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.