Friday, July 12, 2013

800 Words and Friday Playlist: Towards a Canon for the Rock Era Part 1

Skinner: Reverend, this is Principal Skinner. I'm facing a crisis, and I didn't know to whom to turn …

Lovejoy: Well, maybe you should read your Bible.

Skinner: Um, any particular passage?

Lovejoy: Oh, it's all good.

"Canon" means many things to many people, but it literally means 'rule' in the sense of a measuring stick. The term, allegedly, comes from the end of the biblical era (New Testament), and it means a closed, authoritative collection. The canon is the yardstick by which the religious authorities and redactors measured closeness to God.

Those of us who have trouble with the idea of God nevertheless have our own canons. We may not believe in the Bible, but it's almost inevitable that there are moments in our lives when we turn to it for consolation, for wisdom, for transcendence, and for catharsis. The Bible has many, many passages that are just plain dull, and others that are downright offensive. Fortunately, we live in an era when we can ignore them...

But the truly glorious biblical excerpts - Exodus (at least chapters 1-24) and Genesis (just about all of it), Jonah and Isaiah (heavily edited), Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Jonah and the Song of Deborah, the Psalms and the Proverbs, Joel and Amos, Micah and Jonah, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs (let it never be said that the Hebrews didn't know how to have a good time...), and the St. Mark Gospel... for obvious reasons, I never read as much of the New Testament, and what I read seemed to be not quite as interesting - are still some of the greatest literature we yet have. Even for a non-believer (especially?), these writings are every bit as moving, as challenging, and as beautiful as anything in Shakespeare or Beethoven. In the same way that I can hear Beethoven's Eroica Symphony in my head and know that obstacles can be overcome, or read Sonnet 29 (hopefully one day I can quote it from memory) to remember better days, so too could I turn to Psalm 23 or 27, and know hope and comfort, even if God won't be the one to provide it. Everyone has their own personal canon, comprised of works as close to our hearts as any family or close friend, and after sampling something from that canon, we can only hope that our demons can be purged, and life becomes that much easier to live.

(Text continued in Part 2...)

John Lennon: Imagine

Marvin Gaye: What's Going On

Aretha Franklin: Respect

Chuck Berry: Johnny B Goode

The Beatles: Hey Jude

Sam Cooke: A Change is Gonna Come

Bob Dylan: Blowin' in the Wind

The Beatles: Let It Be

The Beatles: In My Life

Curtis Mayfield: People Get Ready

The Beach Boys: God Only Knows

Tina Turner: River Deep, Mountain High

U2: One (under protest, and only when Johnny Cash sings it)

Martha & The Vandellas: Dancing in the Street

The Band: The Weight

Ray Charles: Georgia On My Mind

Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water

Percy Sledge: When a Man Loves a Woman

Bob Dylan: The Times They Are a-Changin'

Buffalo Springfield: For What It's Worth

Bob Marley: Redemption Song

Bob Dylan: Tangled Up in Blue

Dionne Warwick: Walk On By

Stevie Wonder: Superstition

Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man

Bruce Springstein: Thunder Road

Johnny Cash: Ring of Fire

The Mamas & The Papas: California Dreamin'

U2: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (goddamnit...)

Al Green: Love and Happiness

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Fortunate Son

Rolling Stones: You Can't Always Get What You Want

Stevie Wonder: Living For The City

Simon & Garfunkel: The Boxer

Van Morrison: Brown-Eyed Girl

Otis Redding: I've Been Loving You Too Long

The Drifters: Up On The Roof

Al Green: Take Me To The River

Ben E. King: Stand By Me

James Brown: It's a Man's World

Rolling Stones: Jumpin' Jack Flash

The Shirelles: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

(along with more songs...)

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