Old Testament Tales That Fit Today's Musicians
In April 2014, one of the hottest figures in Hollywood is an old-timer called God. He's the subject of Noah and God's Not Dead, two films that have somewhat surprisingly charted multimillion-dollar grosses this Easter season.
Whether the actors and producers are true believers isn't the point. Their personal salvation might not be assured, but it seems their bottom lines have been saved by bringing The Big Guy to the big screen. But in secular music entertainment, God's archrival gets all the run.
Whether the Stones are sympathizing with him or Jay-Z is illuminating on him, Satan rules, and folks like Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne have ridden Old Scratch's coattails all the way to the bank. The only time music artists ever mention God is when they're receiving a trophy at some awards show, right before they head off to a drug-laden orgy.
Just how hot is The Dude in 2014? Hotter than hell, it seems. Movies in the works will soon relate Bible-based tales about Abel and Cain, Pontius Pilate and Moses to apparently eager audiences.
It might be time for modern music to get the spirit and wax musically/philosophically on some religious themes. The Man Upstairs is marketable and profitable now, so here are some choices for who should turn Biblical tales into musical streets of gold.
CHARLES BRADLEY (The Book of Job) I've no idea whether the Victim of Love soul singer is a religious man, but I'm not sure there's a better choice to deliver the story of Job in music. If you don't know the story or you're just a forgetful heathen, here's a refresher: Job was the original hard-luck case. Like Louis Winthorpe in Trading Places, he had a good, cushy life until God and the Devil started acting like Randall and Mortimer Duke and he lost everything. Just like Winthorpe. Ultimately, his faith helped him return to a happy and prosperous life. Just like Winthorpe!
Bradley's story is well-known by now. He devoted himself to music as a young man, patterning himself after James Brown. But he was cursed with family deaths, homelessness and odd jobs (including impersonating James Brown) while waiting for his break. It finally came when Daptone signed Bradley, who appears at iFest on May 3 (a Saturday), and his live shows became legendary. I don't know if Job ever sang the blues, but if he did, he probably sounded like Charles Bradley.
Daniel Dans la Fosse aux Lions, c. 15th-century France
IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE (Daniel In the Lion's Den) Daniel was a devout believer in The Sky Daddy and was known to pray daily; he was also an up-and-comer in the administration of King Darius. So like anyone doing well, Daniel had haters, who figured they could take him out by urging Darius to enact a 30-day law that banned prayer. The haters knew Daniel would be unable to resist.
But Daniel was a man of conviction, so he middle-fingered that law and kept on a-prayin'. He was arrested and thrown into the lion's den to be devoured. His devotion kept him safe, though. The next morning, when it was revealed he had not become lion chow, Darius freed him and threw the haters into the den, where the lions' short-lived fast ended with a big ol' feast.
Like Daniel, the rapper known as Immortal Technique is viewed as a man of principle. And, like Daniel, it has served him well. He's built a successful independent career with uncompromising rhymes that focus on social and global issues. To prove he spits more than lip service, he's involved in charitable work with a variety of human-rights groups.
More Bible stories on the next page.
KATY PERRY (Bathsheba) Bathsheba was a Biblical babe whom King David caught a glimpse of while she was bathing. I imagine she looked a lot like the pop singer on the cover of Teenage Dream album. She was so stunning that King David ordered her husband, Uriah the Hittite, to the front lines of battle, where he became a Uriah heap of a dead guy. That allowed David to marry Bathsheba, mother of King Solomon and the original Queen B.
Perry's dad is a preacher, so she's likely heard the tale of Bathsheba. Allegedly, he's not thrilled with his daughter's career antics. Making a thematic album based on an Old Testament figure would bridge the gap between the girl who kissed a girl and liked it and her dad. And, since the tale is rife with sexuality and manipulation, how could it not top the pop charts?
PUSSY RIOT (The Book of Ruth) Not to risk lapsing into Sunday-school lessons any more, I'll keep this one short. Ruth was married. When her husband was sent to war and killed, she stayed to help her mother-in-law, Naomi, get by. Eventually, her kindness resulted in marrying a rich landowner and having children of her own.
Like Ruth, the women of Pussy Riot know how to stand by their sisters in arms. Their take on this story wouldn't be an apology to the Russian state for jamming in a cathedral or allegedly inciting religious hatred. But it would be a vehicle those they offended might take an interest in, one that could allow the Riot girls to use one of the first feminist tales to advance their own cause.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.