Saturday, August 27, 2016

THE JUKEBOX HERO HYMNAL: Hymn 029: God, Love & Rock N' Roll by Teegarden & Van Winkle

We haven't added a song to the Jukebox Hero Hymnal for a while, but after being reminded recently of the old one-hit wonder, God, Love & Rock N' Roll (on Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast! of all places), I knew it had to go in. Originally starting out as The Sunday Servants, the Detroit duo of David Teegarden and Skip Knape (aka Van Winkle) worked steadily throughout the 60s and 70s, even spending some time with Bob Seger, but they only made it onto the charts once with this little jaunt into Jesus Rock. Gospel fans will probably catch on quickly that God, Love & Rock N' Roll borrows liberally from the traditional spiritual Amen, but the results are so catchy that it's hard to get too worked up over it.

Like most Jesus Rock, the lyrics to God, Love & Rock N' Roll are fairly innocuous. Typical of popular music produced at the tip end of the Vietnam War, there are the usual calls to "still the fires" and "give peace a chance." The majority of the tune, however, is a simple invocation to each of us to reaffirm our belief in God and love and... rock n' roll? Obviously that last part is a bit problematic theologically speaking. We're not supposed to put our faith in any earthly thing, especially not a style of music whose name is often preceded by the words "sex and drugs and..."

However, it's unlikely that's the kind of rock music Teegarden & Van Winkle are warbling about here. The Rev. Basil Nortz, O.R.C., not a big fan of rock n' roll, once noted that while "bad music tends to absolutize the passions, making their pleasure or hate a good in itself, such that right reason more and more loses dominion with the result that the individual falls victim to the passions... good music will stimulate the emotions in such a way that these faculties of the soul, under the guidance of reason, are made to more effectively pursue the good of the individual and his neighbor."

Given the context of the song, that second type of music is most likely what Teegarden & Van Winkle are extolling in God, Love & Rock N' Roll. They're professing a belief that a good tune can stimulate our emotions in such a way that we turn away from destructive behaviors and turn towards those things which can have a positive effect on ourselves and the world around us. Sure, Rev. Nortz is correct that there's plenty of songs out there that do just the opposite, but when it comes to God, Love & Rock N' Roll at least, it's hard not to get a big old happy grin when you listen to it.

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