Thursday, December 3, 2015

Friendly Musings about Some of the Best Songs

Or (in the tradition of those long-winded controversial "Or" titles of the 1600's)
it's time to take a brief break from dealing with so many world tragedies including the tragic terror in San Bernadino/Redlands. And at the end of this list, will be a reflection concerning the early Quaker rejection of music and the arts versus modern Quakers' love of music.

What is the difference between spiritual songs versus ones that harm and destroy? Songs that are sung by empty rote versus songs that fill us with Light? How do we tell the difference?

Musings of the Last 60 years--
(in no certain order)

1. Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
The first time I heard this powerful reflection, I was driving through the night in a white wonder of a snowstorm down Van Dorn Avenue in Lincoln, Nebraska. Huge flakes of snow were hitting the wind shield, and S&G were talking to the darkness…

2. Stairway to Heaven by Lead Zeppelin
Am not much of a heavy metal fan, but this very unusual rock song is unique and amazing. Also, there have been various commentaries written about the lyrics, some saying it is an anti-spiritual song, others disagreeing. What do you think?

3. For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield
This is one of those seminal creative songs that come once or twice in a generation. Its haunting lyrics somehow define the protest movement. In the fall of 1966, we used to go down to Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. As college students, we didn’t have money for concerts, but we hung out at coffee shops and philosophized talked, of opposition to the Vietnam War, and of our favorite music groups. The song appeared shortly after the Sunset Curfew Riot, which we somehow missed. Maybe we no longer went there because of the new 10 PM curfew.

4. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult
Actually when I analyzed the lyrics, this appeared to be a pro-suicide lament rather than an anti-death song of protest. But ever since it appeared in the famous science fiction miniseries classic, The Stand by Stephen King, its poetic, allusionary lyrics have been unforgettable.

5. Yesterday (McCartney) by the Beatles
Probably the best melancholy love ballad of the 60’s. Released in September of 1965

6. Mr. Tambourine Man (Dylan) by The Byrds
First heard this great rock song when walking into the college cafĂ© at the University of Nebraska in the June of 1965. A longhaired graduate student told me that it wasn’t the Byrds’ song but had been written by a young man named Bob Dylan. Thus began a long following of the bard of rock. There are questions of the lyrics being praise of a drug dealer who alerts his customers by playing his tambourine but Dylan has always denied that it is a drug song.

7. Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)
One of the very best poetic laments against war ever written.

8. Monday Morning Church (Brent Baxter and Erin Enderlin) by Alan Jackson
Deeply sorrowful dirge with an incredible chorused metaphor. Sung by one of my favorite country ballad singers.

9. What If I Stumble by DCTalk
Very spiritual song of conscience and care; spiritual without being formally religious

10. Desperado by the EaglesAnother example of lucid ballad poetry set to music; in this case the brief story of a Wild West gunman who is being counseled by the singer through playing card imagery that love is the best choice, not killing and money.

11. The Gates of Eden by Bob Dylan
60’s folk song filled with surrealistic images and metaphors of protest.

12. Woodstock (Join Mitchell) by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
Paean to the most famous rock concert of all time.

13. I Am a Rock by Simon and Garfunkel
Another poetic inner reflection from the harmonic duo.

14. Gods of Men by Randy Stonehill
Spiritual satire against the finite idols that too many humans ‘worship.’

15. The Universal Soldier (Buffy St. Marie) by Donovan
An anti-war song that covers human history. While not excusing militarist leaders, the lyrics instead focuses on how each of us as individual humans are responsible for war.

16. 8 Miles High by The Byrds
The instrumentation in this rocker is amazing.

17. Chimes of Freedom (Dylan) by The Byrds
Another Dylan song which done by the Byrds comes out harmonious. It’s a lyric praising human rights, justice, but the tragedy of how often goodness and the truth lose out to intolerance and persecution.

18. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands/ Stuck in Mobile by Dylan
Used to listen to this ballad (enjoying the power of Dylan’s words, and trying to figure out its hidden meanings) every night in the fall of 1966.

19. Birthday of My Thoughts by Seals and Croft

20. See My Life by Seals and Croft
Philosophical, reflective early song from these two Bahai's

21. All I Really Want to Do (Dylan) by Cher
Unusual serious love song with an almost Ogden-Nash strikingly strange rhymes.

22. Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire
Most famous protest song

23. You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma by David Frizzell & Shelly West and Blake Shelton & Miranda Lambert
What does this romantic song of longing love say to the tragedy of Blake and Miranda's recent divorce?

24. Somebody Must Be Praying for Me (Frank Vinci, Bob Mould, Kris Bergsnes) by Tim McGraw
A very meaningful spiritual song of how sometimes problems and loss of dreams open up other possibilities including love.

25. Cats in the Cradle by Sandy Gaston and Harry Chapin
Poem and song filled with allusions and metaphoric images which warns the severe and tragic consequences of a father who is too busy succeeding in his career for his family

26. Daniel by Elton John
Another relationship song of emotional dept

27. Revolution by The Beatles
Anti-revolution song against the extremists who do wrong to bring about their version of utopia.

28. Old Man's Rubble (Brown Bannister) by Amy Grant
Probably the best ever song of the danger of living contrary to what one sincerely believes.

29. The One by Elton John

30. Celebrate this Heartbeat by Randy Stonehill

31. Positively Fourth Street/Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan
Negative song against a former love that somehow comes out positive.

Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan
First long play rock song that won air time and became famous.

32. Sunshine of Your Love by Cream

33. Let's Try and Get Together by The YoungBloods

34. Hey Jude (McCartney) by The Beatles

35. Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves by Cher
Yes, this has a bit of pop, but the variation in the instrumentation and voice has stayed with me for years. A really powerful rock song.

36. Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf
Not good lyrics but the song has such instrumental power and drive

37. Me and Bobby McGee (Fred Foster and Kris Kristofferson) by Kris Kristofferson

38. You're So Vain by Carly Simon
Very negative song about an egotistical sexist guy, but the lyrics and Simon's voice turn the dirt into gold!)

39. Nights in White Satin by The Moody Blues

40. For Annie by Petra
Cry for those who give up and commit suicide. And what we can do.

41. Kicks (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil) by Paul Revere and the Raiders

42. Why Don't You Look Into Jesus by Larry Norman
Jesus movement rocker

43. Without Love You Are Nothing by Larry Norman

44. I Wish We'd All Been Ready by Larry Norman

45. Everything I Own by Bread

46. In Da Gadda Da Vidda (Ingle) by Iron Butterfly
First heard this classic even before it was recorded. Listened to it one day in Panhandle Park in San Francisco, after I had hitched up there to live in Haight Asbury, January 1967.

47. In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans
Really haunting science-fiction/ apocalyptic song with unusual scoring. Very unusual. Can’t think of any other s-f rock song except for Rocket Man by Elton John.

48. You're in My Heart and my Soul by Rod Stewart

49. For Your Love (Graham Gouldman) by The Yardbirds

50. Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones
So many of the Rolling Stones songs represent the immoral and the self-centered, but this ballad doesn't and is a wonder.

51. Wipeout (Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller, and Ron Wilson) by the Astronauts

52. Proud Mary by Creedance Clearwater Revival

53. Rocket Man (Bernie Taupin) by Elton John
Inspired by a short story in The Illustrated Man novel by Ray Bradbury.

54. I Hold On (Dierks Bently and Brett James) by Dierks Bentley

55.Telluride (Bret James) by Tim McGraw

56. Riser (Dierks Bentley, Travis Meadows and Steve Moakler) by Dierks Bentley

57 Cry Out to Jesus by Third Day

58. Live Like You Were Dying (Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman) by Tim McGraw

57. Picture by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow
One of the best duets in rock/country history. Really emphasizes true love, despite breakup and sleeping with others. The latter and drug/alcohol abuse in the lyrics are troubling. Strongly demonstrates the contrast between how many men perceive themselves differently from women.

58. The Cowboy in Me (Jeffrey Steele, Al Anderson and Craig Wiseman) By Tim McGraw

59. 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago
Big band sound (not usually my cup of java) but the instrumentation in this melodious crooner has stayed in my mind for 45 years, while other songs (ones which I originally liked much better) have faded away, some leaving only the name of the title!

60. The Star Spangled Banner, American Anthem by Jimi Hendrix
Need I say more?! Tragic how drugs ended this great guitarist’s life all too young, only 27.

61. I Don’t Dance by Lee Bryce
New romantic married love ballad

62. I Pledge My Head to Heaven by Keith Green

62. (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart) by The Monkees
Too bad the Monkees’ best songs weren’t written by them. Similar to the country star, Tim McGraw, they popularized great lyrics of others giving them an English rocker sound. According to Wikipedia, “at their peak in 1967 the band outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined”!

63. I’m a Believer (Neil Diamond) by The Monkees

64. Bus Stop (Hyme and Graham Gouldman) by The Hollies

65. Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones (I, of course, don't agree with the lyrics, but I think it is their best rocker.)

66. Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran)

67. Building Block by Noel Paul Stookey

68. Somebody to Love (Darby Slick) by Jefferson Airplane

69. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane

70. Help Me, Rhonda by The Beach Boys (One of my very favorites though I know it is not a great song; but it brings back a flood of 60's feelings:-)

71. Horse with No Name by America

72. Galveston (Jimmy Webb) by Glen Campbell

73. Jesus Commands Us to Go by Keith Green

74. American Pie by Don McLean

75. Album Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Probably best and most creative concept album. Though not songs to sing a long to.

76. Drinking Class (Josh Kear, Dvid Fraiser, Ed Hill) by Lee Bryce
The sort of a song that has great music and a fine vocal, but destructive lyrics. Why do so many country songs emphasize and fixate on getting drunk? Tragic in real life, sometimes in song. When I listen to the song, tapping my way, on long drives, I change the word to the "thinking class":-)

77. Soldier Boy by the Shirelles (I know this is bubble gum, but hey, I like the song and the memories; at least I didn't add "Johnny Angel" by Shelly Fabares; I liked that, too, but now it seems childish as I listen to the song in my head; the lyrics seem silly and stupid. I haven't heard the song in at least 20 or 30 years! Amazing how the mind sometimes calls up these old files just like hypertext on the Web.)

78. Brightest and Best by John Fischer

79. Cherish by The Association

80. Summer in the City by The Lovin’ Spoonful


Since I am a poet/wannbe-songwriter, artist, and lover of music, (of all kinds except rap and opera)--

First, a few comments about Friends and their rejection of music in the 1600’s:
To those early Quakers who rejected music and the other arts, a modern liberal Friend, Jon Watts, explains why they were in error. Watts is an accomplished musician and Quaker movement advocate.

Early Friend Solomon Eccles:
From A Musick Lector
"a QUAKER (so called) being formerly of that Art, doth give his Judgment and Sentence against it; but yet approves of the Musick that pleaseth God."
Written by SOLOMON ECCLES, 1667

"So I see, that Musick pleases well that which is for destruction, and grieves that which God doth highly esteem and honour; Isa. 42.21.

Modern Friend Jon Watts:
“Solomon Eccles rejected his upper-class, baroque music profession, and took all of his instruments and manuscripts and burned them in a public demonstration of leveling. The early Friends were rejecting the social class system, which they deemed unjust and ungodly. How could I possibly hear about that and not write a song about it?"

Early Friends threw out anything that was formulaic. The idea was experiential—to have your own experience of the Spirit, to have the Living Spirit speak through you. If you’re going to be baptized, let the Spirit baptize you. If you’re going to take communion, take it because the Spirit is leading you to, not because it’s just a thing you do every Sunday.

If you’re going to sing, don’t let someone else write it for you. Sing it! So Quakers were the first jazz musicians, always improvising. The Spirit was their muse.

So when I’m playing a song I try to listen to the Spirit the same way one does in a meeting for worship when preparing to give vocal ministry. I wait until I’m quaking to write a song down. I wait until a song is streaming out of me, until it’s not me anymore. It’s as if I’m watching the song get written.”

Jon Watts, Quaker Musician, songwriter, and movement leader
from an interview in the Friends Journal, May, 2013

More quotes from A Musick Lector by Solomon Eccles:

"To obey the Lord, is better than to give all my goods to the poor, and my body to be burned; yet to let thee know the Truth of this thing; when I came to be convinced of this everlasting truth, I saw my Calling would not stand before it; I went, but not in the Counsel of the Lord, and sold most of my instruments;

"howbeit that would not cover me, for the Lord met with me; and as I was learning to sew, for I had formerly some insight of a Tailors Trade, but I was too high to bow to it, till the Truth came, and that is of power to make the strong man bow, and I sitting alone, with my mind turned in, the Voice of the Lord said, Go thy way, and buy those Instruments again thou lately soldest, and carry them and the rest thou hast in thy house to Tower Hill, and burn them there, as a Testimony against that Calling."

"So I obeyed the Lord, and bought them again, and carried them, and all I had in my house, to Tower Hill, and burnt them there, according to the uprightness of my heart before the Lord; which Books and Instruments did amount to more than four and twenty pound; and I had great peace. Glory be to God for ever. Amen."

"That Heaven will be shaken, and thy Song will be turned into howling; for such Musick and Singing was never set up of God, but of men; and it takes with that part in man that serves not God aright, but is for wrath and judgement, Heb. 12.26. 1 Cor. 2.24."

"But what effects hath Musick brought forth, that men so highly esteem it? What fruit did Nebuchadnezzars Musick bring forth in his day, was it not to murder? But the three servants of the Lord would not bow to his Image at the sound of his Pipes and his Fiddles, though others did.

"And how did Musick and Dancing take the heart of the foolish King Herod, by means whereof he committed murder, and caused John Baptists's Head to be cut off, who was a blessed man, approved of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and was greater than the prophets; and because he reproved him for having his Brothers Wife, rankor lay in the heart of the Damsels Mother, and when the Fidlers did strike up, and the Wench began to dance, his affectionate love began to be enflamed to the Girle, that he killed the Lords servant in coole blood. O ye Fidlers and Dancing- Masters, let this President break you off from your filthy practice;"

"Why do you dance without the Ark? Where is your Ark? What President have you in Scripture for your Danceing? You set up the Devils Kingdom by your proud Calling: You set their Bodies in postures to enflame and take with the lustful Nature in men, and with proud Apparrel, and Spots on their Faces. Woe to the Crown of Pride."

"What account will ye give to the Lord, ye Dancing- masters, from whence came ye, where is your Ark? David danced before the Ark. O repent ye shamless men, will you not blush at your doings? If my Calling was unlawful, much more is yours; O do not provoke the Lord any more; haste, haste, and leave off your practice before it leave you, for what thank will it be to you then, when you shall break off sinning because you can sin no more?"
Quaker Heritage Press

BUT, why may not good music be creatively planned?

Why must songs always be only, allegedly, direct from the Divine?

This negation of the arts, especially music shows how lopsided the early Friends were when trying to get rid of hypocrisy, formalism without reality, and destructive influences.

Did those early spiritual revolutionaries also get rid of medicine, science, technology, etc.?

No, on the contrary, Quakers excelled in the sciences and in business, neither any more holy or spiritual than music or any other art. In fact, business probably is far more an occasion to err, even to destroy than music ever has been.

Do you have a suggestion of a song to add to Greatest Hits?

Quake to rock;-).

In Light,

Daniel Wilcox

No comments: