Radio Jesus

My dear friend John Hardt just released a new track for which I wrote the lyrics (and he cleaned them up to fit). He said “I want to write an Oasis song called ‘Radio Jesus.'” I think we pulled it off.

Wintry Mix: Natsume Sōseki, Neil Young, and My Eldest…

I posted “Over the wintry” earlier today.

I’ve been playing “Winterlong” on guitar between outside snow day fun and shoveling.

Inspired by Natsume, I thought it would be fun to ask/make my eldest to write a haiku about today’s weather. We read The Trials of Apollo series together, and every chapter starts with a haiku, which is to say, the form is familiar. As is the cheek:

I like to eat snow.

I pelt my Dad with snowballs.

Don’t eat the yellow snow.

I mean, no lies detected.

Volare: Italian Americans in Popular Music

I was listening to Dean Martin last night, and I got to thinking about putting together some sort of superlative list of Italian-American figures in American popular music. Below are my current Sweet Sixteen. Who would you add in order to fill out a proper field of sixty-four?

Joe Satriani 

Jon Bon Jovi

Gwen Stefani

Steven Tyler

Frank Zappa 

Tony Bennett

Jim Croce

Louis Prima

Madonna

Dean Martin

Lady Gaga

Frankie Valli

Frank Sinatra

Mario Lanza

Henry Mancini 

Bruce Springsteen

Wherein I’m Cited with James Cone?

A few days ago, I wrote a poem partly quoting James Cone. His work means a lot to me.

Today, I found out that an essay I wrote ten years ago is quoted in a book about music, theology, and justice. In the bibliography, I’m cited next to Cone.

I know it’s because of how the alphabet works, but I’m incredibly humbled. James Cone is brilliant. I’m, at best, a broken clock. A newly encouraged one. James Cone still inspires, and the long march isn’t done.

Here’s the book, in the publisher’s words:

Music, Theology, and Justice

Edited by Michael O’Connor; Hyun-Ah Kim and Christina Labriola – Contributions by Awet Iassu Andemicael; C. Michael Hawn; Maeve Louise Heaney; Chelsea Hodge; Michael J. Iafrate; Ella Johnson; Hyun-Ah Kim; Christina Labriola; Ann Loades; Bruce T. Morrill; Michael O’Connor; Michael Taylor Ross; Don E. Saliers; Jeremy E. Scarbrough and Jesse Smith

Music does not make itself. It is made by people: professionals and amateurs, singers and instrumentalists, composers and publishers, performers and audiences, entrepreneurs and consumers. In turn, making music shapes those who make it—spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, politically, economically—for good or ill, harming and healing. This volume considers the social practice of music from a Christian point of view. Using a variety of methodological perspectives, the essays explore the ethical and doctrinal implications of music-making. The reflections are grouped according to the traditional threefold ministry of Christ: prophet, priest, and shepherd: the prophetic role of music, as a means of articulating protest against injustice, offering consolation, and embodying a harmonious order; the pastoral role of music: creating and sustaining community, building peace, fostering harmony with the whole of creation; and the priestly role of music: in service of reconciliation and restoration, for individuals and communities, offering prayers of praise and intercession to God.


Using music in priestly, prophetic, and pastoral ways, Christians pray for and rehearse the coming of God’s kingdom—whether in formal worship, social protest, concert performance, interfaith sharing, or peacebuilding. Whereas temperance was of prime importance in relation to the ethics of music from antiquity to the early modern period, justice has become central to contemporary debates. This book seeks to contribute to those debates by means of Christian theological reflection on a wide range of musics: including monastic chant, death metal, protest songs, psalms and worship music, punk rock, musical drama, interfaith choral singing, Sting, and Daft Punk.

Words and Music

The Rilke post from earlier got me thinking about the first poem I ever memorized.

Obviously, nursery rhymes were first, and then songs like Jesus Loves Me. Then, when I started school, My Country Tis of Thee, America the Beautiful, The Star-Spangled Banner, Simple Gifts.

In fourth grade we had to memorize and recite poems, so of course we all asked if we could do Top 40. Someone beat me to We Didn’t Start the Fire (I memorized it anyway…we all did), so I did Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins. The song really affected me. Years later, I’d find myself working street-level with the homeless populations of the Lehigh Valley. What had seemed like a very 80s problem has gotten so much worse.

The first sort of classic poem I ever memorized was To Althea From Prison by Lovelace, the cavalier. It’s very famous, especially for this line:

Stone Walls do not a Prison make,
Nor Iron bars a Cage;

but the ones that really got me were

When (like committed linnets) I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, Mercy, Majesty,
And glories of my King;
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how Great should be,
Enlargèd Winds, that curl the Flood,
Know no such Liberty.

and especially:

When I lie tangled in her hair,
And fettered to her eye,
The Gods that wanton in the Air,
Know no such Liberty.

I was 15, so yeah. Killed me. Still does.

It strikes me now that “Slide Away” by Oasis, which I also discovered around that time, is a cavalier poem from the Council Estates. I love it so much.

Medleys

Happy Thanksgiving from the Cocca Internet Array.

Two kinds of medleys on my mind. The vegetable kind, for obvious reasons, and the musical kind. I was playing with a chord progression/strum pattern just now, and decided that “We Are Going to Be Friends” and “Rock Around the Clock” make an excellent medley (play them both in G).

“We Are Going to Be Friends” is also a prequel to “Thirteen” by Big Star as far as I’m concerned.

Enjoy having all of those songs in your head today. I know I will.