Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Soundtracking the Bible Part IV

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew.  In that culture collections of books were organized by theme not chronically as cultures in the West prefer.  The next five books in this post transition from the Historical books of Nehemiah and Esther to the Poetical books of Job to Proverbs.

The Poetical books of the bible are just that poetry, they are not commands.  They should be read with the filter as one listening to good advice or a beautiful song.  It gives wisdom.  It encourages.  However, people have a mind of their own and do not always listen, and what happens in love songs does not always happen in real life. 

It's refreshing to find the Bible not just about facts but also about emotion, passion, and love.  

If the historical books are the mind of the Bible the Poetical books are the heart.

15. Nehemiah- All Along the Watchtower: Jimi Hendrix 

Originally written by Bob Dylan All Along the Watchtower  was penned after his motorcycle accident.  The track was part of the album John Wesley Harding that featured a number of songs that had biblical allusions.  Inspired by the birth of Dylan's children and marking a new phase in his life this song mirrors the nation of Israel, as they were also turning the page and starting a new chapter.   Nehemiah focuses on one man's passion and drive to rebuild the wall surrounding Jerusalem.   The book is perfectly balanced between the spiritual and the practical with verses like "We prayed to our God and posted a guard (4.9)".  The Jimi Hendrix version is the most popular for his spirited guitar solos that echo the dramatic structure of the song written without choruses. 

16. Esther- Lady Gaga: The Edge of Glory

The book of Esther rewinds back to when the Jews where in Exile under the Persian Empire. Written in a short-story style similar to Ruth where the main protagonist is also a female. The word "God" is never mentioned in the book however His presence is felt throughout all the drama and intrigue as Esther risks her life to become Queen to Xerxes and save her people.  Lada Gaga's soulful anthem Edge of Glory was inspired by the death of her grandfather and the life of Rocky.  She says the song is about "looking at life directly, with the feeling that he or she is a champion," and that is exactly how Esther lived her life. 

17. Job - Comfortable Numb: Pink Floyd

The book of Job is one of the most well known stories of the Bible, and possibly on the oldest as well.  The story unfolds over 40 chapters filled with vivid imagery, poetic laments, and dynamic confrontations to address the question of suffering.  The Wall by Pink Floyd, which Comfortably Numb climaxes the double album, is also grand in scale.  Thought to believe that the song was about drug use, David Gilmour says, "this song can be divided into 2 sections, dark and light. The light are the parts that begin "When I was a child...," which Gilmour sings. The dark are the "Hello, is there anybody in there" parts, which are sung by Waters."  Job is a tale dispelling the fallacy of sin equaling suffering.  It is a story of Light overcoming Dark, it is story of God believing in us to prove the Devil wrong.  (The imagery during the live performance is breathtaking especially at the 6.30 minute mark when the Wall breaks to become a bridge.)

18. Psalms - Bohemian Rhapsody: Queen

The main author of Psalms is King David (total 73) writers also include Moses, Solomon, Asaph, and anonymous contributors as well.  The range of emotion is vast from sorrow and joy to anguish and peace.  It is comforting to the reader knowing these words come from the Saints of the Old Testament.  The rock-opera Bohemian Rhapsody is a complex pop song that matches the emotional range of Psalms as well as the variety in arrangement.  Freddie Mercury never said officially what the song was about, but guitarist Brian May shared some insight, "Freddie was a very complex person: flippant and funny on the surface, but he concealed insecurities and problems in squaring up his life with his childhood. He never explained the lyrics, but I think he put a lot of himself into that song." The 150 books that make up this musical and artistic work are more about expressing one's feelings than searching for doctoral meaning.

19. Proverbs- Blowing In the Wind: Bob Dylan

Proverbs is more than the fortune cookie of the bible filled with pithy sayings.  The wisdom is deep.  The topics are wide.  The advice is timeless.  Proverbs is a book of maxims written for a young Jewish audience, with truths compacted into a few lines scripted in an indelible fashion.  Bob Dylan's Blowin in the Wind is also a song that transcends generations with powerful truths layered upon verse and chorus.  Dylan played the song for Pope John Paul II in 1997, upon being greeted, the Pontiff said this,"You say the answer is blowing in the wind, my friend. So it is: but it is not the wind that blows things away. It is the wind that is the breath and life of the Holy Spirit, the voice that calls and says, 'Come!'"

The next part in Rock of Ages will focus on Ecclesiastes to Lamentations. 

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