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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blues Music part 2

Once upon a time, I was a pawnbroker, then later I became a minister, and then I was a pawnbroker and a minister simultaneously. Somewhere in there I also was a security guard at a laundromat, and though I was never a bartender, I have learned that people who are going through hard times want someone to talk about and commiserate with their problems and hardships.

I am a firm believer that just about everyone goes through hardships. Those of us who don't, might not be human. I think the human condition is all about suffering. Why is it that most of the world's religions have some doctrine that speaks to this obvious human condition. The human condition is suffering. Buddhism has the doctrine that "life is suffering," Judaism is filled with tales of prophets who suffered for God. Islam teaches that martyrdom is the ultimate form of devotion, as does Christianity whose central figure, Jesus, paid the ultimate price for not only the sins of His country, but of all humanity, though a violent and grisly death. Thankfully for us Christians, it didn't end there and out of the suffering came a powerful and glorious Resurrection.

Which is ultimately what blues music is about. I find that it's about death and resurrection. Take John Mayer's song, "I'm Gonna Find Another You." I'm not sure if John actually wrote this song, or if it's a cover, but here we have him bemoaning the fact that his woman is mean to him and is in the process of leaving him. Through the course of his song, he takes us through a great deal of emotion. First he's begging her not to go, then he's angry that she's leaving, and then finally (as the mourning process tends to progress and conclude) he's resolved and is going to go out and find someone else. What is this but an illustration of Death and Resurrection? His relationship has dies, and now he's moving off to a new life with someone he hopes is just as beautiful, but nicer.

I think the human condition is such as to demonstrate the cycle of death and resurrection. I think God made it that way to point us back to Him. We go through a long series of losses, and blues music is filled with it. Take any good blues song from Robert Johnson on down the decades all the way to the more modern blues guys like John Mayer and Johnny Lang. These songs of loss somehow are mirrors of misery that show us that we are not alone in our suffering.

It is the ultimate form of pride perhaps to utter the simple phrase, "you don't understand." Maybe some people do not understand. But People do understand. Because it's written into our very DNA. We must suffer in order to be complete. We can't fulfill our purpose, we can't connect with our Creator and others if we do not suffer. Maybe that's why Peter and James wrote that we should "count it joy," when we suffer. 

I think blues music focuses on suffering, but typically there is consolation and  resignation in many blues songs that we need in order not to die. I have mentioned previously my distaste of the Goth scene. I find that Goth tends to glorify the death, without offering the hope of anything beyond that. How pointless is that? Without regeneration there is nothing lovely or pure or good or wholesome or of good repute in the fondling of carnage and decay. There can be no true joy in focusing on death without following it with life. It's like playing a C major scale and stopping on the B before you get to C again. It's aggravating and begs for completion.

And that is why I think Blues music is really the other side of the coin of Gospel. I think they go hand in hand. I don't think you can really have Gospel music without the Blues part. If you take out the story of your depravity before Christ, then the Gospel music loses it's punch. Likewise if you have nothing but misery and despair, then Blues becomes just a long litany of whining and complaining with no hope. I think the early bluesmen understood that. Even the quintessential blues song "Cross Road Blues" or as Clapton made it, "Crossroads," is supposed to be the tale of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil at the Crossroads. And yet the song is actually about repentance, and a cry for help because ultimately he knows that there is a place to go for help when the suffering gets so dark it grows beyond us.

Anyway, maybe I'll ramble on some other time, but these are just some more thoughts of mine on Blues music.

God bless,


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