Sunday, May 10, 2009

Songs I Can’t Sing Anymore – Part 3

I grew up listening to rock and roll from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I have always maintained that there is no era of music that I prefer to listen to more, and I listened to a lot of it in college and during the years before my wife and I had children. I amassed over two-hundred albums on vinyl over the years, before compact discs took over. I have spent a great deal of time over the last couple of years transferring this music to my iPod. As I’ve recently begun listening to this music again, I have been struck by the lyrics of many of the songs – seen anew from a refreshed Christian perspective. I believe that I listened only to the music back in my younger days, but today I actually pay attention to the lyrics. This is the first in a series of articles discussing the possible hidden (or overt) meaning in many songs I used to sing out loud -- without actually listening to what the words were saying.


Nearly everyone loves Fleetwood Mac. For many of the people in my generation, they were more than just a pop band with several number one hits. During their popular period, they had a following that approached cult status. And watching their occasional concerts on PBS, it seems to me that the people in the audience look far older than I do – but that might just be denial on my part…

The reason for Fleetwood Mac’s popularity goes beyond the singability and beauty of the music. The members of the band are surrounded by mystery and personal stories that would easily make tabloid headlines. Drug addiction, broken personal relationships within the band, on-stage abuse, and rumors of involvement with the Wicca religion swirl around this talented group of musicians, and these items have almost certainly added to their popularity. The on-again, off-again relationship between guitar-player/singer Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks has dominated much of the intrigue that makes up their image.

Stevie Nicks has furthered Fleetwood Mac’s air of mystery more than any other member of the band, capitalizing on her own “style” of clothing and lyrics. Early in her career with the band, she adopted billowing skirts, boots and jewelry designed to give her a hint of witchcraft. She played on this further by writing the song Rhiannon, and opening the song when performed live by saying, “This is a song about a Welsh witch”. She did little to dispel the rumor that she herself might be the witch in question until many years later. Without a doubt, this only increased the band’s popularity. Many people are drawn to mysterious religions – anything that might be a slap to the Christian religion, that is.

I love listening to the opening electric guitar licks to Rhiannon. They aren’t too hard to play, and they sound great once you learn them. The sound that Buckingham chose for the guitar is memorable. When the bass walk starts, and the drums begin, it’s an almost perfect song intro – at least in my mind. And that’s what I remember when I was growing up. The song would play over the tinny schoolbus speakers, and would still sound…..great. I purchased the album (vinyl back then) in college, and probably played it well over a hundred times. As I’ve stated before, I listened very little to the lyrics of songs back then, and focused mostly on trying to duplicate the music only. But if one listens to the song hard enough, you’ll hear:

She is like a cat in the dark

And then she is the darknesss

She rules her life like a fine skylark

And when the sky is starless

All your life you've never seen a woman

Taken by the wind

Would you stay if she promised you Heaven?

Will you ever win? Will you ever win?

I’m honestly not sure I can describe what the song is trying to get across. It’s enough to note that the lyrics leave a mysterious feeling that adds to the rumors that Stevie Nicks propagated. Is she a witch? Did she and the band practice secret Wiccan rituals after they finished a concert? Do the lyrics contain some hidden meaning that we should be concerned about?

Well, in this case, the answer might be “No”. Nicks has gone on record as saying that she is not a witch, and has never practiced witchcraft. In a 1998 interview, when asked about the Wiccan connection, she said, "I have no idea what precipitated those rumors...I am not a witch. Get a life!" She credits “a God looking out” for her to get her through her earlier drug addiction. And when Lindsay Lohan mentioned that she would like to play Nicks in a movie about her life, Nicks responded by saying, “She needs to stop doing drugs and get a grip. Then maybe we'll talk.” Maybe Stevie Nicks is not at all the big, bad witch that we’ve been led to believe.

But I have a point to make about the music of this genre. What do Christians raised on rock music (like me) fill our minds with? Do we continue to live in two worlds – one where we proclaim Christlikeness on Sunday, and one where we listen to New Age lyrics on weekdays? Does this have an effect on the quality of our service to God? Does it honor God to mimic these lyrics in the car while driving to work? As I grow older (and hopefully a little wiser), it seems to me that I need to focus every waking moment on glorifying God – not just because it is the right thing to do, but because any other act starts to seem cheap and selfish. Is this radical? Yes. Am I capable of spending every waking moment honoring God? Right now, the answer is “No”. Do I want to do better in the future, and concentrate only on things that glorify Him? Absolutely.

This is a hard lesson for me. Music is beautiful, and words are powerful. This music seems to lift me up to a different place. But the lyrics are often empty. Does anyone else experience this struggle?

1 comment:

Music Online said...

I recently came across you blog and I really enjoy reading it.. Keep it up! Thanks!