Aldi this morning I saw the words “Christ is Coming” and underneath it Cristo viene”, on the back window of a local cab. I’m seeing lots of mentions of Christ these days, particularly on “alternative” and “fringe” websites which are so fringe that millions of people read them every day. When 4chan memes hit X/Twitter you know we’ve achieved some kind of singularly. Anyway, I remembered an article I had written about years ago talking about gospel music and such things, so I thought I’d post it today..I’ve edited it slightly but not much. I seem to be praising Bill Clinton, but things have changed since then a little. I am loathe to offer an opinion on religion either way, so this article is more of a reflection of a time and place years ago.
SOMETHING IS WRONG
“I remember the day when the Lord saved me!” “If you love Jesus give Him a big hand clap of praise tonight!” “If you have to go around with a long face all the time, you don’t have religion, you’ve got indigestion!”
“It’s alright to get happy on a McGruder video!” “I’m about to have one of them shoutin’ spells!”
When was the last time you heard anyone say things like that on a live recording? Unless you are a dedicated southern gospel follower, the chances of you hearing that sort of thing are quite remote. When have you heard someone speaking tongues?
In January my girlfriend and I took a Norwegian business colleague of hers to a well-known RSL club in Sydney for a taste of the local color. This lady had only a few days in Australia and as it was her last night in town what better way to spend it, than in the company of Ian ‘Turps’ Turpie, and a few disinterested, beer sodden revelers. We hadn’t really gone out looking for ‘Turps’, but, lets just say we were on the turps and all of a sudden we found ourselves staring into the face of what appeared to be Ian, three quarters of the way through a set of songs that had been written and/or performed by dead people
The Turps didn’t look too alive at that stage and the band definitely had one, if not both feet in the grave. What the hell we said, it ain’t often you get to see a legend in concert, so we stuck around.
The Late Great Turps in action
Let me say that Turps plays a pretty damn fine version of ‘Misty’, on the guitar and that, for me was the highlight of his whole career so far, and I’ve been following him for a long time. There was no “Give the Lord a handclap of praise if you love Him!” so I couldn’t say it turned me on too much. Helle, from Norway loved it though, although I think the splendid vision of two Turps crazed women punters on the dance floor doing all the actions to “Blame It On The Boogie”, had a lot to do with it. The act finished up with a medley of fruit. Actually it was a medley of Shit Berry songs, but I wished it had been fruit. The key words here, I think, are had, and been. I wished I had been somewhere else. Heck, the drummer was excellent, and there was plenty of room at the bar, so give the Lord a handclap of praise for that.
Helle left for New Zealand the next day which happened to be Australia Day, thereby denying herself the pleasure of still more Oz culture and eccentricity.
It’s always a fun day and it led my thoughts back to last year. I was living in Nashville at the time and I watched President Clinton deliver the Annual State of the Union address the American people. I had been impressed enough to email some selected Australian media sites with my take on the whole Australia Day deal, comparing Bill’s enthusiasm for the future to our present regimes lacklustre dreariness. I got an instant response from 3AW in Melbourne, who wanted me to participate in a talkback segment for their drive time program.
To cut a long story short, I was the most hated man in Australia for about five minutes, and listening to the callers comments, anyone would think I had burned my grandmother and sold her into slavery for the price of a box trifecta on the third at Moonee Valley. It was a unique experience to say the least.
My favorite was the guy who rang to say, “I live in Doncaster and I’ve got three kids and I’m really happy!” Fair enough buddy.
At any rate I don’t really think it matters where you are, as long as you are happy. Ain’t it so?
The McGruders. I’ve met these people.
Which brings me to the starting point of this article, which I was going to call, “Great Moment In Gospel Music”. The thing about it is, they are all great moments and that’s what makes gospel music so compelling. It’s a pity that we don’t have any true gospel music stations in Australia. Oh sure, you’ve got your contemporary Christian stations here and there, but nothing to really ‘git down to’, if you read me. I’m talking about black and white gospel here, and I long for the day when, in an interactive universe, a magazine like this will be available on the internet and have a button for you to press and you’ll instantly be listening to “Lord Please Make Me Whole” by the Angelic Voices of Faith, or “I’m Going Home With Jesus”, by the McGruders. That day is almost here.
Maybe we all need gospel music in our lives, just to have something to believe in, even if it is that the song that you wrote will be included on the next volume of Princess Diana’s greatest hits and sell 20 million copies. (and you’ll actually get to collect the royalties).
There are many that will say that religion is bad and gospel music is crap, and who can blame them? When I say gospel music, what I really mean is positive, uplifting music that doesn’t seek to destroy the spirit and cloud the mind. Music is food for the soul, and you are what you eat brothers and sisters.
This month I got my copy of the Singing News Trade Review, which is an industry publication pertaining to southern gospel music. In it was a listing of the most popular songs of 1997. I was most pleased to note that the number one song of last year was, “We Want America Back” by the Steeles. It’s a compelling little ditty, penned in anger and frustration.
Like all great songs it has a monologue, and although it is quite long winded I feel compelled to share it with you. It goes something like this …..
“I love America, but I do not love what she has become. Scripture says, Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and America has forgotten the godly foundation upon which she was built. SOMETHING IS WRONG. Our children are asked to attend public schools that in many cases resemble war zones, without even the basic right of any soldier. The right to pray to the God of heaven. Many times the wild eyed, drug addicted, gun carrying teenager is allowed to stay in school, while our Supreme court decided to expel God from the classroom over 30 years ago. SOMETHING IS WRONG. Television daily bombards the senses of our nation with the idea that wrong is right, that the abnormal is normal, that the abhorrent is acceptable, and that what God calls an abomination is nothing more than an alternate lifestyle. And it’s had an effect.
Thirty years ago the number one program in America was the Andy Griffith Show, look what we have today. SOMETHING IS WRONG. When our government can pass out contraceptives to children in school without parental consent, and yet the Gideons can no longer pass out the Bible on campus. SOMETHING IS WRONG. When our leaders can say to your children and mine that premarital sex is all right as long as it’s ‘safe’. Yes, SOMETHING IS WRONG, and I for one am ready for a change. I will say to my government, I’m not raising dogs in my house, I’m raising children, created in the image and likeness of almighty God, and I’m going to teach them the Bible. If the Bible says it’s right it’s right.
And if the Bible says it’s wrong, it’s wrong. The only hope that America has, is that godly men and women of character will stand together as one mighty army and declare to the immoral, the impure, the obscene and the foul. Your days of unlimited access to the minds of America are over. The army of God that has been silent too long is taking America back. We want America back! ”
Something tells me it’s almost too late. Believe me it is a great song though, and it’s all in the delivery.
One day you’ll get an instant replay of that monologue at the touch of a button on your computer screen as you read this, (this was written before youtube existed) but until then you’ll just have to imagine how good it is. If you’d really like to hear it, look it up. (I’ve posted it here recently.) Words fail me in describing just how good I think this song is, so I’ll leave that task to another man of monologues, southern gospel style.
In the words of Randy Perry, lead singer and MC of God’s Little People, the singing dwarves, the shortest gospel group in the world, the Singing Perrys,
“This song sums just exactly how I feel, up!”
The Late Priscilla McGruder singing/speaking in tongues. All things considered she should literally be in heaven today. …….the guy at the 5 minute mark. Nothing is moving him.