Pop Culture 101 for Pastors–The History of Rock & Roll Part 5

Posted: February 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

The Beatles were somewhat of an anomaly in Great Britain in the early 60’s because their early music was obviously more influenced by the harmonious pop of bands like The Everly Brothers while most other English bands at the time were more into the blues.  Young aspiring musicians like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour and many others saved their loose change to buy singles by seasoned bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Bo Diddley.

The blues revival in England has mystified some cultural historians who cannot understand why working class white kids would resonate with the music of those who had known true poverty and hatred.  I believe it was Keith Richards who stated that England was a truly dreary place at the time.  The economy hadn’t recovered from World War II and, like in America, more and more parents were working outside of the home leaving children at home to fend for themselves.  Thus, the wail of those seeking solace from their misery in song connected to a generation of English teens raising themselves in the streets of bleak cities like Birmingham.

Of course, the sixties being the sixties, there was rarely a pure white English blues band.  There were bands like The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and The Animals who threw the blues into a blender with the classic rock of Chuck Berry and the soul music from Detroit, NYC, Chicago and Philly to create, what The Who would call, “Maximum R&B.”  Yet, as every one of these artists attest, the heart of it all was American blues.   The Brits put their spin on our blues and sold it back to us with great success. 

The blues based music of the sixties would spawn a number of powerful musical movements including prog rock, hard rock and heavy metal (thanks also in no small part to the advent of distortion pedals, especially the fuzztone utilized by The Stones and The Kinks).  It also was the launching pad for the guitar great movement as young musicians everywhere tried (often in vain) to emulate the six-string artistry of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and, of course, Eric Clapton who British teens proclaimed “god” with spray paint in the London subways.

There is a stark lesson here for pastors–regardless of social situation, our distance from God combined with our distance from each other, thanks in part to our materialism, will create an emptiness and despair that will seek a voice.  The Bible provides lament psalms, Ecclesiastes and the cries of the martyrs.  While we must preach the Gospel as the good news of God’s love and our current and ultimate reconciliation to our Creator, we must not overlook the day-to-day struggles that everyone wakes-up to meet.  

All Christians need to face and acknowledge reality.  The church can learn a lot from the blues.

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