Sunday, June 28, 2009

Civil Religion Music Pantheon

Michael Jackson is being inducted into the musical pantheon of American civil religion. As I mentioned yesterday, I don't care much for his songs. This puts me out of step with some of my peers (Jackson is my age).

Actually, I have a similar reaction to Elvis. Elvis was a big star for the generation before me, so it is not considered as much of an oddity that I am not a big Elvis fan. I actually appreciate Elvis more to sing along with than I do most popular performers, because he sings in my range. Most male lead singers are too high for me.

Frank Sinatra occupies a similar position for the generation before Elvis. There are moods when Sinatra is just the right background, but I rarely embrace the sentiment of the song. And "The Lady is a Tramp" is as offensive as any rap song when you listen to the words.

Among the living, I think Bob Dylan is the most likely future inductee, as a writer, despite his terrible singing. I think Leonard Cohen is worth a look on the same grounds; perhaps he will make the Canadian pantheon. There was an interesting discussion on the excellent website Booker Rising on whether Jay-Z has succeeded to that place of honor with Jackson's passing.

My vote, though, goes to Bruce Springsteen. For my demographic, he is shaping in the way that an icon should be. I think he is sane enough to age well. 20 years after his peak as the biggest performer in the world, events called on him to write the best 9/11 album. I expect there will be hard times in the future for which he may produce another Rising.

I have thought about teaching a course on the class significance of iconic performers called "The King, The Boss, and the Chairman of the Board." Perhaps the self-styled King of Pop deserves a day - maybe a week - in that class, too.


TallCoolOne said...

Nice post, Gruntled. I think you're dead on in this one. And that (proposed) course sounds interesting, too.

I didn't really like Springsteen until the album with "Youngstown" came out. Since then, though, I'm something of a fan. I definitely thought "Working on a Dream" was not only a great song, but a GREAT theme for "The Wrestler" -- which was, in so many ways, a loving homage to some of the more tawdry, but still cherished, elements of my childhood.

Black Sea said...

Don't forget James Brown -- The Godfather of Soul, Kurt Cobain--The Godfather of Grunge, and Joe Strummer, not really the Godfather of anything, but he has a place in the Pantheon anyway.

Neil Young belongs in a Canadian Pantheon, assuming he still thinks of himself as Canadian.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit younger than you. Michael Jackson and the movie Footloose were all the rage when I was in high school. My music taste always ran more towards 1950s rock, 1960s folk/protest music (Peter, Paul, and Mary and Bob Dylon), and old time music (mostly small loval bands). It was not until I was at Centre that I met people my own age with the same musical taste.