In the mail

Some responses to recent posts. First up: Clarke Beasley, NQC head honcho, on NQC memorials:

Your assessment of the dangers of doing tributes is accurate. You inevitably run into criticisms for the tributes you did not do. We decided to make an exception for Anthony for two reasons:

1. In the case of Anthony, we had a 20 minute performance slot set aside for him during the Thursday showcase. We felt like simply replacing him with another artist in the wake of his untimely death was a little calloused. It seemed most appropriate to utilize that 20 minute slot as a tribute presentation to Anthony. In all of the other cases you mentioned, there was not a scheduled performance slot left completely vacant by their death. I feel this is an important distinction.
2. In many of the examples you listed, we had the opportunity to give those people their flowers while they were alive. You might recall Rex Nelon’s retirement presentation in 1997, the Speer Family retirement in 1998, Glen Payne’s call-in performance of “I Won’t Have to Cross Jordan Alone” in 1999 (maybe the most moving moment in NQC history,) and George Younce’s performance of “Supper Time” in 2003. With Anthony, we never had that opportunity.

Steinway played no role in this decision. Our sponsorship for NQC pianos this year is actually with Bosendorfer and Samick. We are simply allowing Steinway to display a grand in the South Wing A Lobby in memory of Anthony. We are supplying this space in the lobby for free.

I hope this explains our decision.

I guess it is true what they say: No good deed goes unpunished.

That’s a good point, about giving flowers while they were alive. I do wonder about it as a reliable strategy or policy, since it means that only the most tragic or sudden deaths will ever rise to memorializable (yes, I made that up) status. Another way to say this: poignant though all those moments were, it’s not at all clear that people consider them the equivalent of a memorial. The other problem with this approach is that there may some cases when “flowers while they’re living” simply won’t be enough or, as in the case of, say, Bill Gaither (as reader RF pointed out to me), flowers at NQC while they’re living won’t be possible unless something major changes. Still, a good point. Also note that I stand corrected about the sponsorship thing (and I probably stand somewhat justly accused by that no-good-deed line … can I blame Republicans for that too?).

Next up, a reader who was seriously not happy with my post about BFA and their life-changing vitamins:

It’s unfortunate you criticize things you don’t thoroughly research first before you so eloquently speak. But anything for a hit on your site right? Maybe you should look into it. It might “change your life” as well.

A few minutes later, same writer, another message. “One more thing,” its subject header read:

I also thought you might have to have a list of just a FEW other artists and people in this industry who take Vision For Life so you could slam [them] all at once … [The writer then gives a list of a ten or so groups or industry types at this point but I have deleted the list because as far as I can tell none of them officially associated themselves with the product, as BFA does] … and as I said those are just a few so hey get [them] all at once. They may not have it on their website, but they all sure push it on the road so maybe you should revise your post. I wouldn’t typically have even emailed you about anything you say because in reality, who are you? What have you done to gain the credibility in this industry you think you have? Why don’t you get out … on the road … and pay your dues? THEN you can speak in an educated manner. It was just the blatant attack on … BFA. It was the comment to the effect of “Well what does that leave for Jesus to do if this changes your life?” Come on buddy. You write amazingly well so I know you’re educated enough to compare apples with apples, so how about doing that? Keep up what you’re doing on the site. You have your own opinions and you are allowed to write them. Just don’t make comments about artists that allude to some sort of blasphemous thing that you take out of proportion. That’s crossing the line. You will have to answer for things that that one day anyways so really who am I to say? Thanks for your time.

Apples? Huh? I thought we were talking about vitamins. Seriously, though:
“change your life” (which was BFA’s phrase, not mine) is pretty strong to toss off casually. Obviously I don’t think BFA is suggesting that vitamins = divine redemption. In fact, that they are vastly different things was (and is) the point: using the hyped language and overstatement of a door-to-door salesmen is fine if you’re Ron Popiel peddling hair paint or Sally Struthers hawking mailorder diplomas, but using the excited sales-pitch language of MLM (it’ll change your life! even though you probably more accurately mean it can have a positive impact on some aspect of your daily life … which is NOT the same thing) … I say, using that kind of talk when your day job involves matters of the soul (that is, potentially real life changes), you run the risk of impugning your own message, of cheapening it a little (just as it’s a little silly and wearying to claim that only “real” people “on the road” are legitimate commentators … come to think of it though, traveling all the time and not getting getting a chance to exercise and eat properly is actually a pretty good reason to take something like vitamin supplements, but I’m not sure that’s a reason for fans to want to buy them). Really, though, let’s be honest: fair or not, there’s a certain image out there of the kind of people who get involved in MLM … the kooky guy who thinks this box of detergent will change your life, or the strange woman who drives a pink car and gets a little too excited about exfoliators and mascara. It’s difficult to take these people seriously. Their outsized enthusiasm for something so pedestrian suggests a tendency to self-delusion, a naivete or gullability that’s being exploited, or else greed so craven that they’ll feign faith in a product mainly for the money. BFA doesn’t have to fit any of these descriptions to be lumped in with the kooks and crazy ladies. And these perceptions don’t have to have anything to do with the product itself. But this context is real and considering all this, it’s probably a good idea to think (more) carefully about the way you frame your association with a MLM product, no matter how strongly you believe in its effectiveness and value.

Finally, smart reader SM in radio wrote with this response to my GMA comments about the Crabbs:

I went searching for the website, and a Google search of Clear Cool led me to this web page. First thing I noticed - it’s from Australia and it doesn’t have Martin Roth’s name on it (unless, of course, he’s using a nom de plume). Second, has anybody mentioned anything about this trip to Morocco? I highly admit to crawling under the proverbial rock the past several months, but even still, no CrabbNews on it that I can remember. Third, it seems like this story confirms everything that’s been rumored, gossiped and innuendoed about the Crabbs for the past several months. They’re trying to break out of the mold, Kathy Crabb’s the business-minded mastermind behind the operation, and even still building off the songwriting of Gerald; nothing new, but mildly intriguing to finally see in print form. Fourth, they’re taking this whole “involve the family/showcase the kids thing” to the next level with this new CrabbKids album they mention at the end of the story, though, in all honesty, there is a niche market in the industry for good children’s music that can be very lucrative if you get noticed by the right people.

Finally, though, it appears to give some evidence to something I’ve suspected for a long time - the beginnings of a traveling Crabb roadshow. The second-to-last paragraph mentions the new spring tour “that will give fans the option of buying tickets for a solo date or a pair of weekend shows. ‘Friday nights are always going to be Southern nights, which includes the McCraes, the Mike Bowling Group and the Crabb Family,’ says Kelly […] ‘Saturday night is the more contemporary night where it’s Julian Drive, the Crabb Family, the Katinas and NewSong.’” The concept is nothing really new for sg, because Gaither has brought in the Katinas and other non-sg talent to perform for the Homecoming vids for quite awhile now. In the context of the Crabbs, though, this new roadshow may have some significance. Potentially, the Crabbs could be trying to bridge the gap between the “progressive southern gospel”/”mild contemporary Christian”/”mainstream praise and worship” audience that may exist somewhere in the Christian music genre. More likely, though, they could be testing the waters to see where their biggest audience and opportunities lie - southern, contemporary, or P & W. I just wonder how long they can stay in limbo without making a move to one side of the fence or the other. As a great philosopher once said, “He who sits on the fence generally finds pain in the” ..well, you know.

The plan seems to be to make a fortune out of fence riding and a new existential category for professional musicians out of limbo. It may just work. Listening to the Crabbs sing “Shout to the Lord” at the Guild concert (or hearing “Friend of God” on Blur the Lines), you can get a sense of what permanent stylistic limbo might sound like, and it ain’t all bad.

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