about why. I tried to say that Seger is not a love poet, but rather, spirited and masculine. His cover of “Fortunate Son” is a classic alongside the original. He is great on themes of high freedom, as “Against the Wind.” His love songs are all about transitory loves, with a rare exception (“Someday lady you’ll accompany me”) they do not long for eternity, or are not erotic. They do capture a beauty set off by the transitory character of the loves. “Hollywood Nights” comes to mind, or “Roll Me Away.” But it is not right to say his lyrics are not poetic, though they are not erotic or “romantic” in the classical sense. Compare “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Night Moves,” and, well, we were more like the former in love and music. “Against the Wind” is an exception, and his best Love poetry so far as I know. We have grown to appreciate him more lately. He is one of the most prolific, and many of his simple songs are very popular, as with the DJ’s.

Bob Seger 1980 Against the Wind

 Seems like yesterday

But it was long ago

Janey was lovely

She was the queen of my nights

There in the darkness

With the radio playin low

And the secrets that we shared

The mountains that we moved

Caught like a wildfire out of control

Till there was nothing left to burn

And nothing left to prove

And I remember what she said to me

How she swore it never would end

I remember how she held me so tight

I wish I didn’t know now

What I didn’t know then

Against the wind

We were running against the wind

We were young and strong

We were runnin against the wing

The years rolled slowly past

And I found myself alone

Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends

Guess I lost my way…

(1980 Capitol Records, Inc., ASCAP)

For Seger, this would be that one love song, as we have seen with Dylan, Bowie, Plant and Page, from that one crucial young love, and maybe that is why he doesn’t write so many of the permanent sort of love song. “Wish I didn’t know…” might sum up all the blues of country music.

While we were working one day, when it was about 94 out and we were hand digging our zillionth post hole, “Like a Rock” came on the radio, and everyone was gilded by the sunlight. Seger has a few great work songs, like “Let it Rock,” that are poetic depictions of being or remembering being young and strong. Another time I called the local classic rock station, told them we were all here working in Seger’s yard, and asked them to play “2+2 is On My Mind,” off the early album The Bob Seger System. Seger played this tune, and others off his early album, at the Grandee Ballroom in Detroit, before we were old enough to go see anything. They didn’t know what I was talking about, and couldn’t find the song. I still swear Seger recorded “Train Man” in the early days, but Vinnie says no, and he, a finish carpenter, was a real old folkie. I gave Bob the essay on the Copernican revolution by Jacob Klein, as he was said to enjoy astronomy, though there was no sign that he knew what it was. I had to tell the person I gave it to that the writer was dead now, so they would not think I was giving him songs or something. His dog was named Sirius, after the Dog Star, and by the dog, Serious shared many a pizza lunch with us there! Once it was hard to work the saw for the many mermaids come to visit with Mrs. Seger, nieces and such all over, but I still have all my fingers. Once she previewed an album in the Cabana bar while we worked. Another time a gardener woman accidentally dropped her rock into the pool, and Denny, rest his chivalrous soul, Vinnie’s brother, saved her and her t-shirt by going in after it. That may have been the best job I ever had. I bet what we built is still there, though I think the Seger’s have moved, which is why I’d tell the story. I still have a scrap hunk of teak wood in my junk drawer where we cut the armrest for the bar. Someday, I’ll make a bowl of it. We put coins in the bar under the cabinet, north side, for future ages.

It was in 1976 that I took my favorite girlfriend of fifth and seventh and a while in tenth grade to the concert in Detroit, where Seger recorded Live Bullet. “Turn the Page” and “Katmandu” are favorites, but this was one of the great live performances of all time, Hall of Fame stuff. Bowie and Ian Anderson, Plant and Page at the Palace in the Nineties, and maybe no one else I’ve ever seen were that good live, excepting of course the Ramones, in 78 at Royal Oak. At least she married the guy she left me for, eh?

Beautiful loser

The title comes from the title of a poem book by Leonard Cohen. This may be his best song. The beautiful loser cannot succeed because he wants contradictory things, Wisdom and young dreams, etc. Home and the open road, and the song wonders what will become of him. He somehow overreaches, or thinks he needs it all. Its easier and faster when you fall. The loser is like a traveler, for whom everything changes except himself, which staying the same, is easier seen against the the background sojourning.

1982 The Pretenders Back on the Chain Gang

The song was apparently written from the breakup of a love with Ray Davies of the Kinks. Chrissie is quoted as saying, “I showed it to James and he liked it, then he died. It became a sort of tribute to him” James is Honeyman-Scott, the guitarist, who died of an overdose, ten months before the base player also did the same. “Back on the chain gang” means getting back to work after a trauma, with classic Chrissie Hynde philosophic toughness. From the video, it is clear that the literal prison chain gang represents the business world in the modern world, including dealing with the record business. The song begins with the wistful lines that grab everyone, stumbling onto a photograph of an old love and being transported in memory, like the Jim Croce song “Photographs and Memories.” “Cast out of” means that it was a paradise. The paradise of love is contrasted with the train or the work world, from which she writes.

I found a picture of you

What hijacked my world that night

To a place in the past we’d been passed out of

Now were back in the fight

Were back on the train

Oh, back on the chain gang

A circumstance beyond our control

The phone, T.V. and the news of the world

Got in the house like a pigeon from hell

Threw sand in our eyes and descended like flies

Put us back on the train

Oh, back on the chain gang

The powers that be

That force us to live like we do

Bring me to my knees

When I see what they’ve done to you

But I’ll die as I stand here today

knowing that deep in my heart

They’ll fall to ruin one day

For making us part

I found a picture of you

Those were the happiest days of my life

Like a break in the battle was your part

In the wretched life of a lonely heart

Now were back on the train

Oh, back on the chain gang

It was a person she lived with as lovers, as is clear from the scene that was disrupted: phone, T.V. and world news got into their happy home life, and took them out of love and back onto the train. She returns to the transporting lines, “I found a picture of you,” now to add, “Those were the happiest days of my life.” This makes everyone who has loved, myself included, not only hijacked for a night, but to fall to tears when we hear it. Like a pigeon from hell in the house, these things destroyed their love. The work world does not bother her in itself, but like Cordelia, she is brought to her knees when she sees what the powers that be have done to him. Cordelia says, “For myself, I would out frown false fortunes frown,” but seeing what is has done to Lear, she is cast down. James Taylor, in Fire and Rain, says, “Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you.” And now the most amazing lines: Till the end of her life she will know, as she does today- because it is a permanent truth- that these powers will fall to ruin one day for destroying him and their love. This reminds of the speech of the Prince to the families of Romeo and Juliet, “See what a scourge is laid upon your hate / That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.” But the idea that someday the powers that destroy love will be destroyed for this is the apocalyptic promise. The masculine Hynde finds a comfort in the justice of this, which at first included an agnostic human questioning of God, the ruin and fall of the powers that make us live like we do, on the train, as part of the chain gang, forced labor in a world that destroys love..

Talking Heads

The Heads have two water songs, Take Me to the River and Once in a Lifetime.

Once in a Lifetime begins with a regular guy in the American suburbs, but soon his attachment to this life will be destroyed or dissolved as if by water.

And you may find yourself living in a Shotgun [chateau] shack

And you may find yourself in another part of the world…

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

And you may say to yourself, well, how did I get here?

Letting the days go by

Let the water hold me down

Letting the days go by

Water flowing under ground

Into the blue again

After the money’s gone

Once in a lifetime

Water flowing under ground

And you may ask yourself How do I work this?

And you may tell yourself, “Where is that large automoblile?”

And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful house.”

And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful wife.”

Letting the days go by…water flowing underground

Same as it ever was…

Water dissolving,…and water removing

There is water at the bottom of the ocean

Under the water, carry the water at the bottom of the ocean

Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean

Letting the days go by…

Into the blue again

Into the silent water

Under the rocks and stones

There is water underground

Letting the days go by…

And you may ask yourself

What is that beautiful house

And you may ask yourself

Where does that highway go to?

And you may ask yourself

Am I right…Am I wrong?

And you may say to yourself, “My God, what have I done?”

Letting the days go by…

Same as it ever was…

Time isn’t holding up [us].

Time is an asterisk…

yeah, here the twister comes

Here comes the twister

The image of water under ground is of the life of the spirit that lies beneath, if just beneath, our feet, “in” the “unconscious,” as it were. A similar image is that of the Eagles: “Under the city / Lies a heart made of ground / But the humans will give no love.” That there is water under ground is the message of the song. Let the water hold you down, rather than up, is strange.

In the song, a man falls through the floor of the conscious world, and simply leaves his entire regular-guy life after coming into contact with the water under ground. Water dissolves the conventional and mortal part of our character, and the artificial happiness of the regular American business guy might give way at any time, after the money’s gone. In a Zen koan moment, he realizes that the house, car and wife do not really belong to him, and may set off on the highway. He may always wonder whether it was right or wrong to leave his family and the civilized world behind. Time itself is breaking down, as in the video, in the twitchy psychotic dance of David Byrne. The twister reminds of the beginning of the book of Job, when his secure and happy life is destroyed by a tornado.

We do not understand the water at the bottom of the ocean, and what it means to carry or remove this, but we assume that it has something to do with dredging the unconscious depths, and that it is very deep. Consider the water dissolving experience of Jimmy on his way the rock, in Quadrophenia.

Another water song, “Take Me to the River,” is baptismal, and a good dance song. Their love, when she says I love to stay, is like the water. Written by Al Green, Her love is to his soul as the waters of baptism are to the spirit, in an analogy, not an identity. They also have a stunning fire song, “Burnin’ Down the House,” where percussion becomes melody and sounds like the harmonic notes played on guitar.

R.E.M.

The name refers to Rapid Eye Movement, the name for the phase of sleep when we are dreaming. This band has often very strangely meaningful lyrics written in an automatic fashion. The result is something like Nostradamus, a wavering between nonsense and tongues. My sister Marti, ten years younger, gave me R. E. M. and Sinead O’Connor, the latter including the song where light pours out of the Irish violin in sound, as examples of the best of their music. (Soon, from electric violin, someone will think to discover electric harp. I cannot wait to hear what this might sound like!) We especially like “Night Swimming” and “Wendell G” and “Amanita,” named after a mushroom. “Losing My Religion” is their most famous song, about losing faith in love (and perhaps from love). “I believe” and “The End of the World as we know it” would also be worth considering in detail. (Indeed, the best reading seems to be that it does start with an earthquake, called the opening of the Sixth seal.) The band came by surprise out of Atlanta Georgia playing mandolins with the B-52’s, whose “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster” also show this Athens sound.

 

1985 Billy Idol: White Wedding

Hey little sister, what have you done

Hey little sister whose the only one

It’s a nice day to start again

It’s a nice day for a white wedding

Hey little sister, what have you done

Hey little sister whose the only one

Hey little sister whose your superman

Hey little sister shotgun

It’s a nice day to start again

It’s a nice day for a white wedding

I’ve been away for so long

I let you go for so long

It’s a nice day to start again!

There is nothing shure in this world

There is nothing pure in this world

There is nothing safe in this world

There is nothing pure in this world

For a long time, I thought the song was literally as if sung to a sister, and one tries to read it as a call to purity, as though a brother were advising a sister, but this does not work, and that is a key. The song is rather about his coming home to a lover that has been unfaithful, and he knows it, or it is not even hidden. So “Who’s the only one,” and “who’s your superman” are things she had said facetiously to him, and they are being recalled to her, with a bit of anger at the lie. Either that or they are things she said to another suitor, but I think it is the first rather than the second. The punk spirit in the song is an intellectual superiority, penetrating the infidelity and trampling the appearance of fidelity. She is not so superior, and hence is to him like a little sister, rather than an equal. But he let her go, and went away from her for a long time, either like a rock star on a working road trip, ignoring her, or even as a lover, as though he had broke up with her. “Shotgun!” reminds of the phrase applied to a shotgun wedding, where the groom is caught with the girl and forced by her family to marry him. If I am right, the shotgun aspect is the forcing of the two together again despite the infidelity. To start again, then, means to become lovers again. It is screamed because lust requires it, and in order to start again there is a smashing through the anger and sorrow at the infidelity. There is also high spirit, as he reclaims his usurped love, and this spirit is another part of punk. But the pathos is similar to that of Zeppelin’s “How many more times,” where love, or the fact that he loves her, compels him to seek their reunion in the conjugal union, despite the spiritual pain or anguish that is the result of the infidelity. “It’s a nice day for a white wedding” is the culmination, and it means to refer to the custom of virgin brides wearing white on their wedding day. In this case, though, it also refers to white washing, or, it is said first with penetrating sarcasm. Yet, as in Madonna’s “Like a virgin,” purity is not only literal, but refers also to the soul, or the soul in true love, to the extent that we, mere mortals, do love. But there is more. The song rises to a philosophical conclusion, and this is its meaning: There is nothing sure, safe or pure in this world. The appearance of purity in the world is false, and we are gypped to trust it. To look with penetrating mind through the falsity of innocence as it appears in the world, and to realize the falsity of convention, including the convention of white at weddings, allows a new world to emerge, or, the second time he says it, to truly start again, not on the basis of blissful illusion but rather of truth. The facing of this truth, and the holding accountable, allows the shotgun wedding to proceed. But notice too that the song depends on the importance of literal purity in love, and on the peculiar justice and injustice universally held to pertain to the things of love.

The song is phenomenal musically, leading one to think of the maxim that the music fits the meaning, or conveys the emotion of the meaning of the lyrics. These notes are somehow the intelligence of the song, or are what is being said to the beloved in the communication of the truth of the soul of the punk who loves.

There is good punk rock: when the high spirit is a shattering of the falsity of convention and conventional purity, or, in the exercise of what Nietzsche would (in translation) call “probity.” This seems to be an example of good punk, because its anger opposes or destroys not the good and beautiful but the appearance of purity in the world, which is like the persona of an unfaithful woman. Anger bursts through the false appearance, opposing the injustice of the requirement that we live in it as though it were real. An example of the same in the metal or grunge category is the Creed song “What if?” So, anger in music, and even Punk music, has something worthwhile, if it does not also hate and destroy the good and beautiful things. Because the false appearance is false, nihilistic punk would also attack the beautiful and good, as though these too, the realities behind the appearance, must then also be false.

Because the T. V. evangelist deceives to take people’s money, there must be nothing to the greatest of prophets and preachers. And, as we have said, the things that are degenerate may make a brief statement, but will not last.

1994 Counting Crows August and Everything After 

   The first song is like Cat Steven’s “Sad Lisa,” about a friendship or love with a troubled woman, in this case a fellow hopeful in the musician community. It’s extraordinary beauty comes from the nearness of the poet to these things, which may be the relation of genius to madness. This nearness allows the poet to understand with sympathy, without flattering himself as though he could do more than friendship can do. 

“Round Here”

Step out the front door like a ghost

Into the fog where no one notices

The contrast of white on white.

And in between the moon and you

The angels get a better view

Of the crumbling difference

Between wrong and right

And I walk in the air and between the rain

Through myself and back again.

Where? I don’t know

Maria says she’s dying,

Through the door I hear her cryin,

Why, I don’t know

Round here we always stand up straight

Round here something radiates

Maria came from Nashville with

A suitcase in her hand

She said she’d like to meet a

Boy who looks like Elvis

She walks along the edge of

Where the ocean meets the land

Just like she’s walkin’ on a

Wire in the circus

She parks her car outside of my house

Takes her clothes off,

Says she’s close to understanding Jesus

She knows she’s more than just

A little misunderstood

She has trouble acting normal

When she’s nervous

Round here were carving out our names

Round here we all look the same

Round here we talk just like lions

But we sacrifice like lambs

Round here

She’s slippin through my hands

Run

Sleeping children better run like the wind

Out of the lightening dream

Mama’s little baby better get herself in

Out of the lightening

She says, “It’s only in my head”

I know it’s only in my head

Girl in a car in the parking lot

Says man you should take a shot

Can’t you see my walls are crumbling?

She looks up at the building, says she’s thinkin of jumpin

She says she’s tired of life

She must be tired of somethin

She’s always on my mind

Around here

We’ve got lots of time

Around here

We [never sense a bit of nerving?]

And nobody makes us wait

Around here we stay up very very late

Will you catch me if I’m fallin,

Catch me if I’m fallin

Man, I said I’m under the gun

Around here

And I can’t see nothin

Around here, around here

 The edge where the ocean meets the land is the edge between the conscious and unconscious mind.

“Mr Jones” is another very great song on this album, one of the better songs about friendship and the lives of musicians, cited above, in explanation of why so many would want to be big stars.

…Man I wish I was beautiful

So come dance the silence down to the morning…

Mr. Jones and me

Tell each other fairy tales

And stare at the beautiful women….

Stereo…

Look into the future…

I’m gonna buy me gray guitar and play

And when everybody loves me

I will never be lonely

I will never be lonely….

Different reasons for that….

Bob Dylan and someone just a little more funky

And when everybody loves you…

Just about as funky as you can be…

About as happy as you could be…

Were gonna be big stars

 

Anna begins to change

It seems he has a woman pregnant although she does not quite love him. “All or nothing” really seems to be the possibility of abortion if they do not marry. It seems he loves her, but she does not know because he says “Every time she sneezes I think its love.”

…And I can always change my name

If that’s what you mean…

And then she disappears, and he repeats “Oh Lord, I’m not ready fro this sort of thing.”

I’ve done this sort of thing before

…And Anna begins to change my mind…

…Maybe someday I won’t be so lonely

And I walk on water

Every chance I get…

…So when you comin’ home

Sweet angel…

Rain King

When I think of heaven

(Deliver me in black winged bird)

I think of flying down into a

sea of pens and feathers and all other

instruments of faith and sex and God in the belly of             a black winged bird

Don’t try to feed me

cause I’v been here before and I

Deserve a little more

Don’t try to feed me

Cause I’ve been here before

And I deserve a little more

And I said mama

Why am I so alone?

I can’t go outside

I’m scared I might not make it home

I’m alive

But I’m sinkin in

Anyone home at your place

Why don’t you let me in

Don’t try to bleed me

I’v been there before and I

Deserve a little more

She’s been lyin

And Iv been sinkin

And I am the Rain King

Hey I want the same as anyone

Henderson is waiting for the sun

Oh, it seems that night endlessly begins and ends

after all the dreaming

I come

home again…

When I think of heaven

Deliver me in a black winged bird

I think of dying

Lay me down in a field of flame

and heather

Render up my body into the

burning heart of God in the belly

of a black winged bird

Don’t try to bleed me

Cause Iv been here before and I

Deserve a little more

I belong in the service of the Queen

I belong anywhere but in between

She’s been dyin

And I been drinkin

And I am the

Rain King

 

Superman

This song begins with transmigration:

I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind

I left my body lyin’ somewhere in the sands of time

I let the world float to the Dark Side of the Moon

I think there’s nothing I can do.

I let the world float to the dark side of the moon

After all I knew it had to be something to do with you

I really don’t mind what happens now and then

As long as you’ll be my friend at the end

If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman

If I’m alive and well, will you be there holding my hand

I’ll keep you by my side with my superhuman might

Kryptonite

You call me strong, you call me weak

But still your secrets I will keep

You took for granted all the times I never let you down

You stumbled in and bumped your head

If not for me then you’ld be dead

I picked you up and put you back on solid ground…

Kryptonite and “Crib tonight” is an interesting sound allusion, as Kryptonite was the metal that was the Achilleus’ heel of Superman. Do ya love me…do the twist has become a bit more complicated through the intervening thirty years or so. He had been true in friendship, and wonders if the friend would be there for him in the gravest of misfortune, should he visit the dark side of the moon. The “I’ll keep you by my side” and the “Kryptonite” is crucial to the interpretation, and a bit difficult. He tries to hold the friend or lover by his side, and then comes face to face with his weakness, and feels them slipping away.

1996 One of us

Joan Osborne Relish

Popular music would not be graced with such theological profundity but for the sheer catholic-girl style innocence of Ms. Osborne.

If God had a name what would it be?

And would you call it to his face?

If you were faced with him in all his glory

What would you ask if you had just one question?

And yeah, yeah, God is great

Yeah, yeah, God is good

yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us?

Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin’ to make his way home?

If God had a face what would it look like?

And would you want to see if, seeing meant

That you would have to believe in things like heaven

And in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets?

And yeah, yeah, God is great

Yeah, yeah, God is good

yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us?

Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin’ to make his way home?

Back up to heaven all alone

No, nobody callin on the phone

No, just tryin’ to make his way home   Third time: just like a holy rollin stone…

Nobody callin on the phone

‘Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome

That God was one of us, and is because he lives is the Christian teaching, and it is said to be the purpose of the incarnation that the divine become man. In a parable, Jesus teaches that He receives some and sends others away depending upon whether, when they saw him naked or hungry, they clothed or fed him. Asked “When did we see you hungry or naked?” He answered, whatsoever you do onto each of your brethren, that you do onto me.” The Lord is present in each one of us, even as though the people were the eyes of God in the world. This is the basis of her playful alteration between the stranger on the bus as God and God as the stranger on the bus. He is one of us, as well as being wed to the One of us, is one way to say this. In music, the rolling stone has arrived, with the again innocently playful “holy rollin’,” and the Pentecostal influence noted in the beginning of this music revolution is brought full circle.

1999 Tal Bachman She’s So High

(lyrics from Metrolyrics.com)

She’s blood, flesh and bone

No tucks or silicone

She’s touch, smell, sight taste and sound

But somehow I can’t believe

That anything should happen

I know where I belong, and nothin ‘s gonna happen,

Yeah, yeah

Cause she’s so high

High above me, she’s so lovely

She’s so high

Like Cleopatra, Joan of Ark or Aphrodite

She’s so high, high above me

First class and fancy free

She’s high society

She’s got the best of everything

What could a guy like me

Ever really offer?She’s perfect as she can be

Why should I even bother?

Cause she’s so High, high above me

She’s so lovely

She’s so high, like Cleopatra, Joan of Ark or Aphrodite

She comes to speak to me

I freeze immediately

‘Cause what she says seems so unreal

But somehow I can’t believe

That anything should happen

I know where I belong, and nothin’s gonna happen

‘Cause she’s so high…

This lyric is great because of the bursting through of the vision of the eternal feminine in both words and sound. Here the unattainable near goddess creature actually comes within range. The very perfection that causes the beautiful to be admired means that in her perfection she needs nothing, least of all the lover. Aristocratic women are perfected in many ways unattainable to the middle and lower class, and there is a tendency for beauty to accumulate among the upper class. Cleopatra was an amazing woman, but very human, while Joan is a Saint, and Aphrodite, as we have seen, a goddess. This comes near, and despite knowing where he belongs, it turns out that the princess needs one thing, a prince. And being a boy band boy might qualify, in America. Word has it, on Wikipedia, that the song was written when the author went to persuade the hottest chick in the school to date his stepbrother. So much for the plans of mice and men.

Creed 2000

   Creed is amazing for the attempt to combine a Christian lyric message with very high energy Rock. The mode of electric rock music rarely conveys the emotions of the ascent of the soul, which is to a place of repose, rather than of motion. If we knew what a dithyramb was from Greek music, we might be able to say that Christianity is Apollonian, while Rock music is dithyrambic or Dionysian. One place is the sudden revelation of things divine, which bursts through our everyday world. Another is the spirited ascent Another is when there is the excitement of the tension of the conflict between the divine things of the Christ and the things of the earth, as in the violence of the crucifixion, the persecution, and the spirited emotions of the martyr. In Creed the anger of the “rage against the machine” becomes the mode and strain of the overturning of the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, the force of convention that holds down the strong mind of man, the ax that has cut the roots that feed the tree of wisdom. The album takes contemporary rage rock from a beginning where it is, to a place that is higher, imitating an ascent of the soul that holds the potential to actually improve those who go along, making their experience the richer for the communion with the path of Creed. Thanks to fellow scholar Chaz Dila for showing me Creed back about the turn of the century.

Seeker

Here is the fellow we first saw in the Who tune of the same name, but with the scriptural addition “If you keep seeking you will find:”

Hey mister seeker

Hold on the this advice

If you keep seeking, you will find

Don’t want to follow down roads been walked before

So hard to find unopened doors

Are you ready?

Are you ready?

For what’s to come?

Hey mister hero

Walking a thin fine line

Under the microscope of life.

Remember your roots, my friend

They’re right down below

‘Cause heroes come and heroes go

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six five four three two one

Count down to the change in life that’s sure to come

Your life has just begun

What is it that is to come, for which the seeker ought to be ready? Is it the change of the life of the one who seeks and then finds? It may also be what is to come in the cosmic sense, the Apocalypse for which the one who finds is prepared, even by what he finds. A nice phrase and lyric to begin the album, at any rate, this is.

The second song is the most violent, and it is here that Creed tries to retain or take hold of their heavy metal audience for the purpose of their Christian rock. Here they demonstrate that they can hold both together, the violent and the Christian strain. It is done by the enlistment of the Christian rebellion against conventional religion, or the demonstration that the old world they are rebelling against can be rejected on true or Christian grounds.

 

What if?

I can’t find the rhyme in all my reason

I’ve lost sense of time and all seasons

I feel I’ve been beaten down

By the words of men who have no grounds

I can’t sleep beneath the trees of wisdom

When your ax has cut the root that feeds them

Forked tongues in bitter mouths

Can drive a man to bleed from inside out

What if you did

What if you lied?

What if I avenge?

What if eye for an eye?

I’ve seen the wicked fruit of your vine

Destroy the man who likes a strong mind

Human pride sings a vengeful song

Inspired by the times you’ve been walked on

What if he should avenge the lie, requiting an eye for an eye, according to the old law which Jesus rejects, in his teaching on mercy (Deuteronomy; Matthew 5: 38-39). Who are these, whose axe has cut the roots of the tree of wisdom? What is the lie that they have told? One of their fruits is to destroy the strong mind of men, and one can see that Creed preserves the possibility of this sort of loud music by preserving the masculine spirit of strength often absent from Christianity. More is to come, though, on these questions, in the fourth song, from which the title of the album is derived.

Something else, too, may be occurring in this song. The modern critique of Christianity, begun in Machiavelli and completed in Nietzsche, is in the name of strength or power, favorably interpreted as the strong spirit of liberty, but, to say the least, consistent with tyranny. Creed sees this motive at work in the very loud strains, the most violent music of all time, that became popular at just about this time. Iron Age heavy metal morphed further into a very loud strain of what is usually aptly called hate music. What Creed tries to do is to take the many swept up in this, and make it possible for them to be Christian, sort of like the Christianity or patriotism of Bikers, a way out for virtue along the path of vice, and the possibility of a true independence of mind. And for a while, it worked, more so than for any other attempt at a Christian-rock fusion.

My stage is shared by many millions

Who lift their hands up high because they feel this

Now the audience is involved in the concert, and most of those riding the wave of mindless mob passion are drawn in to the purpose, to be achieved through the remainder of the show. The section continues

We are one and we are strong

The more you hold us down the more we press on

What if you did

What if you lied?

What if I avenge?

What if eye for an eye?

I know I can’t hold the hate inside my mind

‘Cause what consumes your thoughts controls your life

So I’ll just ask one question

A lonely, simple question

What if I?

What if your words could be judged like a crime?

The expression of the hate or rage through music is justified as an alternative to being consumed by it.

Beautiful

 

The song Beautiful is about something like the beautiful as a Platonic form, and also, she is personified as a goddess, something like the way Wisdom is in the Proverbs. “The beautiful” is said to be what we seek when we love a particular person, and love is defined, by Socrates in Plato’s Symposium, as “the longing to beget upon the beautiful.”

The coat of many colors are the different places and guises in which she, the beautiful, appears.

She wears a coat of color

Loved by some and feared by others

She’s immortalized in young men’s eyes.

Young men worship her as a goddess, immortalizing her in their idolatrous pursuit, related to the participation in the longing for immortality on the part of the mortal.

But the beautiful is not simply good. Rather, she is like a spirit, nepharious and mercurial, neither good nor evil but capable of being involved in both. Hence, she breeds lust in the eyes of brothers, making friends fight, when they act as if they think the beautiful that they seek is actually embodied in the one they fight over. This war of the brothers makes their mothers bitter, perhaps toward the would be daughter-in law that makes for the strife. Mothers are also made bitter by the comparison of the beauty of their own offspring to those of other parents.

Lust she breeds in the eyes of brothers

Violent sons make bitter mothers

Close your eyes

Here’s your surprise

 

Beautiful is empty

Beautiful is free

Beautiful loves no one

Beautiful stripped me

These are the profound lines. What they fight over is an empty appearance. The beautiful itself cannot be made ones own for eternity, but is free. Perhaps cruelly, she cannot return our love, but like the eternal as ideas, needing nothing, and so does not love, but is as if self sufficient. Women pursued because of their beauty, or women who identify themselves with the beautiful that men seek through them, similarly do not return this love. Beautiful women sit statuesque while the room revolves around them, or are the center of attention when they enter a room, at least until their acquaintances become acclimated, and so are tempted to the corruption of vanity. To say the least, they are not obligated to return such love by its being devoutly given. But She, the beautiful, is, according to our poet, not self subsistent, as is the good. The good, we suggest, is not similarly called empty. Our poet learned this by experience, because the beautiful stripped him. This stripping is the similar to that of Lear on the heath, the stripping away from the soul of all the acquired characteristics and mortal attachments, and precedes baptism, as well as philosophy or the sight of the philosopher.

In your mind she’s your companion

Vile instincts often candid

Your regret

Is all that’s left.

The poet attempts to make his case regarding the beautiful by showing where her effects are ugly. The illusion of the appearance of beauty leads to vile hidden instincts, such as masturbation. These things are nothing, and leave us only with regret, disturbing the soul. The Christian poets comment is interesting in relation to the charge of “onanism” leveled by Bloom, as well as the Who song Pictures of Lily, which Bloom may have had in mind.

Refrain

She told me where I’m go’in

And it’s far away from home

I think I’ll go there on my own

You see, I told you the stripping had to do with philosophy! The stripping that results from the youthful pursuit of the beautiful leads to the journey far away from home. The journey is taken not with the beloved, but alone.

Say I (Human Clay)

The dust has finally settled on the field of human clay

Just enough light has shown through

To tell night from the day

We are incomplete and hollow, for our maker’s gone away

Who is to blame?

We’ll surely melt in the rain

Say I…

The stillness is so lifeless with no spirit in your soul

Were like children without vision do exactly what they’re told

Being led into the desert

For your strength will surely fade

Who is to blame?

We’ll surely melt in the rain

Say I

Frantic, faction, focus

The world breathes

And out forms this misconception we call man

But I don’t know him

No, I don’t know him

Because he lies

Say I

So, a clue to who it is that lies, in the second song, is man. Man is understood as created, or a thing of clay, as god formed man out of clay or from the dust of the earth. This clay is incomplete and hollow, and the post Edenic condition of the remoteness rather than immediacy of the rule of God is described as one of abandonment by God. It is this mortal nature that will melt in the rain. The wrong way raises a number of the permanent questions, including that of our own death. Here we see his purpose:

What if I died?

What did I give?

I hope it was an answer so you might live

I hope I helped you live

And what poet could say more about his purpose or intention?

The faceless man is the vision of Jesus, possibly seen through himself seen in the water.

He is out in the quiet of the woods all day, and this quiet brings him to “stand against the faceless man” He sees a face on the water:

…It looked humble but willing to fight

I saw the will of a warrior

His yoke is easy and his burden is light

He looked me right in the eyes

Direct and concise to remind me

To always do what’s right

Jesus, of course, is the one who said his yoke was easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:30), just after saying that the road that leads to destruction is wide and few find the way of life (Matthew 7:13-14).

It is strange, and a part of Creed’s message, to perceive Jesus as a warrior, steadfast in his purpose in the face of death and all opposition, or in the way of death that is submission to one’s ruler, in his case, the father. He is faceless because the personal features of his identity are unknown to us, who are blessed to see as much of him as we do. To stand against the faceless man is to come into contact with the Christ, again, perhaps through our own inner man, or the poet’s own reflection in the water. This ambiguity or the question of where the poet’s own inner man ends and the Christ begins is evident as the song continues:

‘Cause if the face inside can’t see the light I know

I’ll have to walk alone

And if I walk alone to the other side I know

I might not make it home

If the face inside could not see the light, it would be his own and not that of Jesus. Then he would have to walk alone (although the face inside would still be there). But when the face sees the light, it is the faceless man, or Jesus, the light by which the soul finds its way home, on the other side of mortality. The seeing of the face is not something that is always possible, but a rare experience, as he says…

Next time I see this face, I’ll say

I choose to live for always

So won’t you come inside

And never go away

As the Cat Stevens song says too, “Let’s all start livin’ for the one that’s going to last.” The choice is to live in accord with the immortal part of ourselves. It is this experience of the faceless man that opens the poet to the heights of contemplation and poetry evident in the next three songs, which are the epiphany of the album.

Never Die

Hands on a window pane

Watching some children laugh and play

Their running in circles

With candy cane and French braids

Inspired to question

What makes us grown ups anyway

Let’s search for the moment

When youth betrayed itself to age

Watching the beautiful children, he wonders about this grown up stage, and sets the question in terms favorable to the idea of the recovery of youth, or the original condition, saying that youth has betrayed itself in giving way to age. Then suddenly, in the refrain, the recovery of the inner child becomes synonymous with the finding of immortal life:

So let the children play

Inside your heart always

And death you will defy

Cause your youth will never die

Youth is recovered by letting the children play inside our hearts. It is not only age, but death, that can be defied in this way, because your youth in this way will never die. Parents are allowed again the time to review all the fairy tales and Disney movies made for children, and so to revisit the studies of their childhood. It is a great truth of life, and a secret of happiness, that as we age, we can keep those strains of our playful and childish personality, a so great joy is present that otherwise would not be. So the gravest statesman might retain a character within that is himself as an eight year old, or enters hilarity with Alfred E. Newman style jokes like an adolescent.

Some do not seem to enjoy children, and because molestation’s and dangers to children have increased with the liberation of the appetites, and with the removal of the barrier between adult and minor speech, a new barrier has come to be between adults and children. The harming of children is especially heinous because it is a perversion of the relation to our own inner child. Together with the wise old man, the child as a symbol is related, in the thought of Jung, to the Archetype of the Self. When Jesus speaks of the millstone (Matthew 18:1-6), his words seem almost prophetically directed to the things that would occur in our age. Jesus notoriously said to allow the children to come to him, and the neophyte in the faith is called a child, as men and women are at best, or in truth, children of God.

The next four lines are philosophical, describing the usual condition of body and mind:

In searching for substance

Were clouded by struggles haze

Remember the meaning

Of playing out in the rain

Usually, in searching for true being or substance, as among the confusion of appearances, our minds are clouded by a haze that is the result of our more or less daily struggles, weighted down by the body. The cure for this condition is found in our remembering the meaning of playing out in the rain. Rain here is similar to the rain the Beatles song When the Rain Comes, or in Lennon’s #9 Dream. Lovers in the rain, or in a fountain of a waterfall are especially beautiful. The rain is like the water of the baptismal pool, and also like the blessings that come to us from above. It is also like the water that washes us, in penance, as in the song Wash Away Those Years. Kids enjoy playing in the rain because they don’t care about adult things like their new clothes or the immediate future, when they may get cold. The picture of the clay children on the album cover, running in circles, is striking. It combines the two images of the clay of which we are made and the immortality of the soul. It is not literally the children that are immortal, but the immortality of the soul is present in the timelessness of youth:

We swim in the fountain

Of youth’s timeless maze

If you drink the water

Your youth will never fade

Never die

The water of the rain becomes like a fountain, meant to recall the “fountain of youth,” a mythic fountain of water that prevented age, actually sought by adventurers to the new world and elsewhere. And so the fountain of youth became an image linked to the water of life. The water of life is like the water that came from the rock struck by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 20:2-13; Isaiah 12:3), and Jesus tells the woman at the well abut water he can give her to drink and she will never thirst again, and. “…the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14-15;). The fountain of living waters (Revelation 21:6) is the Lord (Jeremiah 2:13). The song then concludes:

I won’t let go of that youthful soul

Despite body and mind my youth will never die

The things referred to by the words body, soul and mind are very interesting, since we talk about the soul, thought the appearance of what we are referring to changes like Proteus, when Menelaus tried to seize him. Here body and mind are both a part of human clay, while soul is the youthful, immortal soul. This is the mind that is “clouded by struggles haze,” above. The use is not quite scriptural, since there mind is more the thing that remembers the meaning of playing in the rain, the light within, ie, the “youthful soul.” Yet the meaning here is profound on its own.

Let the Children Play leads into the great pro-life anthem. He has seen the children play, with eyes wide open.

 

Arms Wide Open

The song “Arms Wide Open is a very nice anti abortion, or rather pro life song with a powerful lyric message, tying the emotional things to the truth of the beauty and importance of the welcoming of new life into the world. “Welcome to this place, I’ll show you everything.” He need write nothing more than this line to secure our admiration, nor to teach a generation to be fathers rather than not, by showing the joy therein. Like the song “You’re having my baby,” it represents the integration of a new experience into the ancient gratitude of the male, since in our age, “you could have swept it from your life, But you wouldn’t do it,” and so it is a lovely way of saying how much she loves him. There are no lyrics yet to express the opposite darkness, when it is shown that one has given way to a false love when the woman aborts a child the father wanted, (nor is any account yet taken of this in our feminist understanding of equality. Nor, perhaps, can it be). The song begins when a young man is told he is to become a father:

Well I just heard the news today

It seems my life is going to change

I closed my eyes, begin to pray

Then tears of Joy stream down my face

With arms wide open

Under the sunlight

Welcome to this place

I’ll show you everything

With arms wide open

How cool! What a way is this to think of paternity! Welcoming new people into the world, and looking forward to showing them around, a bit like a new kid in school befriended or a new guy on the job. He describes the position of young men at such an event, and shows the right choice to make, when the option is available:

Well I don’t know

If I’m ready

To be the man I have to be

I’ll take a breath, take her by my side

We stand in awe, we’ve created life.

Marriage is not here an end in itself, and we notice that human clay lacks a positive love ballad. Beautiful is to say the least a song of disappointed love, and the poet has not yet explored the possibilities of Christian music in the Song of Songs and its analogies in the New Testament. Love is simply transcended or subordinated to the things that take us higher. The poet girds up his loins, as is said, or summons his courage. He decides to marry the woman he loves, subjecting himself and everything to the awe inspiring realization that what they have done or been led to do is nothing less than a participation in the life’s creation. And so the guitar is properly thundering at the climax of the last line, rising to the realization of what the humans running around in the night, and even the lovers, seem unaware, that what they are doing is bringing new life into the world. The refrain is then repeated, with the addition:

I’ll show you love

I’ll show you everything

With arms wide open.

The final set of lines is a bit of a surprise. It may be that he realizes that he has presented himself as an example of the man making the right choice, and so wishes to counter the consequent appearance of vanity by showing that he is not saying these things to praise himself. He hopes for something better than himself, and we will be shown the ground of this hope in the next song, Higher. Here, he concludes:

If I had just one wish

Only one demand

I hope he’s not like me

I hope he understands

That he can take this life

And hold it by the hand

And he can greet the world

With arms wide open…

The way of welcoming this new life opens into a realization of how one might approach life in general, taking it as an opportunity to participate in the most joyous things, rather than for example finding it all a drudgery.

Higher

Here the poet shows us the ground of his poetry and his mind. It is accessible through the door of dreams, which reminds us of the saying of Maimonides, that a dream in one sixtieth of prophecy.[2]

When dream’ in

I’m guided through another world

Time and time again

At sunrise I fight to stay asleep

Cause I don’t wanna leave the comfort of this place

Cause there’s a hunger, a longing to escape

From the life I live when I’m awake

That classic rock theme of “We gotta get out of this place,” addressed often above, here rises to the form of spiritual ascent.

So lets go there

Let’s make our escape

C’mon lets go there

Let’s ask can we stay

Can you take me higher?

To a place where blind men see

Can you take me higher

To a place with golden streets

So high I’m strong enough

To take these dreams and make them mine

The place where blind men see is the place of the New Jerusalem, and a point of Christian mysticism. Jesus of course heals a blind man, as is the subject of the entire ninth chapter of the Gospel of John. Like all the miracles, these are analogies presented so that we might believe the higher spiritual truth represented by them (John: 36-38). The healing of the blind man is analogous to the opening of the eye of the soul when one follows the way of Jesus, through penance and submission of oneself to the spiritual truth that is the death before baptism, and very similar to the way of the warrior in submission to death in the service of one’s lord. (Luke 4:18, Is. 61:1-2; 58:6 “…and recovering of sight to the blind,” Acts 26:18). The place with golden streets is the New Jerusalem, where, in the Revelation (21:15), “The city was pure gold, clear as glass.” Golden streets in particular reminds of the yellow brick road and emerald city of the Wizard of Oz.

The final line is characteristic of the high intellect and Christian manly spiritual spiritedness that though a perennial possibility, is so rarely embodied that it seems almost the peculiar innovation of Scott Stipe.

Wash Away Those Years

From the highest heights, the mood is shifted to a song of penance. If it is romantic song of tragic penance, we see again the interesting presentation of eros or love that characterizes the high tragic mood of the whole album. It is a moral or ethical message, but there is a twist in the song we will watch for below. A woman came to him, and showed her suffering, either from a rape or a slightly abusive love. That she lay lifeless indicates that the relation was not mutual, as in cases of rape and in relationships where the man does not love the woman but seeks only the temporary relation of sex.

She came calling

One early morning

She showed her crown of thorns

She whispered softly

To tell a story

About how she had been wronged

As she lay lifeless he stole her innocence

And this is how she carried on

Well I guess she closed her eyes

And just imagined everything’s alright

But she could not hide her tears

Cause they were sent to wash away those years

She carried on in this reality by simply closing her eyes to it, and entering a world of the imagination in which everything might appear alright. It is hidden, and has been hidden from the poet until this morning, betrayed by her tears. In love there is a sharing of painful truths about ones own romantic past, and the passions at the start of love lead the lover to admit their flaws and scars to both themselves and the one loved. The tears were sent to wash away the residue of clay on the child within, freeing us for love, if we can follow this way.

My anger’s violent

But still I’m silent

When tragedy strikes at home

I know this decadence

Is shared by millions

Remember you’re not alone

That the poet is violently angry is a clue to the severity of the date rape or molestation. It is characteristic of the contemporary decadence, using the French word that described for example the smut of the twenties of the world of the Bohemian artist. But it is here that the twist occurs, and this is what makes it seem like she was involved not in a rape but only in a rather seamy romantic relationship, perhaps costing her virginity:

Well if you’ll just close your eyes

And just imagine everything’s alright

But do not hide your tears

Cause they were sent to wash away those years

Maybe we can wash away those years

It seems she falls victim too to his erotic passions, but they make love despite her defilement. Their lovemaking though, while it participates in the same mortal nature that spawns the vices, is a washing away of the years of their romantic or erotic past. Because she is invited not to hide her tears, they may be able together to wash away those years. It is in the dangerous honesty, of living together in the fullest sense when we show the scars were covering, that romantic love can heal the soul. For this true love is required, though true love cannot be presupposed, and hence the danger of our vulnerability in such a circumstance. Practically speaking, honesty is impossible because humans do not truly love one another. In seeking to be loved so much that we can be naked, we seek the love of the Lord or of his Christ, though it is to this longing that love awakens us. None but the lord will love you for you self / “And not for your golden hair” is the line of Gerard Manly Hopkins, pointed out to me by an old acquaintance, one who also said that all life is the Eucharist.

The final set of lines again reminds us of our sailor in Louie Louie, with the added profundity that the work of the poet, and perhaps of human life, is a laboring in between the land on this shore and the land on the other shore.

For we have crossed many oceans

And we labor in between

In life there are many quotients

And I hope I find the mean

The final two lines are philosophical and mysterious, and we are not even sure the poet knows what he is saying, but we will make our best effort: Quotients in mathematics are the result of a reasoning or the answer to a math problem, or specifically a division problem (as in 8/2=4, 4 is the quotient). The mean is both the middle between a set of numbers and the word used for Aristotle’s famous formulation that ethical virtue is a mean between excess and deficiency. So he is saying something about reason and moral virtue, which by itself is a noble effort. Does he say that the mean is a quotient between the land on this shore and the land on the other shore? The song is very much about the appetites of the body and the participation of his own love in the appetites moderates his moral anger (something like what occurred once when I was gazing in disgust at the smokestacks polluting the sky of Grand Rapids in the eighties, only to notice the plumes of cigarette smoke coming from myself, and the smokestack in my own hand.

The final song is set in the solitude of being alone as at the end of the show, or at the end of a career or of all things. He scornfully glances at his dependence on the phone to remind him that he still exists, or the dependence of the performer on the audience and the market, or the dependence of the lover on the phone call of the one loved. From this he turns to the peace inside us all, and bids us to befriend this in our loneliness. From our condition of being held down by life, he calls us to look up, and be brought to life by the sound of the human hearts beating out loud. For although our names are each different, inside were all the same, and it is almost his last word to wish that we could, or invite us to as much as possible, tear down the walls and reveal our scars, like the penance of the years washed away in the previous song. His last word is an appeal to the peace inside us all, which is that same thing, the ground of Lennon’s “Let it be,” and of our friendship with ourselves

In honor of Creed, we will include a list of ten Christian Rock songs, or songs that could be played toward the purpose by a christian rock band. These are songs that could make up a great Christian Rock concert, enriching a small and struggling genre. Why this should be is a good question, if one considers that there is fine Christian bluegrass music out of the middle of America. There is Christian classical, but not Christian Big Band or square dancing music. Some modes do not fit. The purpose of music itself is to glorify the creator, as Henry Schaeffer says. There is some question here, though, of whether the rock beat is not itself corrupt and irredeemable. But if Christianity is also a soaring of the intellect, and enlists the greatest passions, one would think the rock mode might be especially suited, if one could find the right way, and this we think was done by Scot Stipe of Creed and in Jesus Christ Superstar to some extent. The acoustic or folk ballad type of explicitly Christian music is somehow easier to come by, and there are some among my simply best of all songs list below. But there will be no longer any excuse that there should not be very successful Christian Rock concerts. The first three penitent songs, and not explicitly Christian, though they demonstrate the recognition of wrong in a Biblical context. Locomotive breath, studied above with Aqualung, is included because the fellow caught as if on a tragic train ride ends by picking up Gideon’s Bible, though I am not sure I have understood the meaning aright. God stole the handle, or seems to the fellow to have taken away the means of stopping the tragic train.

14. In the Light Led Zeppelin

13. In My Time of Dyin’

12. Take Me to the River, Talking Heads

11. Locomotive Breath

10. House of the Rising Sun10. Stealin Uriah Heep

9. Jesus Children Steevie Wonder

8. Aqualung side two (above)

7. All along the watchtower (above)

6. Presence of the Lord Blind Faith (

5. Easy Livin Uriah Heep

This is a thing I’v never known before, its called easy livin’

This is place I’v never seen before, and I’v been forgiven

Easy Livin, and I’v been forgiven, since You’ve

Taken your place in my heart.

Somewhere along the lonely road, I had tried to find you

Day after day on that winding road I had walked behind you

  1. Love One Another Jesse Colin Young
  1. Love reign O’er Me The Who Quadrophenia
  1. Pride (In the Name of Love) U2

Pride (In the Name of Love) U2

   This song is a reflection upon those who have laid down their lives for mankind, fulfilling the teaching of the Lord, greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). It is foremost a monument to Martin Luther King Jr., as a minister of the word and a sacrifice for liberty. The last line explains the title: “They could not take your pride/ In the name of Love.”

One man come in the name of Love

One man come and go

One man come he to Justify

One man to overthrow

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

One man come on a barbed wire fence

One man he resist

One man washed on an empty beach

One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

Early morning, April 4th

Shots rang out in the Western sky

Free at last, they took your life

They could not take your pride

In the name of Love

   For the first two, he who came to justify and he who came to overthrow, he may have someone in particular in mind, though it is not clear who: Some two or three like Luther, Jesus, and Martin Luther King Jr, who is the primary object. To justify and to overthrow are the actions of political revolutionaries, and the song is especially moving because it is about the love of mankind that inspires these in political action. Justification by faith is of course the teaching of Martin Luther, at the start of Lutheranism. The one who comes on a barbed wire fence reminds of those who fought the Nazis in Europe, and those washed up on a beach conjures images of Normandy or the Pacific Islands. The one betrayed by a kiss is the only line directly Christian, but it sets the human actors in the pattern of the image of the martyrdom of Jesus. His abandonment, betrayal, rejection and crucifixion by mankind whom he came to save is the betrayal in the name of love. Finally there is the assassination in Memphis of Martin Luther King Jr., against the background of his statement recently in the mountaintop speech that they, the American blacks, were to be “free at last.”

   All of these are under the teaching “Greater love has no man than this: That he lay down his life for his friend (John 15:13). Christian political teaching is more difficult than Christian rock music, but this is an example of a Christian political teaching. It has often been said, at least since Machiavelli, that Christianity makes men effeminate and more willing to bear injuries than to inflict them in grabbing at the goods of the world, wealth and power. The truth in practice, as indicated by Mr. Skinner, is that a vast majority of U. S. Army Rangers, for example, are Christian, and very religious. There is also the saying that there are no atheists in the foxholes, as the nearness of death makes men serious. My old friend Bud, though, was in the battle of the Bulge under Patton, and he is a natural philosopher. One man on a barbed wire fence” refers to a famous picture of an anonymous U.S. soldier caught in barbed wire, shot and left there, in World War II. And public servants, in domestic affairs as well, sometimes are inspired in their dedication by the example of the greatest love. Average police men, blue collar par excellence, can be understood at best to risk and lay down their lives daily. It is sometimes necessary and right to prevent evil from doing harm by force. But this is especially true of those who, like the demonstrators trained in nonviolence, are prepared to take blows and return none, like Mr. Zweig among the Freedom Riders, that they show how Christianity can be active politically while remaining what it is. It is fullness in one place, the spiritual, and emptiness in another, the worldly assertion.

   The title of the song is Pride, because the one who killed King could not take his pride in the name of Love, the name by which he did these things and died.

White Stripes

   The inspired guitar riffs make us glad to find lyrics to justify the intense energy. Jack White shows that the rock strain continues to develop into the twenty-first century. We have not studied the band much yet, but are quite taken up whenever “Blue Orchid” or “Seven Nation Army ” come on the radio. We are very proud that the Whites come from Detroit, and join our Michigan Rock Hall of Fame. Jack is, of course, on his own now, and we are glad to see him playing with the Muppets and Garrison Keillor.

2003 Seven Nation Army

Many points here are taken from contributors to the website Songmeanings.com. The guitar riff became famous when played at sports events, though no one much gets the meaning. It is a rare example of a marching beat, like martial rathe than religious music, though it is in fact uniquely both at once. I sang parts of this song this morning when I woke up. Some songs one has to live in order to understand. All fibs are told to protect the innocents.

   It is said on Songmeanings.com that the title comes from the way Jack heard the word “Salvation Army” when he was a child. But that is opposite the meaning. Meg White, the drummer, has said that “Jack basically wrote the song around the idea of this guy who comes into town and all his friends are gossiping about him. It gets to him so bad that he wants to leave town, and then he decides not to. Jack eventually did leave Detroit.” These things will give us a place to start in understanding the song, which even grows in intensity from studying the lyrics. Additions are bracketed, and some of the words seem a little off.

I’m gonna fight ’em off.

A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back.

They ‘re gonna rip it off.

Taking their time right behind my back.

And I been talk’in to myself at night because I can’t forget

Back and forth through my mind behind a lit cigarette.

And the message runnin’ through my eyes says leave it alone.

Don’t want to hear about it:

Every single one’s got a story to tell.

Everyone knows about it.

From the Queen of England to the Hounds of Hell.

And if I catch you comin’ back my way, I’m gonna sell it to you.

And that ain’t what you want to hear, but that’s what I’ll do.

And the feelin’ comin’ from my bones says find a home.

I’m goin to Witchita.

Far from this opera for ever more.

I’m gonna work the straw

Make the sweat drip out of every pore.

And I’m bleedin’ and I’m bleedin’ and I’m bleedin’ right before the Lord.

All the words are gonna bleed from me and I will think no more.

And the stains comin’ from my blood tell me go back home.

   “Leave it alone,” “find a home,” and “go back home” may be the lines where the lyric structure again provides a clue to a coherent reading. When the line is compared with that which occurred in the same place but a different stanza, the meaning becomes clear.

   This is, like “Blue Orchid,” a response to infidelity in love. This is “white” blues at its best, like Zeppelin, rarer, perhaps, in “black blues, like “Heard it through the Grapevine.” And like the Zeppelin song, “everybody ‘s gonna know” is an embarrassment, here the embarrassment of the fooled lover, as when these things appear in the tabloid press. “From the Queen… to the hounds” is an interesting way of describing the expanse of the public, considered “Everyone.” “No time for spreading rumors / Time has come to be gone.” “Their gonna rip it off. Taking their time right behind my back” is then obvious. “Leave it alone” is, then the same as “Get behind me,” as will appear momentarily. “Don’t want to hear about it / Every single one ‘s got a story to tell.” Ones own romantic suffering is incomprehensible and nothing, like dust in the wind to others, who cannot hear or comprehend the cries of the agony of the true lover. But it may be the writer who no longer wants to hear the tale that many have to tell him. “Sell it to you” might just be gangster talk for murder, the kind found in the ballads, or in Hendrix’ “Hey Joe.” (The line could also mean he is going to lie to her, or him, the third party, but this is the lesser possibility. One lyric prints “serve it to you, like divorce papers, but that is not the word on the video). His rage is the temptation. Instead, He wants to go to Wichita, far away from the soap opera things of his Detroit love world, as he shows the mitten of Michigan in the video. “Work the straw” might refer to cocaine, as one suggests on Songmeanings, but it is more likely literally straw, as in, lose oneself in hard farm work in the straw fields of Kansas or Nebraska. Or maybe it was the fields around Nashville.

   When he sings “bleed’in” on the video, he wipes tears. But now the poetry gets real: Bloodsweat occurs in the scripture, and is known to occur literally, to humans in times of great strain. It may be at the edge of his humanity, and again, the agony of the lover is not understood, or is beyond communication, as the agony in the garden was for that one, in analogy. He is bleeding “right before” or into the presence of the Lord. This is the imago Dei, and the lovers death in soul is like the crucifixion by analogy. Simon’s words trickle down from a wound he has “no intention to heal.” “All the words are gonna bleed from me, and I will think no more.” The blood is his thought and poetry. As the message from his eyes said “leave it alone,” his poetry, the stains from his blood, tells him to go back home. The root of the rage of infidelity is related to this goal of love, for which one does not need the particular one loved. The “Salvation Army” has indeed prevailed over the rage that opens the song. But that is not the “Seven Nation Army” at all. One might consider Revelation.

  Blue Orchid is about the corruption of innocence, probably in love, though the song has been read as being about molestation, and may carry this meaning as an undercurrent. Commentators, as on Songmeanings, note that a Russian child sex ring was named “Blue Orchid.” But that is not the meaning here. The reason that it seems the song must be about love and infidelity is the line “Your lips taste sour / But you think its just me teasing you.” The lyrics are these:

You got a reaction.

You got a reaction, didn’t you?

You took a white orchid,

You took a white orchid, turned it blue.

Somethings better than nothing

Somethings better than nothing, its giving up.

We all need to do something.

Try to keep the truth from showing up.

How dare you.

How old are you now anyway?

How dare you.

How old are you now anyway?

You’re given a flower

But I guess there’s just no pleasing you

Your lips tastes sour.

But you think its just me teasing you.

You got a reaction

You got a reaction, didn’t you

You took a white orchid

You took a white orchid, turned it blue.

Get behind me

Get behind me now anyway.

You got a reaction.

You got a reaction, didn’t you

You took a white orchid.

You took a white orchid, turned it blue.

   “Get behind me” is of course what the Christians say when the Devil is near. It probably comes from Matthew 4:10, after the temptation, when Jesus says “Be gone (hyp-age).” The snake enters the Video right at “Get behind me.”“Your lips taste sour” does not fit a molestation. It is rather a broken love, though the lines “How old are you now anyway,” and “How dare you” make the rock anger fit a molestation. “Turned it blue” would then be as in the blues, a love turned from innocence to sorrow by infidelity. We will try to read the song this way, and see if it remains coherent. “You got a reaction” would be like a response to the excuse that she was just trying to get some reaction from him, an aloof lover. “We all need to do something” and “How old are you now anyway” then fit with something like that she did some other guy while he was away. “It’s giving up” is to give up on the love, to choose the appetites over love. This is the failure of the love in one of the tests that show true love. Is she so immature that she must have something for the appetites even at the cost of love? “You got a reaction” is then that she destroyed their love, his innocent love, turned it blue, and now he does not want her anymore. The reaction is “get behind me,” “anyway” repeated from the question “How old are you now, anyway.” From the song “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” the white orchid is the lapel used at weddings.

   The video for this song is an artistic masterpiece. The clothing of Jack, as well as the conclusion with the white horse, are disturbing, but the interpretation shows the meaning. The dancer woman is the anima, or an “anima figure,” and it said that Jack took up with her after the video. Indeed, she is sneaking in, so if it were not for other lines, it might be a woman who snuck in and made the singer corrupt his marriage, and he may intentionally make this ambiguous from magnanimity.  It is also possibility that infidelity led to infidelity in the lover, the one speaking. “You” could be the one who snuck in, a seducer, but that does not fit with all the lines. The apple has this meaning, though, the destruction of the innocence of his marriage. The white horse is again the pure heart or spirit, as in “ride a white mare in the footsteps of dawn,” the vehicle of the pure passions that carry the true lover. The perversion of one brief scene is the corruption of innocence that is the theme of the song, and the appetites adhering to the white horse, show that in the lover, as human, which allows for the rage in projection. Anger is always due to the projection of that in the soul of the one enraged which is like what was acted upon by the perpetrator. Hence, we will stick to our first reading that it is the same event as Seven Nation Army,” as the only coherent reading of all the lines. Otherwise, one would approach these matters with all the concern of a Lao Tzu, and there would be nothing for the song to work through. But it arrives, again, in “leave it alone” and “get back home.”

   Jack White is a master.

Candidates for The Twenty Best Lyric Tunes of All Time

I have asked now quite a few people to list or even mention what they think are the ten best songs of all time, with very little response, as though people don’t think of music that way. I expected a list, say of three Verdi Opera tunes and a couple Mozarts, but the lyrics are barely translated. Still, the effort is worth making, not only because it gives me the opportunity to discuss some rarer songs, but it seems the place to conclude, having now considered some of the best of the lyrics of our music. Aiming for the best ten, I have listed twenty, with more to consider on reserve, figuring that in that way we would get some of what are truly the best.

Reserves

Seventeen, Janis Ian

God Only Knows, Brian Wilson

Catch the Wind, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, Donovan

Solitary Man, Neil Diamond

Time in a Bottle, Operator, Jim Croce

I Remember Sky, Stephen Sondheim

Taxi, Harry Chapin

Brown Eyed Girl, Into the Mystic,Van Morrison

After the Gold Rush, Neil Young

Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen

Let it Be, Elenor Rigby, Something, The Beatles

Soul love, David Bowie

Superstition, Steevie Wonder

Kashmir; The Battle of Evermore, Stairway, The Rover, Ten Years Gone, Dazed and Confused, Led Zeppelin

You’ve Got a Friend, James Taylor

My Favorite Things, from The Sound of Music

The Way We Were, Evergreen, sung by Barbara Streishan,

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore, Neil Diamond and Barbara Streishan

What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong

Somewhere over the Rainbow, Songs of the scarecrow, woodsman and Lion, Wizard of Oz

Amazing Grace, John Newton

Hallelujah Leonard Cohen

Sunrise, Sunset, Gerry Bach and Sheldon Harnak

In My Time of Dyin (Blind Willie Johnson, Dylan, Led Zeppelin)

Diamonds and Rust, Joan Baez

Cats, Andrew Lloyd Weber

Pride, U2

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, Al Green

Guinevere, David Crosby

Cohen Dance Me to the End of Love

#26 Lady, Sunshine, Anne’s Song, Rocky Mountain High, John Denver

27. Leavin’ on a Jetplane John Denver

The lyrics are copied from Somgmeanings.com

“Leaving on a Jet plane” is a metaphor for every leaving of every love, including life. It is often thought, or noted, that this song is prophetic of his death in a plane crash. It is surely the song that he refers to in Rock Mountain High, “On the road hangin’ by a song.” The Chantel Kreviazuk version, which is on the Sound Tack from a movie called Armageddon, with Aerosmyth, is the best/ On U-tube, she is drop dead beautiful, and the guy leaving her would indeed have every reason to return with a ring! Ok, John himself and Cass Elliot in 1972 is almost that good! It is amusing too as heard by a loser who has no hope of return, when he says “Now the time has come to leave you.” Think of the haunted sorrow of the Jefferson Airplane song I Saw You,” as an permanent monastic dwelling, like Romeo pining for Rosalind among the grove trees! Better become a philosopher to pass the Time, as Romeo’s Friar advises him! Ms. Chantel begins the song with the divine name, saying twice “I Am,” almost as a note of music rather than a word.

Some guys on Songmeanings choose this time to rip John for infidelity, but we respond that he is there being humble and honest, and, his heart is breaking. Some moments in life, like death, allow for the truth to be accepted and for humans to be honest. John was sometimes thought arrogant, in a different way from Dylan, ’cause John is not such a delightful smart ass as Bob.

   But he will bring her wedding ring because, like a knight sent off to slay his lady a dragon, his love will overwhelm any appetite on the road. The feminine shift to I’ll wear your wedding ring,” in the Peter, Paul and Mary version, I think, would then be possible. Together with RMH, I have this as one of the thirty greatest lyrics of all time. “My Sweet Lady” is that good too, no doubt sung because he was able to return. That, though it sounds deep and sad, is, strangely, an example of a happy song that can be played at weddings, of which there are surprisingly few.

All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
I’m standin’ here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin’
It’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’
He’s blowin’ his horn
Already I’m so lonesome
I could die

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

There’s so many times I’ve let you down
So many times I’ve played around
I tell you now, they don’t mean a thing
Every place I go, I’ll think of you
Every song I sing, I’ll sing for you
When I come back, I’ll bring your wedding ring

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

Now the time has come to leave you
One more time
Let me kiss you
Then close your eyes
I’ll be on my way
Dream about the days to come
When I won’t have to leave alone
About the times, I won’t have to say

Oh, kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

But, I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

# 26 Rocky Mountain High

The things he cannot comprehend reminds me of the Eagles song “Paradise.” This probably will be ranked Higher, but I am presently under its influence, and do not want to exaggerate. The mountain is the same one, or one of those that Dylan ascended, one of the twelve in Hard Rain, or even the mountain, like “I have been to the mountaintop” of Martin Luther King. That is, this song is profound philosophic biography related to John Denver being one of the Great American folk singers, in a line of prophets from Woody and Bob. This “born again” is what baptism is an image of, and it is the awakening of a faculty that is the Key to every door, and begins the philosophic ascent. Jesus said, “You must be born again,” and he did not mean give your faculty of opinion or belief over to the Christians, but to be born anew, as when Mr. Deutchendorf was 27, and found the whole world new, like coming home to a place one has never been, said to refer to when he moved to Colorado. …or you cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” See, it is a faculty. He discovered Colorado when he was already a musician traveling about on the strength of one famous song. Readers note that raining fire refers to a meteor shower on a particular trip up the Rockies. But “Shadows from the starlight softer than a lulliby” Is poetry as fine as Cat Steven’s moonshadow or Bob’s “To dance beneath the diamond sky…or Shakespeare’s character Mustard Seed.” Can you see the shadows of starlight? Maybe when the sky is afire with the meteors!” I have commented in a reply on “Touch the sun, and others too have noted Icarus, and that it is an attempt to know God. Here is a reply I wrote to the question of the meaning of Try and touch the sun:

   Oh, my. Something private occurred to John, as the song is a philosophic biography. How did he lose his friend? “Touch the sun” is like Icarus, only worse, and the ascent, something in this, caused him to lose his friend but keep his memory. The natural ascent is rather: “He saw silver clouds below, He saw everything as far as he could see.” To see the tops of the clouds is an analogy, as in seeing the things in the heavens. To touch the sun is to try to know God in a way that we cannot, directly, like maybe Moses or Jesus do, but which is dangerous or deadly for most if not all, “face to face.” We have a prayer that the Lord stay hidden while we serve Him! He would have had to lie to himself in order to keep his friend. The ascent may involve love, and the seeing knowing something that caused him to lose his friend and lover both.

   One might add Pete Townshend, “I could see for miles” to John’s “saw everything as far as he could see.” But so raining fire too is analogous to the reign of grace. It is the line of the refrain that is repeated, while the last two lines of the refrain change throughout. This is what the song is about, then, He has seen it raining fire in the sky. Now he is not so wild in the ascent, but walks in quiet solitude, seeking grace in every step. One can talk to God and listen to the casual reply, in a life of quite wonder. Like Augustine, “Thence being admonished to return onto myself (Confessions), he is not concerned in this way with the sins of others. Turning inside himself, he sees the soul reflected, and is able to understand the serenity of a clear blue Mountain Lake. This is the pool outside the cave in Plato’s Republic: same one, just like born again is the ascent from the cave, after which one can see reflected in the pool the men and other things. Because he sees the soul reflected, his daily life is a casual, rather than fire-touching, conversation with God, full of wonder, though he cannot understand the Americans any better than Glen Fry could in the song “Paradise,” which cannot but make us but cry- to see our nation destroyed by the infinite and corrupt love of wealth and this “prosperity.” John would be a poorer man, rather, if he had never seen an Eagle fly, and I just saw maybe my first one the other day, about a month ago, a young bald eagle. And will Jeff Sessions ever know the joy and beauty of “Friends around the campfire / And everybodie’s high? There can be nothing so joyous in American history to break up the solitude of the forests and streams. Will he ever be so free a man as not only to know it, but write it because it is true and beautiful? John Denver is a free American, and by writing stuff like this, one of our great poets. One can talk to God and listen to the casual reply because the words of God are men.

#26 Leaving on a Jet plane

#25 Seasons in the Sun, Jacques Brel, Rod McKeuen, Terry Jacks

In the popular version, the last section of the Brel poem La Morbound is changed to delete reference to his adulterous wife Francois, and include the Jacks section Goodbye Michelle, my little one…” This is even more beautiful, and leaves the song an uninterrupted or uncomplicated tear jerker. In the Brel version, the Bohemian poet says goodbye to Emile his friend, with whom he shared wine and song, then to his Papa, for whom he was a black sheep submerged in wine and song, and Francois his unfaithful wife. This section is confusing, and even makes one laugh at its conclusion, as though he were to haunt her and her lovers. The Brel, in McKuen’s translation, reads:

“Goodby Francois, my unfathful wife.

Without you, I would have had a lonely life.

You cheated lots of times, but then

I forgave you in the end

Though your lover was my friend

And we hope not his friend Emile.

It is not the song of a suicide, but of one dying, moribound, or on his deathbed. The things he will miss in life are very beautiful- Springtime, birds in the sky and pretty girls, to his friend, little children, to his father, and flowers to Michelle.

#24 Yesterday

#23 Fire and Rain James Taylor

#22 Play Me

She was morning, and I was nighttime

I one day woke up to find her lyin’ beside my bed

Softly said’ come take me

For I’ve been lonely, in need of someone

As though I’d done someone wrong somewhere

But I dint know where, come lately

You  are the sun, I am the moon, you are the words, I am the tune, Play

#21 Tomorrow Bob Dylan

#20 Photographs and Memories, Jim Croce

#19 Bridge over Troubled Water

#18 Judy Blue Eyes CSNY

#17 The Eagles: The Last Resort

   Two people have suggested this as the best lyric of all time, which is rare, and so we figure it ought to break our top 20. There are some very good interpretations on the website Songmeanings.com, especially about the words Lahaina, by Hawaii, and Malibu, which means paradise. It is also very important that the inspiration came from the death of a particular person who came from Providence Rhode Island, moved to California, and was killed in a drunk driving accident by the president of Pepperdine. This Christian school bans drinking, and subsequently also banned this song, in violation of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. He, the writer, does not think she came by the Providence of God, but just the Providence in Rhode Island. Providence RI was established by Roger Williams, the founder of the Baptists in America. He is responsible for the teaching of the separation of Church and State by the two clauses of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, as Baptists persuaded Jefferson and Madison that this, the freedom of religion, was possible. That the old world shadows hang in the very old city of Providence is another very nice point. Now, had we followed the teachings of Jefferson, we would not have treated the natives so badly. Jefferson set the laws for the Northwest Territory, here in Michigania, and tried to secure the rights of the native Americans. The natives needed to turn wild property, which they did not own, into deeded property of a smaller extent so that they would have the vote and representation in Congress. The bad stuff really starts with Andy Jackson, who defied the Supreme Court and the ruling of Chief Justice Marshall to commit the national sin of the Trail of Tears, when Christian Cherokee were marched to their deaths on the way to Oklahoma. We need to get this disgrace off the twenty dollar bill. Allow us to suggest replacing him not with a woman to flatter our PC, but with Leopold Pokagon, the only native to successfully oppose Indian removal through the courts, and a truly great American.
The best example of the mistreatment of the natives by the Europeans may be the island where Columbus landed (Santo Domingo), and the enslavement and destruction of the very peaceful tribe there, which one can read about on the website takingthemaskoff, in his discussion of Thanksgiving. But, outside the meaning of the song, we now idealize the natives. While some were very nice, like the Hopi, Nez Perce and Powhattan, some were very savage and cruel, because Indians, as we called them, are humans too, and with our powers, some would have done the same or worse. The Sioux and the Iroquois are very warlike, and would torture at the drop of a hat, or scalp. The Iroquois would tie captives between two saplings and watch them torn slowly in half. And where are the reservations that the Iroquois or Sioux set up for the tribes they conquered? There is not a single example of any accommodation, because that is how uncivilized peoples are. Some, like the Aztecs and Anastasi, practiced cannibalism and human sacrifice, which we ban following Abraham, for the benefit of the whole world, including the natives. All peoples will be ruled mostly by custom, and the Biblical customs are superior, if we would follow them, though we have forgotten the horrors that Abraham and Moses replaced. No one else bans this stuff, so we perhaps need to think twice about “How they loved the land.” Now, the natives, who are very susceptible to alcohol, have casinos and are a part of this sinful American dream, bowling over the natural beauty to corrupt their fellow Americans with gambling. (The Europeans had alcohol for 10,000 years, so that those who were going to kill themselves with it did so, and they built up a genetic tolerance, even before distilled spirits were invented by the Muslim scientists of the 800’s). No one on the website Songmeanings has yet commented on “while the town got high,” which is what the Americans are now doing with their hippie liberty while their nation is destroying itself. We are governed mostly by custom and popular opinion, just as are the Christian free-market-eers. But the song is about these free marketeers: “Jesus is Comin’” on a neon sign, the American way. The song is Apocalyptic. We are failing this, our last resort, and we must change. We sing in Churches about what it is like up there, but we will not make it, but kiss paradise goodbye if we fail this, our last resort. This is called a rape, even worse than our prostitution, selling the higher things and our beauties for profit, because our free market philosophy subjects everything, not just providing for the body, to money-making. Soon it is not just adding value that earns profit, but the power of money, used to destroy the value of competitor’s products and extort money with the power that value creating brings, then used to control the Congress that out regulate the markets to assure that these companies do not profit by destroying the common good and individual rights, so that no company willing only to make an honest buck can compete. That is how Oligarchy turns quickly into tyranny, and we are letting this happen, just now. We are supposed to exercise our dominion not to rape or prostitute, but to husband the animals and the land as stewards of the Lord’s Creation (Genesis 1).
To conclude, we call attention to the commercial Babylon described in the eighteenth chapter of the Revelation, following the account of the ecclesiastic Babylon of Chapter 17. We hope America can avoid being this commercial Babylon, though it does not look hopeful. We also note that all that is required for the events of Revelation to take place, given the politics and political climate in the rest of the world, is the destruction of America. Everything else is nearly now in place.

 

#16 Battle Hymn of the Republic

#15 Mr. Tambourine Man

14

Strange Fruit

   Among the greatest of all lyrics is Strange Fruit, written by Abel Meeropol and sung famously by Billie Holliday, who may be said to have died of the sorrow from singing it. David Margolick (2001) wrote that Holliday’s mother objected to her singing the song, and she said “It could make things better. He mother answered: “but you’ll be dead,” and Billie said, “yeah, but I’ll feel it. I’ll know it in my grave.” So she intentionally and courageously faced down the fear of death.

The song was difficult to sing in night clubs, because people came to have a good time, and this would put an end to that! But it would wok at the end of the night, to send people home contemplative.

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

By their fruit we will know them. These “gallant” scenes of the “pastoral” South are not forgotten, in part because of the courage of Meeropol and Ms. Holliday. For shame, take down that defeated flag and hoist the stars and stripes!

The symbolism of bodies hanging from trees is like the crucifixion, and like that very eerie scene in an Arthurian movie when the knight Galahad comes to Mordred’s lair. The macabre contrast of fruit, flower and scenery with bulging eyes and burning flesh also makes the song give us chills from deeper than we know where. Not even Dylan or Neil Young produced this great a folk song, and this is jazz or blues.

I knew a woman, Elise Emerick, who saw a lynching in Florida back around the twenties, when she was five. Her father, Mr. Du Champs, (I believe he was a Henry) tried to stop it, and told her to go on home and don’t look back.

 

#13 Hallellujah Leonard Cohen

   David is the great King of ancient Israel, from about 1000 B. C. He was expert in both music and gymnastics, and his victories in war led to the flourish of civilization and luxury in the ancient Israeli kingships of David and Solomon. David set the site of the first temple at Jerusalem the, and brought the Ark, which had been kept in a tent in Gibeon. David wrote many of the Psalms. Ruth, the Song of Solomon and the Proverbs seem also to have been written near to the undivided monarchy. The songs of praise sung in our churches today, that is, the hymn tradition, has its roots in the Psalms of David and the music of the Jerusalem temple. Many of his Psalms are likely among the best lyrics of all time. It is in his time that seers come to be called prophets, and many lines of the Psalms appear again in the particulars of the crucifixion. He is the source of the direction of the wisdom of the Proverbs and much of the New testament teaching, such as that the meek will inherit the earth and the teaching regarding repentance and forgiveness. He seems to have developed the harp or lyre (which leads us to wonder what would happen if one electrified the harp. The violin has only recently gone electric, with the result like light streaming from the instrument). David would play the lyre to make Saul well when the evil spirit from the Lord was on Saul (1 Samuel 18:10), and this might be the first recorded instance of what we call art therapy or music therapy.

   The song Hallelujah claims that there is a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord…

I ‘v heard there was a secret chord

That David played and it pleased the Lord

But you don’t really care for music, do ya?

It goes like this, the fourth the fifth

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

   It is said, as on Songmeanings.com, that the music here is an example of the fourth the fifth the minor fall the major lift. Musicians, especially guitar players, may understand. The opposite is the diabolic chord, said in the commentaries on Shakespeare’s King Lear to be Fa So La Mi. The diabolic chord has something to do with what makes eerie music sound eerie. We can see, too how an ascending series of notes evokes or communicates or articulates an ascending spirit, and how “upbeat” music is related to happiness, etc. These seem to be the very few windows into the relation of music to the soul, and this the window to the relation of physics to the human things: the true terms of a unified field theory.

   Kingship is ambiguous in the Bible, as Tom Paine indicates: Israel was not supposed to have a king like the idolatrous nations because god was to be their king. Moses and Abraham do not establish a kingship. The Bible does not support the divine right of Kings, though the king is anointed, and David will not put forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, Saul. David, the greatest king, is also a great sinner and repenter, and even Moses was censored. The Bible does not set up humans whose actions are to be imitated like texts. To be royal does not mean to be without sin or to never repent, but to be subject to God. David steals the wife of Uriah, and worse, abuses his authority as commander to have Uriah murdered, by being exposed in battle. He is tempted by the beauty of Bathsheba to abuse his power:

Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya

She tied you to a kitchen chair

She broke your throne, she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

    Nathan the prophet then comes to David and tells him of the case to be judged of a rich man who took the pet lamb of his poor neighbor to feed a guest rather than take from his own flocks. Leo Strauss prefaces his Natural Right and History with this example. David is then made to judge himself. The song of praise is elicited when David is subjected through the beauty of Bathsheba as Samson was through Delilah when she cut his hair.

   Hallelujah means “praise Jah” or “Praise Ye Jah,” I. e. praise the Lord. Jah or Ya is the name of God I am. Ya, a slang term for you, may be repeated throughout in an intentional allusion to the divine name. This is the first phrase of the four letter name of God given to Moses when he asked God, “Who shall I say sent me?” “Tell them I am has sent you,” God says to Moses. YHWH is translated “I am who I am,” and the Hebrew is also identical to I a who I will be, as the Hebrew does not distinguish the tenses. One meaning is that he presently is the end that will be fulfilled through time, actualized being as the Medieval might say.  There are said to be 32 names of God in the Hebrew scripture, such as Lord and everlasting and Most High, the almighty and the creator. Maimonides writes that the tetragrammaton is special among these in that it does not predicate an attribute. Where an attribute would be mentioned, the sentence restates the subject, surrounding not a what but a who. God is definitely “personal” rather than impersonal, though it may not be right to call him a person. What it means for us to be persons may be to be limited mortal beings who somehow get their life from Him.

   From the ancient example of David, the poet returns to his own circumstance:

You say I took the name in vain

But I don’t even know the name

And if I did, well, really, what’s it to ya?

There’s a blaze of light in every word

It doesn’t matter which you heard

The holy or the broken Hallelujah.

   Cohen is said to mean priest or to be the surname of a branch of the Levites, the descendants of Aaron who were the priests in Israel. The Levitical priests are said to be the only ones to speak the name with the proper pronounciation, at certain times in the temple.  The vowels are not there yet in Exodus. “Jahovah” is just a guess, and likely wrong. I had to be taught, by a Jewish scholar, that it is much worse to say the swear word that involve the name. The cursing of the broken lover is the blaze of light in a word, the broken Hallelujah. One is reminded of the explicative in communication Breakdown, at the point of accepting the loss of sanity.

I did my best, but it wasn’t much

I couldn’t fell so I tried to touch

I ‘ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool ya.

And even though it all went wrong,

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.

   The failed lover recognizes his own licensiousness, from a spiritual numbness, and his part in the wrong way things have gone. But inb the lyric tradition of David, he stands before the Lord of Song – a name similar tho “Lord of Spitits,” known to the Dramatists- with nothing on hios tongue, no word of complaint for his misfortune, but only Praise of God. And then the final lines:

Maybe there’s a God above

But all I ever learned from love

Is how to shoot at someone who outdrew ya

And its no complaint you hear tonight

It’s not some Pilgrim whose seen the light

Its a cold and its a broken Hallelujah

   He has not seen God from love Rather, what he has found is that the aim of the lover at the beloved is inherently the aim of an emptiness at a fullness, of an inferior at a superior, who in turn aims at one superior to the lover. Love is inherently impossible or essentially frustrated, rather than the aim of the soul at bliss or the vision that is the highest happiness. In the tradition of the sweet psalmist of Israel, what the lover finds in love is not a vision of the light, but cold and broken word of humiliated praise of God.

This song might well be ranked higher, for what we can see. It is difficult to read the agnostic spirituality of Leonard Cohen, and meaning pours out of his words as do pulses from a quasar.

 #12 Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands Bob Dylan

Who is the sad eyed Lady of the lowlands where the sad eyed prophets say that no man comes? Many find the terminus of the meaning in the name of the wife of Dylan, and even consider this to be their favorite love song. And these should not fear the loss of such a hearing, if they remember that we say that love is an image of the Most High, and so lyric love poetry of catches the reflection by the analogy of inspiration, even unknown to the author. We too think that the song may well have begun as a song about Sara, though this premise is quickly discarded. We, too look for particular incidents to make sense of some of the particular images, which flow past our little bucket faster than these can be collected. But to return, who is the sad eyed lady of the lowlands where the sad eyed prophets say that no man comes?

Looking to Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zephaniah, it is possible that the sad eyed lady is Jerusalem, deserted after the Babylonian conquest, and this too is sometimes analogous of the desolation of the cities of the nation in the end times. The “Kings of Tyrus” are the objects of a prophecy of Ezekiel and Isaiah, and this again a prophecy in turn of the end times. Looking up “no man” and no man comes in the Biblical concordance yields these results.

The sad eyed lady is something like the Church as Jerusalem, symbolized by Mary. The child of the hoodlum is what the non-Christians think of Jesus, and the picture here reminds of the statue of Michelangelo, with Mary holding the crucified savior. At any rate, this interpretation peeks out of the images repeatedly, and makes as much or more sense than any other.

The song is in ten sections of two quatrains punctuated by the refrain, in which the poet repeatedly asks the Church if he should leave his warehouse eyes, the eyes of philosophic eros, and his strange music at her gate in order to be admitted, or should he rater wait for her to go through her history until she will admit him as he is. That is the meaning. The changing line “who among them do you think could bury you, carry you,” etc. follows the church through her history, preparing in each case for the persistent question of the refrain. The first section covers history for about the first four centuries, in the missionary times, when the people, or the Roman empire, tried to bury her. Then she appeared with prayers like rhymes and silver cross and voice like chimes. “Eyes like smoke” is also what is said, though we do not understand it.

The second phase asks who among them do you think could carry you, and this is what the city tried to do when Rome became Christian, after Constantine. Streetcar visions placed on the grass do not make sense, but “pockets well protected at last” would fit. Flesh like silk and face like glass” reminds of the icons, which came into fashion following St. Helen.

The next two quatrains do not make much sense according to our hypothesis, except perhaps “matchbook songs and gypsy hymns” but we would expect the church to have become more established and conventional in the early middle ages. “Outguess you” and “impress you” are what the city then tried to do in regard to her. Silhouette in dim sunlight and eyes where moonlight swims are images of decreased light. I would look in the history of card decks to see if the jack and ace were ever kept out, and sheets like metal goes with sheet metal later in the ninth quatrain.

Then suddenly in the fifth quatrain our reading again appears, as the Kings of Tyrus with their convict list stand in line for what is called a geranium kiss, and who among them would want only to kiss her? The kings in fornication with her do not love her for her own sake, but seek to use her for a mercenary purpose. The complex image refers first to the prophecies of Isaiah (23) and Ezekiel against Tyre, when because they entered the gate at Jerusalem saying something haughty, Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar comes to destroy them. One other reader has looked at this connection, and this is where the Wikipedia article on the song leaves off. Through the prophecy to Tyre, the Spirit refers to the Babylon of the end times, (at least in one reading, sometimes agreed to by Van Impe). The Mysterious Babylon in the Revelation is described as in fornication with the kings of the earth, and she is described as “the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth” (17:18). As we think, the fornication of the kings of the earth with Babylon was especially in the persecution of heretics, done by the kings because the church recognized that it was forbidden to shed blood. So at first the mysterious Babylon appears to be Rome, and this is the most common reading of the seventeenth chapter of the Revelation. But then in the eighteenth chapter of the Revelation, Babylon is described as a great commercial nation in the heart of the sea destroyed in a single hour, and the merchants view the smoke of her destruction from afar and lament Rev. 18:18-19). The list of goods traded in Revelation is different from the list traded by Tyre, but alike in that a list is given. If the end times are now, the mercantile nation would sound very much like the United States, where every higher thing is prostituted to the marketing idea of economic success. The prophecy to Tyre may even be a prophecy to us not to do this, as presently our whoring of private information has made a grave national security lapse. Ezekiel 28:18 reads:

By the multitude of your iniquities,

In the unrighteousness of your trade

You profaned your sanctuaries;

So I brought forth fire from the midst of you;

It consumed you,

And I turned you to ashes upon the earth

In the sight of all who saw you

This would appear fulfilled if Yellowstone were to blow, whether by nature or by treachery. But to return, the Kings of Tyrus here are related first to the medieval church, and then soon to the expansion of Christendom in America. In the sixth quatrain, the Spanish manners, after the mention of childhood flames, describe the time of the expansion of the Church to the new world, when none could resist her. We still do not get “midnight rugs,” “mother’s drugs,” “cowboy mouth” and “curfew plugs.” But the period is followed by that of the farmers and businessmen, as followed the Spanish and then the cowboys in America, who chose her to sympathize with their side. These are said to have showed her the dead angels that they hide. This is a very cryptic line, but reminds of repentance and those killed by the advance of America, as westward. America congratulates herself for the repentance of slavery and injustice to the Native Americans. America is Protestant, and the repeated phrase here is who among them do you think would mistake you.” American Christendom thinks of itself as having overcome the sins of Roman Christendom. In the seventh quatrain, the sea at her feet is like the statue of Mary with the moon beneath her feet (Revelation 12:1), and symbolizes the sea of humanity, as the harlot is seen seated on the waters, which are “many peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (Revelation 17:15). The woman of Revelation 12 is the true church, contrasted very intentionally by St. John with the whore of Babylon. It is not clear that Dylan makes the distinction, yet. The phony false alarm is the warning of the apostles in the first century that the end times were at hand. The child of the hoodlum is Jesus, again according to the Jewish and pagan interpretation of the Immaculate Conception, and this is underlined by the thief, to appear soon in the ninth quatrain.

Sheet metal memory of Cannery Row does not make sense to me, though there may be a connection to the earlier sheets like metal,” which we also do not understand. Cannery Row is a place in a certain city in Mexico, where artists or writers hung out. Magazine husband reminds of the Picture of Jesus on the cover of Newsweek around the millennium. But the internet has a reading that the first husband of Sara, who she broomed, was a magazine owner. We will give them the points for these lines, if we can gain a hearing for “Your gentleness now which you cannot help but show.” The once militant church that burned heretics has become gentle, and self consciously so, like a liberal rich man who publicizes his charity. This is also like the showing of the dead angels. Mercy” is now translated “Loving-kindness,” which is not a translation that is as close to what the text says. It says “mercy,” and when it wants to use the word love it does so, and in specific various forms. “Employ you” is the variation on the repeated line here in the ninth quatrain, regarding what the city or mankind tried to do with her in this age.

The final quatrain reads:

Now you stand with your thief

You’re on his parole

With you holy medallion

And your fingers knotted fold

And your saint-like face, and your ghostlike soul

Who among them do you think could destroy you?

The tenth phase of church history brings the prophesied attempt to destroy the church in the end times. She is on the parole of the thief, Jesus, as the Church is now, for the medieval persecutions and the molestation of choirboys. That is part of her ghost-like soul. The holy medallion brings the end to recall the beginning, and makes us sure of our interpretation. If this began as a song about his wife, it does not remain so, but comes to be about the Church as Bride. It is about both being let into her gate and into the Church as well. The warehouse eyes of the philosophic poet may also be the Christ in us.

So, should the poet leave his vacuous curiosity for seeing, contemplation, of theory and beauty, and should he leave his foreign music at her gates in order to enter, since he is not welcome to enter with these? Or rather, Sad Eyed Lady, should he not wait, and should we not wait?

#11 Vincent Don McLean

Vincent is of course a portrait of Vincent Van Gogh, painted in lyrics by Don McLean. The song is an attempt to restore the regard for Van Gogh despite his madness and suicide, and so is a surprisingly sympathetic portrayal of both.

Starry, Starry night

Paint your pallet blue and grey

Look out on a summers day

With eyes that know the darkness in my soul

Shadows on the hills

Sketch the trees and the daffodils

Catch the breeze and the winter chills

In colors on the snowy linen land

Now I understand

What you tried to say to me

And how you suffered for your sanity

And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they did not know how

Perhaps they’ll listen now

Starry, Starry Night

Flaming Flo’rs that brightly blaze

Swirling clouds in violent haze

Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue

Colors changing hue

Morning fields of amber grain

Weathered faced lined in pain

Are soothed beneath the Artists loving hand

And now I understand

What you tried to say to me

How you suffered for your sanity

And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they did not know how

Perhaps they’ll listen now

For they could not love you

Although your love was true

And when no hope was left in sight on that starry, Starry night

You took your life as lovers often do

But I could have told you Vincent,

This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you

Starry, starry night

Portraits hung in empty halls

Frameless heads on nameless walls

With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget

Like the strangers that you’ve met

The ragged men with ragged clothes

The silver thorn, a bloody rose

lies crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know

What you tried to say to me

And how you suffered for your sanity

And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, their not listening still

Perhaps they never will.

Beginning from the eyes in a Van Gogh self portrait, the song views various of the paintings like an exhibit, recalling them each to mind, the amber fields and weathered faces, and each can be identified. Van Gogh was almost a priest, but lived a rough life, and became an artist. He sought out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go. McLean presents him as a true lover, and draws an image from a novel to describe the love of the artist crushed on the snow, like the rose, turned red when the thorn bird impaled himself on it so that it would be red, and the lover might present it to his hope.

The madness of Van Gogh is somehow related to his perception of color. Among the many diagnoses are that it may have been caused by ingesting paint. Tainted rye grain is another possibility. It is a bit like a metal poisoning. The suicide of the artist is presented as almost involuntary, using the lightest possible terms and comparing his suicide to that of lovers. He may, like our own Robin Williams, have been in hopeless medical circumstances, promising only a further torturous decline into madness. But the law on this is that we are forbidden, and must endure, “Our going hence, even as our coming hither,” and the issue is serious because we are forbidden to kill, including ourselves, because of the image of God in man (Genesis 9:6). This is the basis of the law regarding love and war, or justice among neighbors, and the ten words flow from this, even through the two great commandments addressed by Jesus. The basis of the law is to love God and ones neighbor, as oneself. But artists, like teenagers, sometimes do not know these things. So Socrates too said that like servants of the god stationed here, we must endure. This is justice, though it is maybe a different question whether the law can require this of people.

#10 Your Love’s Return Gordon Lightfoot

Come to the door, my pretty one

Put on your rings and precious things

Hide all your tears as best you can

Try to recall what used to be

Roses are waiting for dewdrops to fall

Climbing your windows and walls

Bells in the steeple are ringing

Singing

Listen to them talking bout our love’s return

Let me come in, my precious one

Try to undo what I have done

For I must be forgiven now

I cannot leave your love alone.

Roses are waiting for dewdrops to fall

Climbing your windows and walls

Leaves in the garden are falling, calling

Listen to them talkin bout our love’s return.

Open the door my pretty one

Wake from your sleep and take me home

Open your eyes and look my way

I cannot leave your love alone.

Roses are waiting for dewdrops to fall

Climbing your windows and walls

Bells in the steeple are ringing-singing.

Listen to them talkin’ bout our love’s return

The anticipation of Love is roses awaiting the fall of dewdrops, and love is like the aspersions of the heavens. The roses awaiting dewdrops are like his love or their love. A lover who has hurt a woman and returns because he loves her is a rare and intense theme, as in the song “Woman” by Shawn Phillips: “To weep / In blue brocade upon your bed…” This would be a good song for one climbing out of the doghouse! Here, the variations of the lines in the lyric structure are subtle and profound: The leaves falling are in the same place as the steeple bells ringing, and the three variations tell the story of a meeting on a doorstep. The vines climbing the windows and walls make this porch scene like the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet, but here love is more advanced, and much more complicated. “Wake from your sleep” is like the princess, and in the image of the Revelation.

Gordon Lightfoot, a Canadian-American like Neil and Don McLean, also has “If You could Read My Mind,” from the album of that title, and other gems therein include “The Pony Man.”

#9 For the Good Times Kris Kristopherson

Don’t look so sad

I know its over

but life goes on

And this old world will keep on turning

There’s no need to watch the bridges

that were burning

Lay your head

Against my pillow

Hold your warm and tender body close to mine

Hear the whisper of the raindrops

Falling soft against the window

And make believe you love me

One more time

For the good times

I’ll get along

You’ll find another

And I’ll be here

If you should find you ever need me

Don’t say a word about tomorrow or forever

There’ll be time enough for sadness

when you leave me

Lay your head…

Kristofferson has got it here, in the best of the songs in the genre with “Touch me in the Morning,” “Angel of the Morning” and such. I can still hear my father, with his deep voice and Fifties Sinatra style, singing this song by the yellow piano. The mortality of love is otherwise a sorrow beyond speech, but it is because forever means so much, and is the goal of love in marriage, that this can be such a sorrow. Kristofferson wrote about four songs in this period that could be ranked in our top fifty, but this one is far superior even to “Me and Bobby McGee” and Sunday Mornin Comin Down.”

#8 Across the Universe, The Beatles

#7 Hard Rain, Bob Dylan

#6 Oh Holy Night

Fall on Your knees

Oh ear the Angel voices

Oh Night Divine!

#5 I Don’t Know How To Love Him, from Jesus Christ Superstar. Andrew Loyd Weber (MCA Records, 1973).

Try not to get worried

Try not to turn on to

Problems that upset you

Don’t you know everything’s alright, everything’s fine

Let the world turn without you tonight

Close your eyes, close your eyes,

And forget all about us tonight.

I don’t know how to love him

What to do, how to move him.

I’ve been changed, yes really changed

In these past few days, when I see myself, I seem like someone else.

I don’t know how to take this

I don’t see why he moves me

He’s a man,

He’s just a man,

And I’v had so many men before,

In very many ways,

He’s just one more.

Should I bring him down?

Should I scream and shout?

Should I speak of love

Let my feelings out?

I never thought I’d come to this

What’s it all about?

Don’t you think its rather funny

I should be in this position?

I’m the one who’s always been

So calm so cool, no lover’s fool,

Running every show

He scares me so.

I never thought I’d come to this

What’s it all about?

Yet if he said he loved me,

I’d be lost, I’d be frightened.

I couldn’t cope, just couldn’t cope.

I’d turn my head, I’d walk away,

I wouldn’t want to know

He scares me so.

I want him so

I love him so.

In the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, Mary Magdalene is with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, when the troubles are bringing him down, where in the scripture he prayed that if it be the will of the father, let the burden be taken from him. What is so beautiful about this song is the confusion of Mary Magdalene in her love for Jesus as a woman loves a man and her love of him as the disciples love the messiah. This experience is common to Christian women, who often understand the song well in this way, which men by circumstance do not have access to. This is because the love of a woman for a man is the same, for women, as the love that begins the ascent of the soul to the divine. Her experience of being changed in the first few days after she met him is like the experience of true love for the ladies it graces. Love, being a direct touch of something divine, and this light is not distinguished from the beloved in whom it appears. She has to convince herself that he is a man, and “just a man, doubly ironic because of the Christian attempt to understand the divinity and humanity of Jesus, or the Messiah. Recalling the tradition according to which Mary Magdalene was a courtesan or prostitute before she met Jesus, she says, she has had so many men before, “In very many ways, He’s just one more.” Contemporary questioning of this tradition, as not quite scriptural, seems unpersuasive. Although it cannot be demonstrated from scripture, it makes perfect sense that the gospel writers, being her friend and polite, might leave the detail out. The tradition is very important, because it demonstrates the openness of the divine to our turning and repentance, from whatever condition, a humility that allows us to receive the divine. This humility is directly contrasted with the self-sufficient confidence of the people who master circumstances and receive the flattery of the world. She recalls her former life as a courtesan, when no man could make her dependence or vulnerability apparent, “no lover’s fool,” as one who loves may be. In relation to the divine, the one who has always been beloved and never lover becomes a lover, able to experience for the first time what her beauty has perhaps caused in others. She finds him terrifying, and reflects that if he loved her, she would walk away, and wouldn’t want to know. So it is with those who come near in love to Him.

#4 The Wedding Song

Of this song, the author, Noel Paul Stookey, writes: “Into every songwriter’s life comes a song, the source of which cannot be explained by personal experience…” There is something especially divine about this song and its source, all the more apparent in the unpretentious particulars of the language of this poet. For this reason–it’s divine inspiration– this song is the one written in our age that is most often played during the ceremony of weddings, as the central song of the ceremony. The words are as follows:

He is now to be among you

At the calling of your hearts

Rest assured this troubadour is acting on his part

The union of your spirits here has caused him to remain

For whenever two or more of you are gathered in his name

There is Love.

There is Love.

He, the Christ, is now to be among you, all the guests, at what is in fact the calling of our hearts by the spectacle of marriage. We are assured that the man, the groom, is acting on the part of Jesus, in what is a representation of the union of Christ and Church. It is the union of the two being married that has caused him, like a spirit, to remain upon the gathering. For, as is written, whenever two or more are gathered in his name, there is Love, or He is among them or in their midst (Matthew 18:20; Luke 17:20).

(Well) A man shall leave his mother

And a woman leave her home

And they shall travel on to where

The two shall be as one.

As it was in the beginning

Is now and till the end

Woman draws her life from man

And gives it back again.

And there is Love.

There is Love as Jesus cites Genesis

After describing the creation of woman from the rib of man, the scripture here, reads: Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (1:26-27; 2:24; 5:2; c. p. 9:6). One flesh here may mean not only that they are joined in body, but especially that they are joined in soul, in the way the man cleaves to his wife after leaving his parents. This passage is, lately, often read as saying something very different from Genesis (1:26; 5:2; 9:6), that God created man in his own image, male and female. Yet the deepest truths of love may be accessible through a persistent and faithful attempt to read both together. It is because man is made male and female in the image of God that man cleaves to woman. When Jesus teaches against divorce, he asks:

Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female (Genesis 1:26-27), and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man put asunder (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6).

The same is taught by Paul when, after teaching that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies, citing this line of Genesis, Paul writes: This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:31-32; 5:26-27). “As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be” is the form from the mass, and the prayer, recalling the name of God in John’s Apocalypse, (the one who is, was and will be). The way these things are, and were and will be until the end is that “woman draws her life from man and gives it back again” This is not an ancient but a contemporary interpretation of the spiritual mystery of love for woman. The same could be said of the inspiration of love for a man, as this awakens the soul to life. Jeremiah writes of a new thing on earth, (“man is born from woman.”). So the lovers draw life from one another and give life, their temporary bliss the conception of the new life that is born from love.

Well then what’s to be the reason for becoming man and wife?

Is it love that leads you here or Love that brings you life?

For if loving is the answer

Then who is the giving for?

Do you believe in something that you’ve never seen before?

There is Love.

The refrain “There is love” is intended as a demonstration of the unseen, or even of the unseen God. Do you believe in something that you’ve never seen before: the love and the marriage is the image of the unseen God, and as love is invisible yet more real than the visible things, it is in love between man and woman that the unseen is closest to the visible, or takes on visible form, as is somewhere in Plato’s Symposium, where it is said that in only love and justice are the forms willing to take on visible manifestations. At any rate, one would think this manifestation or proof of the existence of God would at least have a place among the traditional five ways of proving the existence of God, as found in Aquinas and Anselm and elsewhere. One wonders if the aversion of Christian tradition to erotic love were not all this time ill conceived, as was left to be uncovered even till the time of Shakespeare. It is at the wedding at Cana that Jesus does his first public miracle in the scripture (John 2:1-11). The wedding masque in The Tempest is the other great wedding presentation to be contributed in the last two centuries by the Christian poets. I do not quite understand the line: “is it love that brings you here or love that brings you life? Perhaps because it is, hopefully, obviously both. But is love the thing that brings a man and woman to the altar, or is Love not especially that thing that brings them spiritual life, throughout the rest of their days and into the beyond? Who is the giving for? It is for us or for the one who gives, as well as for the others.

At the end of the song, a part of the first verse is repeated, emphasizing the summation or capsule of the meaning presented in the last four lines:

The union of your spirits here has caused him to remain

For wherever two or more of you

Are gathered in his name

There is Love.

#3 The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Written by Ewan MacCall; (Stormcase Music, BMI.) Sung famously by Roberta Flack, as the theme song from the movie Play Misty For Me, and on the album The best of Roberta Flack (Atlantic Records, 1981).

This is the slowest song of all, even slower than a slow Leonard Cohen tune. The cadence may be recalled by splitting the lines, as I have done below. One can almost feel the earth slowly moving around. It is innocent in the sense that it is not self consciously connecting the experience of love to the experience of the divine. It is set in three parts, chronicling the experience of the first time the lover saw, then kissed, then consummated the love:

The first time

Ever I saw your face,

I thought the sun

Rose in your eyes,

And the moon and the stars

Were the kiss you gave

To the dark

And the endless skies

My love

And the first time

Ever I kissed your mouth

I felt the earth

Move in my hand

Like the trembling heart

Of a captive bird

That was three

At my command.

My love

And the first time

Ever I lay with you

I felt your heart

So close to mine

And I knew our joy

Would fill the Earth,

And (would) last

Till the end of time

My love

The first time

Ever I saw

Your face.

As Aristotle comments, love begins in sight. On first sight, the lover thought the rising sun was seen reflected in the in the eyes of the one seen, so bright was the light. It is the light of the sunrise, and the east that this light is like, as Rome says of the sight of Juliet: What light through yonder window breaks ?/ It is the East, and Juliet is the sun ! In an image that reminds of the Creator, it seemed in addition that the moon and the stars were the kiss given by the beloved to the dark and endless skies. The word or light of the Creator is as a kiss to the heavens at the creation. In what Juliet calls “love’s sweet idolatry,” The lover does not distinguish between the beloved and the divine, but then, the lover has never had direct experience of the divine except through the beauty seen in the beloved. The course of love may involve the separating out of these, but at love’s conception they are experienced together.

And then the first time the lover kissed the mouth of the beloved, the great earth was felt as if to move in his hand, there at his command like the heart of a bird held in ones hands. The lines are breathtaking beyond words. It may be that the lover participates in the relation of the Creator to the earth or the world, as if holding “the whole world in His hands.” And so, the joy of the consummation, in the first time he lay with her, the feeling of their hearts together, coincided with the knowledge that their joy would fill the earth, and last till the end of time. Their joy, this very joy of romantic human love, is a participation in the divine that fills the earthy, and sustains mankind until the end.

When it is said that “God is Love,” the meaning is of course different from the emotion of human romantic love, yet here the essence, if not the very stuff of the human love is shown to be the divine love. So eros and agape are shown related, under a yet higher and nameless, eternal and omnipresent Love.

Alfarabi comments: “Man can reach happiness only when the Active Intellect first gives the first intelligibles, which constitute the primary knowledge.” This happiness is known or perceived by the theoretical faculty, “when it makes use of the first principles and the primary knowledge given to him by the Active Intellect.”[3] This experience of the highest or divine part of us is reflected in the natural image that is the soul of love. Something then is revealed regarding “love at first sight.” And so, the first time the lover sees the beloved is then the nearest they have ever been to a direct experience of the divine. For, as Diotima teaches Socrates, only regarding the form of the beautiful is the intelligible is permitted visible form.

# 2 Morning Has Broken

This song, made famous as Pop by Cat Stevens, was written by an old woman in the   ‘s, as one imagines, from walking in her garden or some such similar place in the morning, probably on Sunday. From the beauty of the garden, she sees through to the beauty of the first day of the Lord’s Creation, interestingly present not as seven, but as one day. It has been sung ever since as a church hymn. We will read the Cat Stevens version:

Morning has broken

Like the first morning

Blackbird has spoken’ like the first bird

Praise for the singing), Praise for the morning

Praise for them springing

Fresh from the word.

Sweet the rain’s new fall

Sonnet from heaven

Like the first dewfall

On the first grass.

Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden.

Sprung in completeness

Where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight,

Mine is the morning,

Born of the one light

Eden saw play.

Praise with elation,

Praise every morning,

God’s recreation

Of the new day.

The things in the garden are said to spring fresh from His word., even as the scripture tells, that the creation is “by his word:” “And God said…” (Genesis, 1:1-3 ; John 1:1-3). Praise is sung for the seeing, the morning, and the springing of the things in the garden. The rainfall is a poem falling from heaven, as a blessing or aspersion, like the first dew on the first grass. The music here follows the water down, descending the scale. Praise is then sung for the sweetness of the “wet garden,” sprung in completeness where His feet walked. The stunning sight is no doubt a garden at dawn, when the sky had cleared just after a shower, as when the sun shoots under a cloud, making the light golden. The walking of the messiah is the same as the springing of the things in the garden from his word. Her sunlight and her morning are born, she reflects, of the very same sunlight that Eden saw play. Finally, praise is in conclusion sung with elation for every morning, as God’s daily recreation of, she would say the first day, but they are each the new day.

Behind this song there may be something like the concrete experience of the theological teaching that the Lord is continually creating, or that the creation is ongoing. Otherwise, nothing would exist. Light today is the same as light on the first day, when God first said let there be light, and each day a recreation of the first day, so that the cycle of nature is a repetition of the beginning. It would follow too that evening would be a repetition of the end. Every evening, the Pythagoreans would submit the day’s actions to judgment, reviewing the whole day.

#1 Leonard Cohen

Suzanne

This is, in our opinion, the most perfect lyric poem ever written. Written by Leonard Cohen, whose very name means “priest,” it is also famously sung, with slight alterations, by Judy Collins, the lady of the blue eyes. One night in Chicago, a woman named Judy played guitar until her fingers bled, while her friend was breaking a heart, and had she not continued, I would not have been introduced to this song, nor would I have seen one of the most beautiful words that in my life I will ever see. On another occasion, in Stratford, Ontario, I saw Judy Collins herself sing the song, and I believe she saw the tears streaming down my face, there a few rows back on her right: gracias, Judith.

Suzanne takes you down to her place by (near) the river;

You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night forever (beside her);

And you know that she’s half crazy

And (but) that’s why you want to be there;

And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China;

And just when mean to tell her that you have no love to give her,

Then she gets you on her wave length, and (she) lets the river answer

That you’ve always been her lover;

And you want to travel with her,

And you want to travel blind;

And you know that you can trust her (she will trust you)

For she’s (you’ve) touched your (her) perfect body with her (your) mind.

And Jesus was a sailor

When he walked upon the water

And he spent a long time watching

From his lonely wooden tower;

And when knew for certain

Only drowning men could see him

He said, “All men shall be sailors then until the sea shall free them.”

But he himself was broken long before the sky would open

Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath Your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him

And you want to travel blind

And you think maybe you’ll trust him

For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand

And she leads you to the river

She is wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters

And the sun pours down like honey

On our lady of the harbor;

And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers.

There are heroes in the seaweed

There are children in the morning,

They are leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever

While Suzanne holds the mirror

And you want to travel with her

And you want to travel blind

And you know that you can trust her

For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.

To begin at the beginning, the song is written in the image of God that is Man, by which love between man and woman is patterned on the image of the relation between the soul and the divine. That all men shall be sailors is, as we recall from our beginning on the Jamaican seas, the truth about love and its agonies. “Until the sea shall free them” is the meaning of the suffering of love. That he himself was broken is the meaning of the incarnation. The divine name almost occurs when it is said “He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.” I am surprised that your is not capitalized, as though he hides in the case.

One of many of the extraordinary features of this song is it’s use of the repetition of the lines of the first, second and third set of lines. to demonstrate how the meaning of what is spoken resonates in the same chord of the higher thing spoken about. That is, for example, “Suzanne takes you down…” is like “And Jesus was a sailor,” “To her place by the river where you can hear the boats go by” is like “When he walked upon the water” and so on, even through the entire song, so that the harmonies in the poetic analogy resonate within the harmonies of the music, or the sameness of the notes in each set becomes the sameness of the two things, the image and the thing reflected.

Suzanne has a place by the river, and she takes him there, where he can hear the boats go by, and might spend the night forever. She feeds him tea and Chinese oranges, as they are visiting. She is known to him to be “half crazy,” as I imagine, a bit like the actress Amy Sedaris, and in a way that even enhances the feminine spiritual beauty of this rare creature. It is indeed why he wants to be there drinking tea and having oranges with her by the river. These lines are paired with “only drowning men could see him,” for she is the madness of his soul that would allow him to sail over the water, and indeed, to see the Christ. Then, just when he intended to tell her that he could not love her, he falls in love, as she gets him on her wavelength and lets the river answer that he has in fact always been her lover. True love touches on or is an activity of the life of the immortal or always existing soul that is what each of us most truly is, and so it is in this that we are most alive. These lines are paired with the submission of Jesus, and it may be that what is broken by his submission to the love- in adultery is his ethical self esteem, broken by love.

In this case, it is said that this love was adulterous, which may have been the reason that he intended to tell her that he had no love for her, which turn out not to be true. The background, then, may be an excruciating conflict between love and religious law, which is of course always in the end somehow right.

The first ambiguity between the two versions with which I am working is on the question of whether it is he who touches her perfect body with his mind, or she who touches his perfect body with her mind. The perfect body is, as it seems, both erotically beautiful, as the body of the beloved appears to the lover, and the perfect body that goes with the immortal soul, that is, the body in the resurrection. The theory behind the tune is that the perfect body or the particular immortal soul is what is touched in true love.

The agony of the conflict between law and love apparently causes the apotheosis of the central section. The experience of the lover with Suzanne leads him to reflect that Jesus was a sailor, going across the sea of Galilee, when he walked upon the water. This is the scene (Matthew 14:22-33; John 6:14-21; Mark 6:45-51) where he comes to the Apostles who are in the boat, walking on the water. He had stayed behind at Capernaum when the Apostles had departed for the other shore. Then he came to them, and called Peter to walk out onto the water to him. Peter goes a little way on the water, then begins to sink, leading Jesus to comment on our lack of faith. Faith allows one to walk above the turbulent waters of the soul, to which one is exposed in love. The travel in a boat is also a kind of floating on the water, and Jesus is said to have been a sailor when he did this.

He is said to have spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower until he saw, or knew for certain, the truth that only drowning men could see him. This leads him to say that all men shall then be sailors until the sea shall free them, even of the mortal body the attachment of our souls to the things of the world and of the body.

That only drowning men can see him is a truth, and the reason that belief or opinion is common, while this seeing is rare. Men must be on the point of death, or of the sacrifice of all their own private or mortal concerns, in order to be able or clear enough to see the Christ. Our suggestion is that the near drowning of the sailors in love is equivalent to the death that is not quite a literal death, but by the way of penance leads to rebirth. In the final third of the song, the scene shifts to the morning, as Suzanne takes him walking by the river. The beauty of the spectacle of this woman dressed in rags and feathers is overwhelming, as the early morning sun on her is thick like golden honey.

The most astonishing spectacle is yet to come. There are heroes in the seaweed and children in the morning. The children in the morning are leaning out for love as plants lean toward the sun. They can do no other, and will continue to do this always. The heroes in the seaweed are the contrasting lovers, most, who did not make it, but are trapped in the seaweed of the appetites and drowned. It is she who “holds the mirror,” she who shows him this, reflected. This is how the soul sees, when the sky is opened. She is the soul, or an embodiment of the archetype Jung calls “Anima.”

There is some difference between the three versions of the song regarding the sequence of the spiritual touch of the perfect body with the mind. In one version, first he has touched her body with his mind, then Jesus is followed blind because He has touched our perfect body with his mind, and then She has touched his perfect body with her mind. The perfect body is the particular immortal soul, as in what lasts of us into the Resurrection.

The lover, or hero is touched by her, then ascends in the apotheosis, to be touched by Him, Jesus or even he who raised Jesus when he was himself broken. He then returns to touch her perfect body, and the kiss of love of the hero awakens the princess to immortal life as well. The lover goes in an image of the path of the Christ, and the essence of the drama of love is shown in its being an image of the relation between God and man. The lyric is called perfect because it follows the drama in its three parts and gives the principle in its refrain. This reveals the perfection or the truest natural end of the soul in love, and though it rarely occurs, it is what the children in the souls, the children of the sun, all seek, toward which they will lean forever when they lean out in love for love.

[1]    Ibid., p. 606.

[2]    Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed,   .

[3]    Al Farabi. The Political Regime. In Medieval Political Philosophy, edited by Ralph Lerner and Mushin MahdiIthaca, NY,: Cornell University Press, 1963.

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