Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Fallen Angel, the premiere

Really looking forward to seeing this film. I've known about it for awhile, but just found out it's premiering at a theater about 3 blocks from my apartment, April 20. Got my tickets right away!

I was a fan of contemporary Christian music as soon as I heard it. It was in the 70's, and unless you count the music I heard at church that was made mostly by adults and aimed mostly at teens, the first CCM music I remember hearing was by Andrew Culverwell (or just "Andrew"). My mom brought his album (on cassette) home from a convention of GA's (Girls in Action, a Southern Baptist missions education program/club that I'm pretty sure has changed its name for obvious reasons). Songs with a beat, with guitars, and clever lyrics that had a serious biblical message but peppered with a sense of humor ("There'll be bread in the city tomorrow, in the city tomorrow there'll be bread. If you say you don't believe and...[something]...you can't conceive, in the city, tomorrow you'll be dead"). Can't remember it all, but I liked it.

After discovering more CCM artists such as Sweet Comfort Band, Degarmo & Key, Amy (of course) Grant, the Imperials (having evolved from Southern Gospel to what came to include an Earth Wind & Fire imitation) and even a Swedish (?) hard rock group called Jerusalem, I worked backward in music "history" to find Larry Norman. He's considered by most to be the father or grandfather of popular Christian rock. Very strange (and therefore cool) stuff; very creative, and most of it not churchy at all. However, the church crowd would hear his post-rapture lament "I Wish We'd All Been Ready," when it became a youth choir favorite and was heard (if I'm not mistaken) in the film "A Thief in the Night," a forerunner (so to speak) of the much-later "Left Behind" series.

Turns out, the more I've read by him and about him over the years, Larry had some serious issues, and was not the most mentally stable individual you could meet (possibly due in part to an in-flight head injury, but he was already pretty weird). For awhile he accused Bill Gaither (though not by name) of stealing his material. Come to think of it, not the most unlikely thing he said...but the fact that he even talked about it, much less posted it, was unusual in the music biz, especially the Christian music biz.

My interest in the music offered by the CCM industry (which is what it became) has waned over the years, to the point where I seldom listen to CCM radio. I feel like I know what they're going to say already, and it's mostly aimed at teens anyway, and I'm one of those people who are less than impressed with the lyrical depth of it all, and maybe I'm too close to it in some ways to get excited about...so for the most part it doesn't speak to me much. My own music has followed the same trend away from overt religiosity. I'm more impacted by the truths that hit me when I'm not looking, and from unlikely places. And I think it's more of a challenge to write that kind of song, as well, while at the same time I can do that kind of song anywhere without feeling like I'm pushing something on someone who, rather than responding, is more likely to be turned away by the effort. Parables rather than sermons are my favorite model for songwriting. Everyone knows the stories are more interesting and more memorable.

Anyhoo, I look forward to a fascinating and possibly disturbing time seeing this film--like a NASCAR crash--especially given the things it promises in its trailer to cover. However, I think it's a healthy thing that the truth is known about Christians as famous as Norman was (to his fans), and as much as he influenced the whole genre of CCM (intentionally or not). The church tends to put famous Christians in an impossible position: we revere them as saints and apostles, yet hold them to standards we ourselves don't really believe possible (or necessary, for that matter, thanks to grace) for anyone to maintain. The result is that any hint of the failure that is inevitable in a human life is bound to be a stumbling block. We set a trap, and condemn our catch. Silly, when all along, we've been told there's only one perfect Man, and He's our only legitimate example for life.

Larry Norman was many things. Musical genius. Prophet. Great entertainer. Sinner. But fallen angel? Nope (that would technically make him a demon, beyond redemption). Just another fallen man. Those are everywhere (such as behind my keyboard right now). But not all permanently down, thank God. Thank God, for sure!


Biscuit said...

That song! What is it??
The lyrics are: There'll be bread in the city tomorrow, in the city tomorrow there'll be bread. But if you say don't believe, then the bread you won't receive, and in the city tomorrow there'll be bread. But you'll be dead. My mum used to sing it, but I don't know that it's very well known!

Mark Kelly Hall said...

Thanks for the clarification on the lyrics! Apparently the song is called "There'll Be Bread" and it's on the album called "Andrew" on Manna Records. Look on this site: http://www.angelfire.com/biz7/waynesstorefront/ Don't know if the site is current (I doubt it) but even the titles bring back memories! I suspect there are a few copies around somewhere, especially here in Nashville...who knows where, though! : )