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On Saturday, Dion DiMucci — the famous early rock and roll musician forever identified with his hit song “The Wanderer” — was at Fordham’s 168th commencement ceremony, where he received an honorary doctorate. The crowd was reminded that the Bronx-born, now-Doctor Dion recently wrote a book, Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth (Servant Books, 2011), describing his return to Catholicism.
I took this picture of Dion as he listened to his accomplishments being recited:
… and I took this picture as Dion received the hood for his honorary degree from Fordham’s president, Fr. Joseph McShane, SJ.
I have not yet read Dion’s book but would be interested to learn more about the journey of his relationship to Catholicism. I think “The Wanderer” is a remarkable image for the searching quality of the spiritual seeker. In 2011, I wrote this “Dion and His Church” entry at R&T.
Tommy Beaudoin, Yonkers, New York
Sad news in the world of classic rock: Ray Manzarek, best known as the keyboard player for the Doors, passed away on May 20 after a long battle with bile duct cancer. He was 74 years old.
When I was in my late teens I was a HUGE Doors fan. I thought they had an incredibly unique sound and I especially loved Manzarek’s keyboard playing. The Doors became popular during the “Summer of Love” but their sound was less psychedelic and hippy and more jazz/fusion influenced. Manzarek was responsible, in large part, for this sound–he was clearly a fan of Thelonius Monk and other avant garde artists and he helped weave this inspiration into the Doors’ music.
In December of 1990 Ray Manzarek was touring small clubs in the U.S. with beat poet Michael McClure. They were making a stop at Club Heidelberg in Ann Arbor, MI and I knew I had to attend. Three friends and I made the trek from Detroit to A2 for the show. When we arrived at the club we made our way toward the bar to grab drinks. Sitting at the bar surrounded by about 7 people was Ray Manzarek, telling stories and hanging out with fans. I couldn’t believe it! My friends and I eagerly joined the group. We listened to Manzrek tell stories about the Doors and hanging out with other rock stars in the 60s and 70s–we were in heaven! Finally, Ray had to excuse himself to get backstage, but before leaving he invited us all to attend a big party at Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris in July, 1991 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death. Influenced by a cocktail of euphoria, beer and adrenaline, my friends and I shouted, “We’ll be there, Ray!”
For us, music is the real church. It’s a life calling. It’s bigger than men and women put together. Music makes us all equal and perfectly human.
From Nancy Wilson’s acceptance speech when Heart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 18, 2013.
Posted in: From the Vault by Tom Beaudoin on May 17, 2013
From a post of mine in May 2009 at R&T.
Posted in: General,Is This The New Face of Religion?,Is This The New Face of Rock? by David Nantais on May 16, 2013
Patti Smith was recently in Rome for a music festival and took the opportunity to greet the new pope.
This is my choice for “kick-ass pic of the week”! The big question about this photo is: who is more honored?!
Dave Nantais, Detroit, MI
Posted in: General,Rock and Theology Project,Theological Production by Tom Beaudoin on May 15, 2013
The new book that includes many R&T authors, Secular Music and Sacred Theology, really should end in a question mark, so that it would read: Secular Music and Sacred Theology? Indeed, that was how the book started. Somewhere along the process, the question mark dropped out, but only on the cover, not in my head.
Adding the question mark would put in question whether “secular music” and “sacred theology” are the best way to denominate the two sets of phenomena we are trying to relate to each other in the book. I don’t think they are the best/clearest ways. In other words, I don’t want to let theology off the hook for also being, in a certain sense, a ‘secular’ exercise, nor do I want to let popular music get away with not being considered ‘sacred.’
The problem with both terms is that both ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ are pretty well worn-down to very fine armies of pencil-point definitions now in academic discourse, even though they still carry substantial weight in everyday language. In fact, as far as I can tell, one of the benefits of carefully exploring the relationship between music and theology is that neither one is able to stay on secure ground over against the other, whether those (more…)
I recently noticed a Facebook fundraising campaign for dUg Pinnick, lead singer and bassist for the band King’s X. Pinnick is suffering from a hernia and requires surgery to repair it. Unfortunately, like many struggling musicians, he has no health insurance and cannot afford the out-of-pocket health care costs. Since the fundraiser was announced fans have contributed in excess of $25,000.
What moral obligations do fans have to support their favorite bands/musicians? Is this fundraiser a purely supererogatory gesture or is it, as the title of the website declares, an attempt to “give back to dUg”? Giving back implies, at least to me, that we as fans owe these creative, hard-working musicians for all of the joy they have given us over the years, not to mention the hundreds or thousands of hours of work they have done for little or no pay.
And what about the music industry’s obligations to artists? Should record companies, for example, be required to pay into a health care fund for the artists on their labels? It is an interesting question, no?
“And the just and the unjust all walk side by side”
Dave Nantais, Detroit, MI
In March, I posted at R&T about seeing Dead Sara at SXSW. I mentioned a memorable leap from the amps. Here is a picture of a similar leap from the amps at a recent show in Arizona. The rockish devolution of Saint Teresa of Avila’s holy levitation?
Posted in: Agnosticism,Christianity,General by Tom Beaudoin on May 12, 2013
After almost four and a half of years of the Rock and Theology blog, and more importantly, several decades of substantial research in popular culture and religion, we should no longer be surprised that much of popular music trafficks in symbols, images, feelings, references, and gestures that are taken to be religious or spiritual. This music, after all, emerged from a conflictual mid-twentieth century scene when rock and roll came into being, in which music and musicians firmly planted in church life were situated in the same emerging genre, and often in the same recording studio or on the same stage or radio station, as “profane” music and musicians who were on the margins of, or on their way out of, churches. The musical struggle with what divine things have to do with earthly things has been there all along for rock and roll and its many descendants.
I thought of this recently as I listened to the Sevendust song “Prayer” from their self-titled album released in 1997. Here is the song in studio version:
As I hear the song, I hear in it a conflict about prayer. The narrator recalls an earlier prayer experience, now seen more skeptically. “Who do you pray to?” he wonders – or indicts. Underneath the song, I hear the contemporary struggle to make sense of divine presence and action in the world, and whether prayer can be reconciled with the sensibilities of an age in which increasing numbers of people are reluctant to try to say much with confidence about God. This reticence can be cheap or hard-earned, of course, but then again a lack of reticence can be cheap or hard-earned as well –and at any rate I think the deep and widespread questioning of God and prayer are very important for theological work today, because they can press (more…)
Posted in: Christianity,General,Practices,Theological Production by Tom Beaudoin on May 11, 2013
For those in the New York City area: Next Sunday 19 May, Trinity Rivertowns Church (mentioned earlier at R&T here) is hosting a forum called “Creativity and Trust: A Performance and Conversation on the Art of Improvisation.” The event, in Hastings-on-Hudson, will be moderated by Rev. Jim Kirk and will feature extraordinary musicians, likely well-known to many R&T readers, including John Patitucci on bass, Jay Azzolina on guitar, John Ellis on saxophone, and Rogerio Boccato on percussion. Here is the flyer:
The intriguing quotation on the flyer from jazz legend Wayne Shorter, “You can’t rehearse the unknown,” put me in mind of some remarks I made in a 2009 paper presented at the Catholic Theological Society of America’s Annual Convention. In that paper, titled “Give It Up / for Jesus,” I was reaching for ways to talk about the confluence of rock and roll and theological work as practices that are spiritually significant. Taking a seemingly different tack from Shorter, I suggested that in fact “You can rehearse the unknown,” and that both theological work and musical experience can help you to do (more…)Next Page »