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October 7, 2012 / CB

An Old, New Song

Photo by thisisbossi, via Wikimedia Commons

Since my commute has been a little longer of late, I’ve been listening to the radio more often, and I’ve come to a rather curmudgeonly conclusion:  the music today isn’t as good as when I was a kid.  Not only does the newer stuff seem less complex, less interesting, than what I grew up with, but it seems less optimistic as well.

I was in high school when ska and swing briefly flashed into the wider American consciousness.  Those styles not only made horns mainstream again, but they also brought a sort of rebellious positivity.  It didn’t come from every band, true, but there was a definite undercurrent of ‘we’re gonna make the world better and you can’t stop us.’  Consider “Our Only Weapon” from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones:

Read the paper, things look grim
Watch the news, the outlook’s dim
It’s clear to see that there is something wrong
Could be that we don’t change a lot
But we should give it our best shot
Our only weapon is a song

Maybe we’re being too naive
But this is something we believe
What’s beyond belief is just how much is wrong
Nothing is gained when people fight
Maybe our heads aren’t screwed on tight
Our only weapon is a song

We’re not building bombs or storing ammunition
We’re just playing songs hoping people will listen
Others try hate but hate won’t move anything
We’re trying love and unity too
We’re not packing pistols, we’re not waging war
Most of our missiles have only four chords
It’s not a great plan but we like the agenda
The arsenal’s music and the army’s our friend

Could be our idea isn’t great
Maybe our heads aren’t screwed on straight
We might be wrong and maybe nothing’s wrong
And we might never win the war
But we’ll have fun and that’s for sure
Our only weapon is a song

Maybe it’s a function of the tough economy, but I just can’t see anyone writing a song like that these days.  Even the Christian radio I listen to, which should be more joyous than anything, can leave me a little bummed out.  Too often they come at God’s glory from the perspective of ‘times are tough and only God can see me through.’  I’m all for that, and have certainly clung to the thought often enough, but I think there needs to be more balance.  We need more bouncy, driving horn lines reminding us that the world can get better through, words, through music, through love.

As Christians, I think we need to stop waiting for the world to change, and start being the change.  We don’t have to get political about it; we don’t need to argue with anybody.  Instead, we need to live out the joy that we have given our lives to, and “declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples”(Psalm 96:3).

You know, the Bosstones have this guy, Ben Carr, and his whole job is to dance.  During every show, pretty much all he does is hop and spin and look like a fool for the sake of the music.  There’s something to learn there, I think.  Despite everything that’s wrong with the world, we still have a lot to sing and dance about.  What better way to stand out, to have people notice us as Christians, than to insist on joy in the face of despair? To dance, no matter what stage we play on.




Leave a Comment
  1. CB / Oct 12 2012 2:29 pm

    This came in through my e-mail, and I thought I would share…

    “I could not agree more. Today’s music or the majority that I am exposed to is terrible. Granted I am 56 years old and I guess everyone my age says that. But I also grew up listening to music that was much more optimistic. Be it the rock or the folk music, it was about making a change in the world for good. There was talk of love, peace, harmony, and getting along with one another.

    Today, I am exposed modern music a lot at work. I find it very negative, degrading (especially to women), fatalistic. It is about killing each other, not loving one another. It does not believe in God. It justifies war and in general is very demeaning.

    I refuse to believe that the entire world in like that.”

  2. Beth / Nov 28 2012 12:14 pm

    “to insist on joy” — I love that…thanks!

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