We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
Supergroup: Jim Morrison, T.S.Eliot, Darryl Rhoades And God
Jim Morrison, the great singer with even greater presence, takes command. As “The Soft Parade” opens, Morrison bellows out as tent revivalist would. The theological take isn’t the same, however. Morrison calls out to his assembled multitude, the millions listening to the title song from the Doors’ fourth album. Morrison works his pulpit:
When I was back there in seminary school
There was a person there
Who put forth the proposition
That you can petition the Lord with prayer
Petition the Lord with prayer
Petition the Lord with prayer
You cannot petition the Lord with prayer!
Morrison’s voice could fill a revival tent, but his words would hardly suit the congregants in such a place. He, as did poet T.S. Eliot in “Ash-Wednesday,” alluded to a journey in search of solace. Morrison seeks “sanctuary.” Looking out from his rooftop in Venice Beach, California, he observes the materialism of mid ’60s America and the rat race joined in order to acquire the materials.
All our lives we sweat and slave
Building for a shallow grave
Unlike Morrison, Eliot’s sanctuary was spiritual (he wrote “Ash-Wednesday” shortly after joining the Anglican Church in 1927). He sought peace ordained by God, “Even among these rocks.” Roughly thirty years after his conversion, Eliot described his religious views as a blending of “a Catholic cast of mind, a Calvinist heritage and a Puritanical temperament.” That wasn’t the environment Morrison found in Venice Beach.
“The Soft Parade” is an array of sounds and visions. One could say it was a work with everything – including the kitchen sink (and some may call elements of the track pretentious). It wasn’t so much a song as “Running Blue” and “Touch Me,” the more direct and accessible tracks on the same album. Quite often, the poet/experimentalist Jim Morrison overwhelmed the rocker Jim Morrison. He had long studied the poets and philosophers, citing their influence. Yet Morrison’s chief talent was creating driving rock and roll with dashes of soul and jazz. He could belt it out with the best of them when it came to wide open, sweaty music –as sweaty as those tent revival preachers on a summer evening in southeast Georgia. After all, when Morrison sang, “I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer,” the effect was far more blissful than hearing “You cannot petition the Lord with prayer.”
People, no matter what kind of music they favor, or faith they embrace, are happy when others pray for them, especially in times of need. In the wake of the Newtown murders, prayers have crowded the skies for the families and friends of the young victims. It is hoped the prayers provide the survivors with just enough strength, if nothing else, to make it through the day. That thought prevails when we “petition the Lord with prayer.” But what about those same parents in Newtown, who prayed daily for their childrens’ safety when they sent them off to school? It’s a mystery; even the people who do pray daily are bound to work the question in their minds over and over again.
The rock artist Darryl Rhoades, who grew up in a South Atlanta suburb, has done his share of pondering as well. On his 2007 album, Weapons of Mass Deception, he brings up the matter in “The Edge of the World.” The song is a prayer of sorts; one that questions God having “a plan.” Rhoades is talking to God, if not petitioning him.
This Could Be the Match of the Milleniums.
In this corner, a deity billions have prayed to. The one recognized throughout the world as Lord of all, whose followers pack His houses of worship every week. His book, printed and distributed by countless publishers since Gutenberg, remains a bestseller.
While in this corner, we present a man some have prayed for. The man who nearly packed the Variety Playhouse in September 2009. He was featured in a 1977 Rolling Stone article. And for the longest time he was this close to a major record deal. Darryl Rhoades!!!!
Sounds like a mismatch.
But “The Edge of the World” is a thoughtful song. Darryl Rhoades isn’t tearing down anyone’s faith. He’s trying to understand aspects of the faith, if not all its mysteries. The song features a pretty melody that emulates an Elvis Costello approach. The vocal by Rhoades, tuneful and clear-eyed, recalls that of Rick Nelson. Upon hearing it, one thinks of how great it would sound on the old car radio. Yet in the days of cruisin’ to the music, the tunes were about missing the only girl you had. “The Edge of the World” concerns missing out on eternal questions.
Rhoades, who grew up in the Church of the Nazarene -just like Gary Hart -appears to be in a lonesome town, an even bleaker outpost than Rick Nelson sung about. It was “a pretty angry place,” he wrote “The Edge of the World” from, according to Rhoades. He was looking up – above the clouds – wondering why two friends were struck down in the prime of life. One had suffered for a long period with cancer. The other died from a heart attack while sitting behind the wheel at a traffic light. Saddened and angry, Rhoades couldn’t fathom why two such gentle people suffered so, only to leave the planet before their time. He looked back at the faith he grew up with, remembering being told over and over of how God loves and cares for us all. It just didn’t make sense to Rhoades. He takes his petition to the Lord:
Hoping is denied
A hunger unsatisfied
In every miracle, I’m told to give you praise
But right now I’m filling up with blame
A lonely soul that needs to know
Rhoades articulates what many of the faithful have gnawing at them after a loved one has died. “What happened? I just knew with the prayer chain up and down the coastline that he’d come through,” many cry out, if only to themselves.
Then there are “miracles” which stir us too. The brother of a friend (known to Rhoades as well) was on his death bed. The hospital was making plans for the bed as it would soon be empty. The man was told he had very little time left. A few hours. The family could come in, say goodbye and at least, lift up a few prayers. In those few hours, however, he took a turn for the better. Several weeks later he was back on the streets of Athens, Georgia in search of the perfect taco.
Before Rhoades returns to the song’s very catchy chorus, crying out, “I’m sliding off the edge of the world and I might not make it back,” he asks God if life’s in vain. Showing some attitude along with his petition, he implores, “Could you explain?”
The apostle Paul said faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” Yet there’s still a lot of mystery to behold. Those picking up or dropping faith are also mysteries to us. People change. Attitides sharpen or they soften. On “Beautiful Boy,” a heartfelt song on his last album released before he was killed, John Lennon sings, “Before you go to sleep, say a little prayer. Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better.” That line intrigued when remembering how Lennon rejected the Bible, Jesus, Gita, etc, ten years earlier in his puzzling but liberating song, “God.” Some mysteries can be discussed for days and nights on end. God and those of us here below move in mysterious ways.
- Images: both photos are publicity photos/fair use.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
It’s that time of year again. Ya’ll know what I’m talking about … the holidays. Some see it as the song claims “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” … But others among us are just left wondering. First it’s the sugary shock of Halloween. Then it’s surviving the Thanksgiving glutton-fest. Followed by a tsunami of high-octane shopping you can’t afford, partying, last minute gift buying, a morning of exchanging gifts you don’t need, a mad rush to return the gifts you don’t want, more shopping and finally a drunken evening, ending with new year’s resolutions and false resolve to quit your shameful and glut Read on →
"A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it." -- William Penn The iconic images of recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri -- after the police shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen -- have left Americans of all ilks wondering: Is this America? Military Humvees, still in camouflage and mounted with machine guns, in the hands of municipal police. SWAT teams of police in full riot gear, bristling with automatic weapons, pointed at a lone protestor with hands up. Have we become a police state? Americans now have yet another Read on →
Have you noticed lately that menus aren’t just menus anymore? They are adjective-laden exercises in literary carnage. Pretentious descriptions of food so florid I’m not sure what I’m ordering. It seems the goal of a restaurant, aside from separating me from the contents of my wallet, is to make me feel good about what I’m eating, or self-conscious, I’m not quite sure which. Thus the word sustainable creeps into every menu I read. Sustainable, as in sustainable agriculture or sustainable fish … what I really want is whatever is being served to “sustain me,” not the other way around. I’ve collected a few culinary terms currently in vogue a Read on →
When he gasped to take a breath and to stop swearing in his fractured English, he told her he had a “fucking shit life” and that she was a filthy whore who would die a horrid death. Spitting out more vitriol with each breath, he finished his rant by saying, “You will lose this war.” Perhaps time will, if it hasn’t already, prove him right. Certitude rang out from this Algerian jihadist who had been captured by Afghanistan’s tribal Northern Alliance shortly after the American onslaught following 9/11 . At this point, however, the “interview” was concluded when she said, “That may be, but your Read on →