ROCK GOD

THE ROCK GOD VAULT

GOD KNOWS I DO

“I really do believe there’s a heaven somewhere. There’s a heaven somewhere”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its inductees for 2018. The new members include Bon Jovi, Dire Straits, the Moody Blues, the Cars and Nina Simone. Sister Rosetta Tharpe will be (posthumously) given the Early Influence award.

I did not get a vote.

Had, I would not have included Bon Jovi. I would likewise not have voted for the Cars and probably not Dire Straits. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, I absolutely would have inducted as a full member. I would also have added Yes, the Doobie Brothers Joy Division (plus, New Order), ELO, Jim Croce, Hall and Oates Dick Dale, Beck, Talking Heads, INXS, and probably PJ Harvey.

You likely know all of them except for Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Know her.

A supremely gifted guitarist who died before most Americans were yet born, she inspired churchgoers, backsliders, black, white, Elvis, Brits, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless others.

(Tharpe) attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment that was a precursor of rock and roll. She was the first great recording star of gospel music and among the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll audiences, later being referred to as “the original soul sister” and “the Godmother of rock and roll”. She influenced early rock-and-roll musicians, including Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. 

Tharpe was a pioneer in her guitar technique; she was among the first popular recording artists to use heavy distortion on her electric guitar, presaging the rise of electric blues. Her guitar playing technique had a profound influence on the development of British blues in the 1960s.

“There’s a heaven somewhere, up above my head. Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

We undervalue pioneers, still, excepting those few that become fabulously wealthy.

I wonder if this will cease? This is the age of the destruction of everything, with the world changing so fully, so fastly, that soon the past will be as unknowable as the future.

And there will become a permanent global wandering class.

Unable to thrive within existing cultural, political and economic structures, they take to their driverless cars, using social media to interact, their hands and talents to craft, bitcoin to buy and sell, algorithms to barter.

Let’s talk now about government.

This post is not political.

Government is a consuming beast, benevolent when required or whenever mutually beneficial, but always demanding, always growing, like a shark that must keep swimming, but always always always it is seeking to devour independence, suspicious of all and whatever that might challenge its supremacy.

America presents a complication.

If the Bible is the inspired word of God, the Constitution is the inspired word of freedom.

The structure of our government — and when combined with the sanctioned bill of rights — places hard, repeated limits on the unquenchable fire of government rapaciousness.

They found a workaround.

Importing people and marginalizing others, creating a dependent class, ensures at least a high floor to government power. The dependent simply aren’t going to challenge the government’s efforts to grow and take.

They found another workaround.

Government becomes intertwined with the culture, such that no day, no moment can pass without our eyes and ears, at minimum, repeatedly and aggressively assaulted (or informed) of the government’s actions, demands and desires, and…by working very closely with those who control the culture’s entertainment, government can also sanction thought, behavior, norms while marginalizing and disempowering those who — witch-like — operate beyond its scope. This presently includes some evangelical Christians, the last remaining hippies, and a few others. 

Should such groups ever in any way threaten the  government’s glorification, the government simply goes after those groups, stripping them of freedoms, and forcing them to take on government in its realm — almost always a losing proposition for the non-government side.

But we do have examples of those very few who fight in this arena — and win.

They do so almost always through the force of their talent, so great is it that it can’t be hidden away nor destroyed nor mocked nor denied, and so great is its power that it changes people, changes their hearts, minds, and alters reality, like sound ripples which loosen the rungs, maybe even destroy a column, possibly even damaging the foundation of all existing structures.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was one such talent.

Yes, she rendered unto Caesar, as is still required, but her playing of the electric guitar revealed to us all of a new way, a better way, of a kingdom beyond.

“Up above my head, I hear music in the air.”


Another pioneering entertainer, Miss Roise Mae Moore, who recorded in the 1920s.

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B SIDE

THE ROCK GOD VAULT

BABY YOU’RE A RICH MAN

The rich young man informed Jesus that he faithfully obeyed each of the commandments. The rich young man was certain Jesus would smile, nod, bless him, then send him on.

Jesus did not.

Instead, Jesus told the man to sell his possessions, give all his wealth to the poor.

We are led to believe the man did not.

We spend too much time admiring the rich, discussing the rich, attempting to copy the rich, I think, rather than seeking to understand the poor, and poverty, and living without.

Chamath Palihapitiya is a very rich man.

Facebook money.

Mr. Palihapitiya, who also owns the Golden State Warriors and interests in various tech companies, is, I doubt you are surprised to learn, quick to tell others what they are doing wrong.

Recently, however, he told us what he did wrong: help build Facebook.

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. And it’s not an American problem. This is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion.”

Do not expect Mr. Palihapitiya to give any of his Facebook money back.

Do not expect him to live like the poor, nor the middle, nor even the well-to-do professional class. He belongs to that tiny thriving cabal of aggressively globalist, virulently tech-centric, fabulously wealthy men and women who have prospered these past 30 years, even as millions of Others lose their work, their livelihood, witness the destruction of their community.

One of the apex beneficiaries of a political + financial + educational + economic structure which we can only question now because of the very clear and present backlash to it. It’s sort of like how those winning the culture wars never say culture wars, just culture. Only the losers say culture war. For the winners, it’s the culture.

For the economic winners, globalization is The Economy.

Until it’s not, of course.

To deride the men and women who find hope in electing men and women who just might represent their needs, their wants, their communities, at long last, is to deny the very real suffering your preferred economic system has created for millions.

Don’t do that.

Maybe the poor will always be with us, but the poor have a vote, and they also deserve a listen.

Tupac wondered if there is a ghetto in heaven.

“I’d rather be dead than a po’ nigga
Let the Lord judge the criminals
If I die, I wonder if Heaven got a ghetto”

I suspect not.

I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto is a lyrical call to worship and a brutal call to arms. A five-minute homily that drops more wisdom, more real, than a college student might learn in a year — or a journalist in a lifetime.

Sadly, the music is wretched. Strip away the words and I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto is almost painful to listen to, a throwaway 1990s drum kit vomit of a song, saccharine R&B blended with “urban adult contemporary” preening.

I think our current economic and cultural and political structures, particularly those being built up, less so those crumbling, those fading into the past, and the ones being set fire to, are like this Tupac song. There is brilliance inside, and goodness, and truth, and a reaching out, and a looking toward, but there’s also so much crap and hate and anger and violence overlaid, and we need to come to terms with this, if we are to right it.

Maybe, and I can’t promise this will be validated, but maybe if we listen to all those who the current cultural winners are brandishing as angry or racist or on the wrong side of history, maybe we can make the system they so admire actually work for all.

And without anybody having to give up everything they got.

“Now the tables have turned around
You didn’t listen, until the niggas burned it down
And now Bush can’t stop the hit
I predicted the shit, in 2Pacalypse
And for once I was down with niggas, felt good
In the hood bein’ around the niggas, yeah
And for the first time everybody let go
And the streets was death row
I wonder if Heaven got a ghetto”

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