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The Black Crowes and Postures of Liftoff

Posted in: General,Voicework by Tom Beaudoin on October 25, 2013

Last night at Terminal 5 in Manhattan, I saw the Black Crowes.

(Here they are from the early 1990s:)

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Last night, this well-oiled blues-rock machine of a band seemed relatively loose but also a little workmanlike at times. The most compelling figure for me, as for many Black Crowes fans, is lead singer Chris Robinson. (Below are a few pictures I took.)

Many fans sympathetically mimicked Robinson’s gestures, making his center stage their own, or their body his own. I wondered if this sympathetic gesturing from fans is particularly compelling to do because Mr. Robinson has developed numerous bodily wherewithals suggesting (more…)

Rock and Theology contributor Christian Scharen recently replied to my 2009 R&T post outlining the idea of a “somatica divina,” and I wanted to take this post and the next to write a brief reply, because so much of what many of us take to be important in the overlap of rock and roll culture and theological culture has to do with what we find sacred, divine, holy or spiritually worthy about sounds of, in and through bodies. So it is worth giving a little more time to these questions.

Chris, thanks for following up on my brief outlining of a theology of divine bodies, ‘somatica divina,’ in musical performance. Reading it again, I still believe in the probative potential of such an analysis. Were I rewriting that introduction to somatica divina today, I might want to figure in more the fetishistic dimension involved in appreciating bodily citations, how complex the process of spiritual cathection might be for us as viewers/fans, and also for those of us who are also musicians. By spiritual cathection, I mean: the way we are situated by personal and cultural history to consent, with various levels of conscious awareness, to placing ourselves in relations to our own bodies, and the bodies of others, that conduct some power for more life. I mention “fetishistic dimension” because this allowance-of-a-power-for-more-life-through-musical-bodies-in-performance often has to do with a more-than-ordinary appreciation for spans of bodies, or the way those spans are inhabited and displayed (what I call bodily wherewithals). By spans of bodies, I mean an appreciation for these fingers, this torso, those hips, that jaw. By bodily wherewithals, I mean the way those shoulders cantakerously shake, how that hand reaches with luscious confidence across those frets, the knuckle-fist pulled away from the guitar’s pickup like that note electrocuted us all.

I have made reference to these elements of a somatica divina in some posts here at R&T where I have tried to catalogue entries in a rock and roll bestiary. There was an entry on Grinderman here, Salome here, and a related piece on Reb Beach of Winger here.

I will follow up soon with a few more thoughts to round out these reflections…

Tommy Beaudoin, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York