Second verses

Several of the musical performances at the Lincoln Memorial Inaugural event yesterday were quite good, some of them astonishingly so (not least of all given the weather). If you didn’t see the whole thing, HBO has a free rebroadcast up online (which means you can skip the celebrity blather and the musical misfires like John Cougar Mellencamp and Garth Brooks).

Bettye LaVette brought Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” back to vivid life, delivering it so that the song’s evocation of American racism resounds as not only a lamet for our imperfections but also as the promise of a more perfect future (alas, you have to deal with BonJovi too). James Taylor and friends (including John Legend and JT’s astounding bgvs) resurrected “You’ve Got a Friend” from ubiquity and restored to it some of the original force it has lost from being played to death. Mary J. Blige transformed “Lean on Me” into something like an anthem of unforced social solidarity (I don’t think I’d ever heard the second verse, or if I had, I hadn’t really listened to - really heard - it before). And speaking of second verses, Heather Headley’s second verse of “My Country Tis of Thee” … well, you’ll just have to hear that. It beggars all description. Sometimes, the second verse is NOT same as the first, which - come to think of it - is one of the main points of all this, I gather.

But my point here is not political, believe it or not. Rather, I was struck by how the majestic setting of the Lincoln Memorial and the world-historical context of the moment elevated many of the songs out of their ordinariness, transforming them into something very close to a kind of secular American gospel music, if we understand the heart of good gospel to be found in the expression of abiding truths that are both deeply indwelling and so much bigger than us.

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  1. Wayne wrote:

    “Secular Gospel”–the ultimate in contradictory terms.

  2. Brian wrote:

    Not politcal? Are you serious? “the world-historical context of the moment…”. If this were McCain, would you have blogged the same thing? I think not. I don’t care if you are political but don’t try to tell us it’s not.Folks we need to understand that Barack Obama, is nothing more or less than the next President of the United States. While there is a certain amount of hoopla and excitement that goes along with that, all of this super escalted hoopla is really something else. I mean wow. I wish the guy all of the best and I hope he does exceedingly well for the sake of our nation but he is not the messiah, he is not the second coming. Some really silly stuff has been said that just lends itself to that type of thinking. Folks if that is where we are, we are in big trouble. Forgive my momentary lack of memory (of who made the comment) but it was even said that we may have to change time to reflect BB (before Barack) and AB (after Barack). I sincerely hope that was said in jest but with all of the messiah notions going around, who knows? People are certainly setting themselves up for disappointment. Again, I wish Obama well but he is not and cannot be the man that the media and current supporters make him to be. He cannot fix everything by simply taking office. We will not wake up Wednesday morning to a “New Nation”. He does not have mystical powers of healing or anything else of the sort. He is simply a man, no more, no less. If we as a nation put all of our hopes in a man, whether it be Obama or not, our hopes will be dashed. That is a fact. Keep praying America, our healing will not come from the office of the President, it will come from the office of the Alpha and Omega, the Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and Almighty God. Psa 121:1 reads “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help”, just not Capitol Hill.

  3. Brian wrote:

    Sorry, I meant “escalated”. Typo…

  4. jbb wrote:

    Wow Brian, well said and I totally agree. It’s actually making me nauseated to listen to or read the media. People think Obama is a God. It scares me to think that we have come to this. It is not who he is, it’s what color he is that so many people think he is going to change the world because he is African American. You said it best, he is just the next president.

  5. Wayne wrote:

    “This is bigger than Kennedy–this is the New Testament.” Chris Matthews, MSNBC

  6. Bob M. wrote:

    Keep in mind that the word ‘gospel’ simply means ‘good news.’

    having said that, is there ever really any secular ‘good news’?


  7. Videoguy wrote:

    The Star-Spangled Banner
    by Francis Scott Key

    Fourth Verse

    Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand
    Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
    Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
    Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto, “In God is our trust”
    And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

  8. american wrote:

    I am already sick of this inaugration. 150 million dollars is being spent! President Bush was maligned because his cost fifty million, why isn’t the liberal press in an outrage over this? I know why, democrats can do anything and not be critized.

  9. Robert Davis wrote:

    I have to say I agree with most of you. A lot of people are setting themselves up for disappointment because they are putting a great amount of faith in a man. Just a man. A lot of people and especially the media talk about history being made. History was made by electing an African-American man as president of the US but I have to offer a quote I heard (but I don’t remember from who). It goes like this, “History is the future, the past is a memory, and today is a gift that is why it is known as the ‘present’. If Barack Obama wants to make “history”, he will do it in the next 4-8 years.

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