Sunday, July 26, 2009

Songs I Can’t Sing Anymore – Part 5

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.

This one might be tougher to accept than some of the articles I’ve written about other rock-and-roll groups. So, before any of you Beatles fans give up reading, let me just say that there is still a great deal of their music to which I love to listen. But, in the next few paragraphs, let me point out a very poignant cultural analogy….one that might not seem so obvious until you read it.

The Beatles started out as a seemingly innocent pop group. Their music was different enough and good enough to become a worldwide phenomenon. I remember sitting at a friend’s house around 1970, watching the famous Apple record label spin around on his turntable. I didn’t really understand at the time how enormously popular these four had become, nor what an influence they would have on millions of lives (of course, I was only six at the time!).

The band moved through many phases. From the clean-cut innocence of their first popularity around 1964, they became darker and more politically involved. The media touts this as their “growing social awareness”. By 1969, they looked like the photograph at the left. They had begun experimenting with various drugs such as marijuana and LSD. And they began to profess beliefs in line with Eastern religions, culminating in a prolonged visit to India to learn from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and experiment with his brand of transcendental meditation. Many of their songs on The White Album were written during this period (and you can tell).

The Beatles produced an incredible volume of music over a very short ten-year period. Their schedule was intense, their lives were made public, and expectations were always high for their millions of followers. But along the way, a not-so-subtle change was happening to the group and to their music.

From 1964 to 1970, it’s important to observe the cultural shift in their style, and most importantly, in their lyrics. The best way to put it was summed up by Kevin Swanson, the executive director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado, who recently said, “During their career, The Beatles took us from ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ to ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’” Kevin’s made the point that The Beatles have some responsibility for the societal shift that has occurred in our culture –one where sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll rule the airwaves and the media. The drift from innocence to pornography that is demonstrated in these two song titles – written just six years apart – is analogous to what happened to society during that same period. And it happened very quickly.

Is their music just harmless entertainment? One could make the case that it has made a lot of people happy over the years. Or does it embody something else – something that is exactly parallel to the cultural decline we have seen around us over the last forty years? The Beatles certainly aren’t the only thing to blame for the decline in morality around us. But it is precisely through such seemingly innocent entertainment that Satan gains a foothold. He brought about the fall of Man through a simple apple all those years ago. It just occurred to me that he might still be accomplishing some of his work through that same symbol.

Back to the first entry in the "Songs I Can't Sing Anymore" series...

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