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The Theology of Patti Smith

Patti Smith is known as the “godmother of punk,” but she always had higher goals than trying to make rock sound dangerous as the hippy era came to an end. I once almost lost a friendship because I suggested that her voice was not strong enough to sustain the passion of her angrier songs. “She’s too frail to be a punk Janis Joplin,” I said. “And too New Jersey.” Maybe that wasn’t fair, especially the part about New Jersey, but I do think she sounds better when, like Bob Dylan, she works with her vocal weaknesses, not against them. She’s sometimes called the female Bob Dylan, but Dylan is a songster whose lyrics are poetic, while Smith is a poet who also sings rock and roll. Because she’s not a natural singer, melancholy fits her tonal range, and when she goes for pretty, without erasing the edginess of her tone, she sounds downright sublime. Continue Reading »

In Praise of Praise Music

Praise music gets no respect, even among Christians. It is not hard to figure out why the unchurched don’t care for it. They can sing “Stairway to Heaven” with gusto because they don’t believe that the stairs are really going anywhere, while it is hard to sing “Here I Am to Worship” without doing exactly that. But Christians are people of praise. That’s what we do. So why do so many Christians have such a condescending attitude toward praise music? Continue Reading »

You-Tubin’ to New Orleans, 50s Style

Well enough worryin’ and map-surveyin’ for the moment, let’s at least get the tunes set. Impossible to even hope to survey the Jazz contributions—just stand around in the NOLA airport diggin’ the vintage Pops—so we’ll start instead with 50s-era, or 50s-esque . . . . Continue Reading »

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