Music/Popular Culture

30-Day Song Challenge, day 29: a song from my childhood

And now, something completely different.

One of the best things about my life as a child, a thing I looked forward to eagerly, was Sunday morning, before we went to church. Channel 12 had a show featuring gospel quartets and I’d always park in front of the TV and listen to those marvelous harmonies. Religiously, you might say.

Even as I have addressed my issues with the dogma that framed so much of my early life, even as my spiritual identity has evolved into something not even remotely Christian (and even less Southern Baptist), the music has never left me. The tight, meticulously crafted melodies, the rich, layered harmonies, the lyrical commitment to ideals that higher than the self could ever hope to be, it’s all there, in secular form, in the various forms of popular music I listen to today. In a very real sense, those gospel quartets were power pop artists. And I loved when I got the chance to sing those songs myself in church (I was actually in the adult choir by the time I was 14, a natural baritone with good range alternating back and forth between bass and tenor, depending on what we were short on).

Today when I hear Christian music, be it hillbilly gospel or high church hymns or even Gregorian chants (which I listen to more than you might imagine), and especially around the holidays, I’m struck by the longing I feel for all that music signified. It was the sound of community, of family, of love, of security, of belonging. You think about these things when your life is a solitary as mine can be.

This is probably the most unanticipated entry in my entire 30-Day Song Challenge, but here’s The Oak Ridge Boys doing “Where the Soul Never Dies.”

What the heck – here’s a bonus track. And I promise you, I can still tear this bass line apart.

5 replies »

  1. The first song I ever remember loving was “China Grove” by the Doobies. I think It was me and not my dad who wore out the best of the Doobie Bros album. That riff got me interested in rock guitar.

  2. Interesting snapshot into your childhood. I love Southern Gospel (and Black Gospel too) as you could tell from my choice of Russ Taff for the funeral song.

    But for my childhood it would have to be Puff the Magic Dragon or, the first “radio” song I remember singing. “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.” Three Dog Night, Joy to the World. Although, as a Southern Baptist kid, I was conflicted over singing about helping him drink his wine.
    This was also the first song that remember from my childhood that I heard on an “oldies” station while in my 30s. I about flipped out. Oldies are supposed to be, you know, old, like my parents.

  3. Regular Saturday night viewing at my grandfather’s house: “Gospel Singing Jubilee,” “Oak Ridge Boys,” “Hee Haw,” and Big Time Wrestling.

    But late Saturday morning was “The Monkees.” My first album. Davy Jones: my first crush ((I was taller than him by the 5th grade, sigh, but I was spoiled for British accents forever):

    Bonus Track: My grandparents owned 3 45s that I remember: “Teach Your Canary to Sing,” “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” and the “Battle of New Orleans.” In all it’s disturbing kitschiness, here’s Johnny Horton with the latter: