Call and Response: Religious Songs

As we come to the high frenzy of this holiday season, I’d like to turn to one of my favorite exchanges from the past year, when my brother and I stopped being silly and got a little serious about, you know, religion and stuff. It seems that this is the season for that sort of thing, right? So, this is a re-post, but updated and just right for the longer nights and the colder days.

In last year’s honest, and soul-baring post, my brother daringly ventured into one of the two subjects verboten at dinner tables and water-coolers throughout the country—religion (we crossed the politics line a few times in the past few months, so why not get this one over with?). I responded with an ambling, sometimes senseless, and mostly unclear comment.

My brother’s moment of clarity and its relation to music, however, deserves more thought. It deserves more time. It deserves a weighted and patient consideration. Yet, I fear, I may not be the right person to do this. As I said in response to my brother, music is the one thing that has made me feel a sense of something greater (unlike writing, music can be powerfully communal). Despite these feelings, I remain skeptical and unsure whether feeling something beyond yourself has anything to do with the divine.

“Down to the River to Pray”, Alison Krause

This beautiful song has been in my head off and on since I first heard it on the soundtrack to O, Brother Where art Thou. The fact that the “Sirens” sing this song in the movie points to an uncomfortable connection between Homer’s seductive and dangerous creatures and religious music…

Continue reading

Advertisements

Hail to the Champions!

On the evening of October 30, 2013, the elderj and I were able to see our beloved Red Sox win their 3rd World Series championship in 9 years. My daughter and I left the frigid north to visit him and his family down in their adopted southern state. It was the first time in recent history that I was away from New England while the Sox were playing in the fall classic, but it was a nice treat to be able to watch the games with my older brother. We hadn’t watched a playoff game together in 8 years, and we’d never seen a World Series game together. Our kiddos were all asleep as we sat glued to the television during game 6 in Boston, and when Boston badass closer Koji Uehara struck out St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter, we rejoiced, watched a little bit of post-game celebration coverage, then said goodnight to the TV to head off to dream about yet ANOTHER Red Sox World Series championship.stay strong

What a crazy several years it’s been for the Sox and their fans! After an 86-year drought, the team won championships on the road in 2004 and 2007, then finally clinched it at home this year for the first time since 1918. What a way to pay tribute to Boston, the greatest city on earth, after a hellish year. Boston and its baseball team belongs to the entire region of New England, and throughout the country, fans basked in the glory of baseball dominance. The 2013 Sox had the odds stacked against them and came through to deliver a well-deserved championship to its club and all of its fans!

As my little one and I flew back from the south back to the north, I started thinking about how I could pay tribute to the 2013 team on my brothers’ blog. I thought about which songs I could discuss, and composed a brief draft of this entry in my head while attempting to keep my squirmy toddler in our seat. There are some obvious songs that come to mind when thinking of the Red Sox–“Sweet Caroline” (Neil Diamond), “Dirty Water” (Standells), and “Shipping up to Boston” and “Tessie” by the Dropkick Murphys. Those are the obvious ones and the ones I WON’T mention further in this entry. I’ll dig a little bit deeper and choose some other ones…here we go!!!!

“Baby, I grew you a Beard.” –Neil Halstead (I couldn’t find a video of him actually singing it–this is a cover)

Anyone who watched even one Sox game this year would be able to tell you about the scruffy beards each player sported. Some of the most obnoxious beards belonged to Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia and David Ross. Others kept them short and close to the face–Jacoby Ellsbury, Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz. Rumor has it that Dustin Pedroia and Jonny Gomes didn’t shave during the entire season!!!!! Even if the beards were short, every single player grew one. The guys bonded together, and the beards represented team unity. This team may not have been the best team to ever play in Boston, but they really knew how to play as a unit and each guy could be described as a team player. While most of the beards looked ridiculous and even disgusting, they represented a team and showed the world that the Red Sox players would do whatever it takes to win the trophy!

“Three Little Birds”–Bob Marley

This song was Shane Victorino’s entrance song and it got to a point where the fans would sing along as he came to the plate. His acquisition during the offseason was frowned upon, many were shocked by the money spent to bring this mediocre player to Boston. He knew this team was special. He knew that despite losses, errors and odds against them, that everything would be alright and that this team could and WOULD come through. Victorino delivered a game-winning grand slam in Game 6 of the ALCS, securing his spot in Boston Red Sox fans’ hearts.  He sat out Games 4 and 5 of the world series due to back pain, but he came through again in Game 6 of the World Series, when he hit a bases loaded, bases-clearing triple to put the Sox on top once again!!! During Game 6 of each best-of-7 playoff series, Victorino showed everyone he was worth every penny and that every little thing would be alright!!!!!

“We’re not Gonna take it”–Twisted Sister

When I think of the 2013 Red Sox, this song comes to mind because so many sportswriters and experts were against the team, spouting off stats that Game 3 losers only won the World Series twice in history, or that teams finishing in last place the previous season had no chance of taking it all the following year. (These are 2 examples of several odds stacked against them–and these aren’t the exact stats, just stated in general terms). But this team didn’t care about the negativity spouted by so-called experts. They weren’t gonna take the shit thrown at them, and they were going to be strong and play through the haters! And what did they do! They said screw you all, we can do this, AND THEY DID!

“Keep it Together”–Guster

I have to include this song because the Sox really kept it together and pulled off the World Series win. This was hardly the prettiest World Series ever played–it was full of errors, an OBSTRUCTION CALL TO END GAME 3,  and a pick-off to end game 5 (though this was in Boston’s favor!) Despite the errors made in the outfield and by seasoned players in the infield (Dustin Pedroia), these bearded ballplayers managed to keep their shit together and produce runs and play defense when necessary. The team knew what was at stake, and the outcome was exactly what they wanted.

“Hangin’ Tough”–New Kids on the Block

Because I am unable to think about any music without thinking of NKOTB, I had to include this song. However, it’s appropriate for several reasons. First of all, again, The Sox hung tough and pulled through to win the big prize. They overcame errors, injuries and negativity to capture Baseball’s most coveted trophy. But also…the members of NKOTB hail from Dorchestah, south of Boston, and are some of the most famous Sox fans out there! So how can I not include a New Kids song in this situation? The New Kids have played at Fenway, they wear Sox jerseys during their shows, and they, like my brother and me, grew up rooting for Boston sports teams. They experienced loss and heartache just like we did, and just like us, they have been lucky to see THREE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A DECADE!!!!! This song is also a tribute to the entire city of Boston. After the marathon bombing tragedy in April, the city hung tough and got through all the bad times. Boston Strong, bitches, and Keep hangin’ tough!!!!!!!

“We are the Champions”–Queen

Does this song really need an explanation?????

World Series MVP David Ortiz said that the 2013 World Series was the best of the recent 3 championships. He is the only current member of the team who has played on each championship team in the past 10 years. My brother and I disagree with him and believe that the 2004 championship was the most special, after Red Sox Nation waited for years for a championship. Some people lived and died without seeing their Sox win a World Series, and now, my daughter, niece and nephew live in a time when the Sox are nothing but winners! What a crazy few years it has been for Boston baseball and Boston sports in general. We are lucky to be Sox fans and every playoff win feels a little bit better.

What about you brother? What songs come to mind for you when thinking about the 2013 Team???

Labor-Day Songlist: Arbeitsmusik (Work-music)

In honor of labor day, here’s a blast from our not-so-distant past. What better to make us appreciate a day off of work than ruminations on the privations suffered in jobs present and past…

 
I could buy myself a reason
I could sell myself a job
I could hang myself on treason
All the folks I know are gone
Modest Mouse, “The Devil’s Workday”

Our friend the Historian’s vivid entry on his paper-route playlist and my brother’s musings on his forced music choices reminded me of a list of my own I started a while back. See, he and I are both older than our years. All of us who went to high school (and part of college) before google, before Napster, and before cell phones or text messages, keep part of ourselves in a world wholly foreign to siblings and cousins a mere five years younger. It is strange how time moves that much faster.

Before ubiquitous CD players, mp3 players and satellite music, the car was one of two places where you could find yourself subject to the whim of faceless disc-jockeys or the machinations of entertainment executives. (Some of us even drove cars that didn’t even have tape players.)

The other place? Work. Before I found myself in a life where silence was more common than noise in the workplace, where my voice was the sound that could most often be heard, I worked a series of jobs to pay for band equipment and long distance phone bills, to pay for college, and to put myself through graduate school. At each one of these jobs I found myself subject to the musical choices of others: a boss’ favorite radio station or CD.

Continue reading

Call and Response: Religious Songs

In a recent, honest, and soul-baring post, my brother daringly ventured into one of the two subjects verboten at dinner tables and water-coolers throughout the country—religion (we crossed the politics line a few times in the past few months, so why not get this one over with?). I responded with an ambling, sometimes senseless, and mostly unclear comment.

My brother’s moment of clarity and its relation to music, however, deserves more thought. It deserves more time. It deserves a weighted and patient consideration. Yet, I fear, I may not be the right person to do this. As I said in response to my brother, music is the one thing that has made me feel a sense of something greater (unlike writing, music can be powerfully communal). Despite these feelings, I remain skeptical and unsure whether feeling something beyond yourself has anything to do with the divine.

“Down to the River to Pray”, Alison Krause

This beautiful song has been in my head off and on since I first heard it on the soundtrack to O, Brother Where art Thou. The fact that the “Sirens” sing this song in the movie points to an uncomfortable connection between Homer’s seductive and dangerous creatures and religious music…

Continue reading

Reggae

I feel like most people  who say they like reggae don’t really mean reggae, they mean Bob Marley. Now I don’t mean everyone because there are wide swaths of folks into Ts and the Maytals, Burning Spear and a slew of other reggae acts. I mean middle America, the rank and file citizenry–they know only Marley in my experience.

Marley should be credited for bringing the music to the masses. However, reggae as a form  itself doesn’t get enough respect and I think that it should. It may not be developed to the level of blues or jazz, but it hasn’t had the time either; reggae as we know it hasn’t been around that long. Even jazz wasn’t even considered an art form for a long time and was eschewed by the music buying masses as “race music”. (Now it’s turned into this slightly snobby type of thing that only the intellectual elite can enjoy, but that line of thought is for another day.) Reggae, enjoyable to listen to and socially aware at times, demands respect.

Continue reading