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The thing about God is, and I’m aware most of you don’t believe, but if you do believe you accept that God is everywhere, which means you can always find God, reach out to God, hear God.

Dance to God.

REM was mucking about in the studio, working on 7 Chinese Brothers, that rare REM tune built atop a strong beat as much as the jingle jangle of Peter Buck’s clever guitar work, when Michael Stipe discovered the omnipresence of God in our lives. In his case, right there in the liner notes of a most endearing local gospel album.

“Let your light so shine could not be more aptly applied.”


REM’s earlier, funner stuff was so great.

But I have to wonder why there are now almost no bands exploring and celebrating — and rocking to — the greatness and godliness and joyfulness and community of the American south. That died when REM became serious and political, moved north and west. Our loss.

Luckily, resurrection is possible.


“Woah, we’re half way there. Woah, livin’ on a prayer. Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear. Woah, livin’ on a prayer.”

No. Forget it. I can’t listen to this.


Ah, to be young and insufferable. To dance the dance of depression and misery, to be misunderstood, marginalized, morose and maudlin. To be so very alone and so very precious.

Few capitalized on this magic bag of sicks more than the insufferably named The Smiths. Brooding and gay and pained, delicious. But their greatest trick of all was that they were actually talented, the mask of loathing may have attracted attention from media and the like-frail, but Johnny Marr’s ear-worm melodies and Morrissey’s squawking little bird voice meshed perfectly. Their songs resonate even as the pose infuriates.

“To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.”

Yes, yes, you’re human and you need to be loved.

But dammit, it’s good.

“I thought oh God, my chance has come at last.”

I may not know how Joan of Arc felt, but I confess there are times I hear The Smiths and I start to tap my feet, hum along, but then want to hit somebody, or maybe cry, or all of these. That’s a rare treat, and the band should be praised for it. Though let’s hope we’ve now evolved beyond that uniquely 20th century pop culture declaration where suicide is art and frail is to be fawned over.


Tupac Shakur was not angry, but the angered truth. He spun together street, pain, his blackness, his dreams, the hate and rage and violence about him, hate and rage and violence which molded him, jacked that into well-crafted musical hooks, contemporary values, a gangsta pose, and a cry for salvation.

Gone too soon, but his music — folk art for the ears and mind — continues to inspire, inform, illuminate.

The world needs blessing. So, too, those no longer with us.

“God bless the dead

God bless the dead

God bless the dead

God bless the dead”


“The rhythm has my soul.”

But what has your soul?

Screens everywhere, data pervasive, alerts never stopping, notifications never ceasing, no moment of darkness, no moment of silence, contemplation under threat, acceptance not tolerated, log in, choose a side, don’t quit, no escape, speak, touch, write, flash and do not feel, but your spirit demands release, the soul will out and there, at last, you give yourself to the vibrations of the universe, vibrations flowing below you, above you, inside you, always.

Peter Gabriel gave his soul to The Rhythm of the Heat, a primal, powerful anthem of the inner self, unleashed. It continues to reverberate.

“Drawn into the circle that dances round the fire. We spit into out hands and breathe across the palms, raising them up high, held open to the sun. Self-conscious, uncertain, I’m showered with the dust, the spirit enters into me and I submit to trust.”

What can you not turn off?

Turn that off.


The people cried out for their god!

Rap God! Rap God!

But the Rap God was old, past his time, no longer able to fulfill his duties.

Rap God! Rap God!

The rap god had an idea.

Pretend to pretend he was no god, not now, not ever, but like them, only more.

“I walk on water but I ain’t no Jesus. I walk on water but only when it freezes.”

The newest Eminem song, Walk on Water, is dull and tired. Worse, every moment where it sounds as if Eminem might make the song listenable, might make the long wait worthwhile, Beyonce, a fellow faux royal, brings it all crashing down again, morose masquerading as meaningful, song production piled atop puerile preening. She’s even worse, and he’s awful.

Eminem once proclaimed himself Rap God. This was not a pose, but an obligation. Too many want not the art but the excess, not the lasting but an overwhelming now, false attacks on false gods to sustain the illusion. Those placed upon a lofty perch are often happy to oblige, for as long as they can.

“Cause I’m just a man but as long as I got a mic, I’m godlike.”



It’s true. There’s something so joyful, indulgent, and deeply personal when you like a thing you know you have no business liking.

“You’re growing up so fast and mama’s worrying that you won’t last. To say let’s play, Sister Christian. There’s so much in life. Don’t you give it up before your time is due.”

Sister Christian is the tale of a high school girl on the cusp of graduation, adulthood, womanhood, ready to fly, leave home, and maybe never again be so happy. She’s bored and she’s ready. Night Ranger captured the glorious-fleeting moment of the last days of childhood, a moment we never forget because our now self knows how little it mattered even as our then self was certain it meant everything, and both are true, which makes it worthy of top space in our soul for as long as we can hold it there.

Also, that hair! Grown men with hair made up like that, long and curled and sprayed and kept, tactile playthings for the mind of someone bursting with hormones. Glorious.


“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he permitted Him.”

Do you ever think about what all those very first followers of Jesus did the remainder of the day?

How were they moved?

Did they rush home and tell of what they saw, teach what they heard?

Were they emboldened to demand change, fight for change that very moment?


Did they speak, draw, write poetry, make music, burn down a rich man’s home, threaten a local leader, kill a representative of the government?

“Let’s turn the page. Shaman burn the sage. Clear the way for the prophets of rage.”

Prophets of Rage includes members of Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, and Rage Against the Machine.

The whole is sadly less than the sum of its parts.

But the members still possess that driving beat, even as the fire has died down with time. Prophets is lacking only in the purity of their anger, betrayed by their involvement in the politics of now rather than the truth and justices of the forever. Sound and fury adrift.

But the rage is no doubt real, as is the hope, the searching, and many come out to listen. That matters. Tear down and deconstruct until what comes next is revealed.


As godly powers spread, God becomes more necessary. The spirit will out, the cruft and countless allure of everything available to the flesh, and in today’s world there is so much available, will never complete you.

Velvet Underground explored drug abuse, sadomasochism, hate, noise, the abrasions of the world. They were one of the best rock bands of the 1960s, easy, and their music and fierce exploration of pop form resonated for decades after their demise, probably even still. But for all their cacophonous wandering, all their rage, all their art, musicianship, indulgence, desire, they remained temporal, rarely fulfilled, unfinished.

In their self-titled album, Velvet Underground came as close as they ever would to shutting off the noise of the world and the noise of their own making. Lou Reed lowered his voice, Doug Yule quieted his guitar, and the band calmed their many creative impulses and prayed.

“Jesus, help me find my proper place. Help me in my weakness, cause I’m falling out of grace. Jesus. Jesus.”


It’s fun, isn’t it, to imagine you’re the baddest man on the planet, the greatest talent in the world, the slyest, the cleverest, the most wanted to be.

The stuff of legend, at least, certainly more than mere mortal.

If you are bold enough or foolish enough or possessed enough to express such longings publicly then do be prepared to be mocked. Or else, to constantly deliver. Kanye West does oblige.












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