Grateful Hearts

During the 1970s Paul Williams’s talents as a singer, songwriter, composer and actor were in high demand. His song, “Evergreen”— sung by Barbara Streisand for the film A Star is Born—won an Academy Award and reached number one on the pop charts. He produced similar hits for the Carpenters, Helen Reddy, and David Bowie. He wrote the celebrated score for Bugsy Malone, and appeared in numerous films himself—stealing the show as a wisecracking bootlegger in Smokey and the Bandit. On television, Williams became a ubiquitous presence, co-hosting the Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas shows, and appearing on the Tonight Show an astonishing forty-eight times. In 1979, Williams became even more famous when he wrote The Rainbow Connection, the theme for Jim Henson’s Muppet Movie. Continue Reading »

The Sound of Salvation

Can music save your mortal soul?” Don McLean asked that question in his 1971 classic, “American Pie.” Released when I was ten years old, it was the first rock song that I could sing word for word. I understood none of its historical allusions, but I grooved to its catchy phrases, graphic . . . . Continue Reading »

Take Me to Church

Dear Hozier: Your overtly theological song titles lured me in. “From Eden”? “Take Me To Church”? Once I read some of your anti-Church comments, I girded my theological loins for a smackdown; I didn’t want to like you. But, as it turns out, I think you’re really good. Your sound is hypnotic, many of your lyrics poetic (comparatively speaking). I like the fusion of blues, jazz, pop, and gospel. There is a pulse and a crackling sparseness and a dark beauty to many of your songs. I’ve had your album on repeat on Spotify for the past week, despite myself. You’ve stirred my lingering desire to become a singer-songwriter—nearly enough for me to pick up my guitar. Continue Reading »

What Makes Rock Christian?

The recent release of Switchfoot’s new project Fading West led to more questions for lead singer Jon Foreman on how his band can be Christian when its songs lack explicit Christian content. Foreman’s answer has basically remained that his songs are Christian because they are deeply . . . . Continue Reading »

Why Rock Couldn't Stay at the Commune

It’s very cool, very punk-rock, folk-rock, and all the other rockin’ signifiers of hip radicalism, to be going to a commune. Or to hang-out at one for a season. But to actually stay for good is not what rock-tuned set wants.How do we know that? Well, tell me about a rock song that celebrates . . . . Continue Reading »

Saving Rock and Roll

Rock and roll has a rebellious sound. I write that hesitantly, because there is really no such thing as rock and roll, in terms of having a permanent nature or ongoing essence. Speed, loudness, and distorted acoustical effects do not a musical genre make. Rock is a mishmash of various musical . . . . Continue Reading »

Progressive Rock Redeemed

On February 9, I had the pleasure of finally seeing one of my favorite bands for the first time—a progressive rock supergroup called Transatlantic. Because all of my friends are too respectable for such things, I made my journey to the concert alone. For a progressive rock supergroup, however, Transatlantic has an excellent pedigree: The band was founded in 1999 as a side project of four progressive rock musicians from America and Europe (hence the name Transatlantic): Neal Morse, then of Spock’s Beard; Mike Portnoy, then the drummer for Dream Theater; Roine Stolt, the lead guitarist of The Flower Kings; and Pete Trewevas, the bassist from Marillion. Continue Reading »