The Battle of Rock ‘n’ Roll
Rock ‘n’ roll is often misunderstood due to how it is commonly portrayed in our society. This genre of music is almost always associated with dark forces and the occult, which in reality, is a prime example of “judging a book by its cover”. As an unknown writer once said, “We live in a very superficial society. It is very easy to fall into the trap of looking only at the surface of people, things, and ideas without taking the time and effort to delve deeper into them.” A seemingly unrelated topic that works nicely as an analogy for this misjudgment is the treatment of Blacks throughout history. At its surface, Rock ‘n’ roll does show signs of being solely based around darkness. However, underneath that surface is a wide collection of songs pertaining to the most eclectic of topics. Black people are judged because of their skin color, even though they are human beings just like everyone else. Until people open their minds (or their ears), and truly pay attention to who Black people are as individuals and what Rock ‘n’ roll truly signifies, they are left with demeaning and unfair images that are nowhere near the actuality.
An in depth look into Rock ‘n’ roll shows a melting pot of widely unrelated topics, most having nothing to do with dark forces and the occult. The anti-war and anti-violence sentiment of the 60’s can be heard through songs like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”, which attacked militant patriotic behavior and the individuals who supported the fight without getting their own hands dirty, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U. S. A.”, which addresses the harmful effects that the Vietnam War had on Americans. Rock ‘n’ roll also has quite few songs about love, some coming from bands that would not normally be associated with the theme- including “Forever” by Kiss (which details a man’s realization that his love for a certain girl will last forever), and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses (which was inspired by a poem band mate Axl Rose wrote about his girlfriend at the time). And one of the best proofs that Rock ‘n’ roll was not centered on darkness is a little song by Jimmy Buffet called, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. This song has no double meaning, and is entirely about a man’s love for cheeseburgers. There is absolutely nothing dark forces in it, which can be said for a majority of Rock ‘n’ roll songs.
The misunderstanding of Rock ‘n’ roll can be paralleled with the unfair treatment of Blacks throughout history. Opinion on them is commonly based on their skin color instead of who they are as a person. Take Solomon Northup, the free African- American who had to endure twelve years as a slave. As a few writers from the Encyclopedia Britannica have said, “Solomon received some education and worked on his family’s farm as a child. He married Anne Hampton in 1828. In 1834, after selling their farm, the couple moved to Saratoga Springs, New York, where they worked odd jobs to support their three children. Northup also established a reputation as a talented fiddler.” Contrary to the popular belief of the time that African-Americans were savages and naturally inferior to White Americans, Solomon Northup was a hard worker who was able to create a mostly stable lifestyle for his family, and even became a renown musician. Unfortunately, he was lured by two men who judged him based off of his skin to travel to Washington DC, where he was drugged and sold into slavery. For the next twelve years he worked as a slave for different masters, who did not believe that he was a free and educated African-American. He was being judged by his skin, not his true self. After finally securing his freedom, Northup ended up writing his memoir, which revealed to the world his side of the story. Another Black individual who was much more than he appeared to be on the outside was Thomas-Alexandre Dumas. The father of famed writer Alexandre Dumas, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas defied expectations and led an adventure of a life. As Tom Reiss, author of The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, says in an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon , “He’s a black man, born into slavery, and then he rises higher than any black man rose in a white society before our own time,” and that, “He became a four-star general and challenges Napoleon, and he did it all 200 years ago, at the height of slavery.” In a time when Blacks were commonly found to be slaves, this one man was able to break expectations by becoming a respected general for the French army. And although his life story ended in an unfortunate manner, thanks in part to a ploy by Napoleon (who disliked Dumas for being successful and the opposite of him physically) to get rid of him, Dumas’ influence lived on, especially through some of his son’s most popular characters, such as Edmond Dantès and the musketeer d’Artagnan. Both Solomon Northup and Thomas-Alexandre Dumas highlight the “judging of a book by its cover” that took place in history, which in turn mirrors the misunderstanding of Rock ‘n’ roll.
And yet, people still view Rock ‘n’ Roll as a type of music that highlights the worst qualities in human beings. When they think of it, these people picture scenes involving blood, darkness, satanic rituals, and vulgar movements. These beliefs are the effects of preachers’ efforts to denounce Rock ‘n’ Roll. Why these religious individuals are acting against the popular form of music, and influencing people’s view of it, unsurprisingly involves more than one overlapping cause.
The most immediate cause of this attack on Rock ‘n’ roll is, of course, that the music genre highlights themes that are greatly looked down upon in religious groups. As two devoutly religious men by the names of Alan Yusko and Ed Prior have said, “The term ‘rock and roll’ means fornication. It is a street name for sexual immorality. It has wrecked the lives of many teenagers through suicide, drug abuse, immorality, perversion, satanism, etc.” These actions conflict entirely with the morals commonly taught in churches- including love, purity, morality, and respectfulness to the Lord. So, in the eyes of preachers, it would seem only logical to denounce the source of all this blasphemy.
Contributing to this cause is the way the media supports this portrayal Rock ‘n’ roll. It is no secret that the media will twist the truth and choose sides to produce eye catching news. Rem Rieder of USA Today once said, “Life is packed with nuances and subtleties and shades of gray. But the news media are often uncomfortable in such murky terrain. They prefer straightforward narratives, with good guys and bad guys, heroes, and villains. Those tales are much easier for readers and viewers to relate to.” Therefore, in this matter, it makes sense that God’s most devout followers are portrayed as the heroes. And it also makes sense that Rock ‘n’ Roll is portrayed as the villain, since it invokes dark forces and the Devil, as countless preachers have claim. The more interesting news story is not that Rock ‘n’ Roll has the power to make people’s lives better, but that it is a way for people to let their malevolent natures free. And through computers, TVs, tablets, and cell phones, the media is now always present in people’s lives. Our society is brainwashed into believing everything that appears news worthy, and rarely takes the time to search for the truth.
The most remote cause for preachers to denounce Rock ‘n’ Roll is the diminishing number of people attending church. According to Dr. Richard J. Krejcir of churchleadership.org, “Most of the statistics tell us that nearly 50% of Americans have no church home. In the 1980s, membership in the church had dropped almost 10%; then, in the 1990s, it worsened by another 12% drop-some denominations reporting a 40% drop in their membership. And now, over half way through the first decade of the 21st century, we are seeing the figures drop even more!” Each subsequent generation slowly drifted away from church. Many preachers, witnessing this loss of followers, decided to lay the blame on Rock ‘n’ Roll, using it as a scapegoat. They claimed that the music was connected to the blasphemous values of sex, drugs, and irresponsibility, which in turn would attract young people who were not educated enough to make the right decision. Their denouncement of Rock ‘n’ Roll would be publicized in the media, which would influence society’s view of the music, and which in turn they hoped would bring people back to church as protection.
There is a precipitating cause included, however. When Rock ‘n’ Roll truly hit the music scene and took the world by storm, it actually seduced the preachers. They had grown up in conservative lifestyles with very “tame” music, and with the emergence of Rock, they experienced types of sounds unlike any they had ever heard before. Eventually, the preachers realized that they had become attracted to something other than God, which they considered to be a great sin. They had fallen into temptation and did not want the public to find out. So, like their ancestral religious brothers did when confronted by the emergence of the scientifically-proven theories of evolution and the heliocentric system, they denounced it as the work of the Devil. And since new preachers were taught by those that came before, this thought process was passed down through the generations.
Even with all of these causes trying to prove otherwise however, Rock ‘n’ roll is not the music of Satan. Rock musicians do not have dark forces in their intentions. Many of their songs highlight positive values, life lessons, and random events. Performers like Jimmy Buffett, the Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen would never be thought of as linked with the devil. But like every debatable topic, there is always a rebuttal argument (which can be rebutted with the right evidence as well). In this case, the main rebuttal argument is that seemingly harmless Rock stars, including the ones listed above, have actually been involved with dark forces.
Yes, these singers do mostly sing about happy situations. But they have also dabbled with influences of Satan. Uncovering this truth will prove that Rock ‘n’ Roll has darkness running entirely through it, even in the areas that appear the brightest. For example, Jimmy Buffett, the founder of Margaritaville, is beloved by fans for singing songs about relaxation, maritime life, and cheeseburgers in paradise. However, he does have one song that mocks God and promotes blasphemous behavior- “Too Drunk to Karaoke”. As David J. Stewart explains, “Toby Keith and Jimmy Buffet encourage booze drinkers to drink, drink, drink… until you’re ‘TOO DRUNK TO KARAOKE.’ The video is a disgrace, encouraging alcoholism and irresponsible behavior.”Jimmy Buffett, with this one song, has gone against all that he is known for.
The same thing can be said for the not-so- Fab Four. John, Paul, George, and Ringo are known as the pioneers of the British Invasion. Millions of fans loved them, especially attracting the attention of girls as the four cute guys from Liverpool. But the quartet was not the innocent boy band that they appeared to be. The most blatant proof of this can be seen (and heard) in their infamous album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The front cover of this album features the four Beatles surrounded by controversial figures from history- including Marilyn Monroe, Karl Marx, and Bob Dylan. The most unsettling figure included however is Aleister Crowley, a well-known English occultist. His inclusion is a clear sign that the Beatles were fans of occult rituals. Another indication that these men were not the most perfect of guys is the meaning of the song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. A close analysis shows that the Beatles in this song are glorifying the effects of taking a drug- LSD. These seemingly innocent men could not resist highlighting the influences of the Devil.
Unfortunately, New Jersey’s The Boss, whose music is loved by people of all ages, could not resist the sweet temptation either. This resulted in an unanticipated action by a popular coffee shop chain. As reporter Dave Lifton mentions,”Starbucks banned his latest album, Devils & Dust, from its stores, in part due to explicit lyrics in one of the songs.” To really hit this point home, here are some lyrics from the track in question- “She slipped me out of her mouth/’You’re ready,’ she said/She took off her bra and panties/Wet her fingers, slipped it inside her/And crawled over me on the bed.” This song unabashedly promotes sex, one of Satan’s favorite values. Starbucks can’t have this song play in its shops, and it should not be play anywhere else either.
Even Rock ‘n’ Roll’s brightest individuals have been motivated by darkness.
Now is the time to shoot this rebuttal argument down. Jimmy Buffett’s song “Too Drunk to Karaoke” is an attempt by him to connect to a younger audience, one that likes to listen to songs about “hardcore” partying. He enlisted the help of Toby Keith to write the song, as his music is known to promote wild behavior. So technically, the song is actually Toby Keith’s, with Jimmy Buffett’s name receiving top billing. Plus, the song is very much Country (Keith’s main genre), making it an entirely different beast than those of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Moving on to the Beatles, it must be recognized that they are just rebellious young adults. They used controversial figures including Aleister Crowley in order to set themselves apart from other bands, and because they found these individuals to be memorable in history, which is what they wanted to become.Concerning the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, there shouldn’t be any attempts at over-analyzing. As the website Shmoop explains,”John Lennon said in many different interviews that the song title was simply inspired by a drawing that his four-year-old son, Julian, brought home from school.”A little boy’s drawing inspired the song, not drug use.
With Bruce Springsteen’s song “Reno”, there is a similar situation as Jimmy Buffett’s “Too Drunk to Karaoke”- it is not Rock ‘n’ Roll. The Boss’s whole album, Devils & Dust, was his attempt at being a Country star. And his song is not promoting sex with a prostitute. The final lyrics are “She brought me another whisky/Said ‘Here’s to the best you ever had’/We laughed and made a toast/It wasn’t the best I ever had/Not even close.” Springsteen is saying that his experience with this woman of the night was not that great.
A common thread in all of these rebuttals is that they all focus on only one song or album from each specific artist. This means that the opposition has only been able to find only one instance that they could twist to their advantage in each performer(s)’ career. The opposition is in fact unintentionally endorsing the music of Jimmy Buffett, the Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen as being wholesome and not objectionable by only finding single questionable “faults”.
As a side note, it should be mentioned that a popular offshoot of Rock ‘n’ Roll is Christian Rock. This form of music centers on songs related to promoting faith and good lessons in a contemporary fashion. Many of these tunes are even used in churches today to liven up the crowds. If the rebuttal argument was true, then even Satan has tainted the supposedly harmless Christian Rock performers. And that revelation will make the church institutions look like hypocrites. And sure enough, there are a couple of scandals involving these performers. In January of 2015, George Perdikis, a founding member of the popular Aussie gospel rock band Newsboys (which was notably featured in the film God’s Not Dead), came out as an atheist on a faith discussion website. Plus, as reported by Asher Bayot of Inquisitr.com, Perdikis went on to write that,“The Christian music scene is populated by many people who act as though they have a direct hotline to a God who supplies them with the answers to the Universe. There seems to be more ego and narcissism amongst Christian musicians than their secular counterparts.” Another notable scandal involves As I Lay Dying, a Christian death metal band ( an extreme subgenre of heavy metal, which is a prominent genre of Rock music). As Molly Lambert of Grantland.com has written, “Tim Lambesis, currently incarcerated lead singer of … As I Lay Dying, has admitted that the band had faked being Christian.” The band pretended to be Christian in order to make more money. One of Lambesis’ ex-bandmates, Nick Hipa echoed George Perdikis’ statement about Christian musicians by calling the former lead singer a “sociopathic narcissist”. Lambesis’ scandal also provoked talk about an industry wide issue- “How do you prove someone is really dedicated to Christianity and not just the lucrative record sales of the Christian market?”
The solution to this question is admitting the craziness in trying to hold Rock to an unattainable purity level. Not one single performer in Rock ‘n’ Roll is pure. This transcends all forms of the popular genre, including Christian Rock. It’s called being human, and Rock ‘n’ Roll should not be unfairly attacked for it.
Bayot, Asher. “Founding Member Of ‘God’s Not Dead’ Band Newsboys Comes Out As An Atheist.” The Inquisitr News. N.p., 24 Jan. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.
Cole, Rachel, David Fiske, Rachel Seligman, and Clifford Brown. “Solomon Northup | American farmer and writer” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Krejcir, Richard J., Ph.D. “Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline” Churchleadership.org. N.p., 2007. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.
Lambert, Molly. “Pray for Pay: Jailed Christian Rocker Tim Lambesis Faked His Religion.” Grantland. N.p., 23 June 2014. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.
Lifton, Dave. “Why Starbucks Banned Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Devils and Dust’” Ultimate Classic Rock. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.
Rieder, Rem. “Media got Zimmerman story wrong from start ” USA Today. Gannett, 14 July 2013. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.
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Simon, Scott, and Tom Reiss. “‘The Black Count,’ A Hero On The Field, And The Page” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Springsteen, Bruce. “BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN LYRICS – Reno” Azlyrics.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.
Stewart, David J. “Too Drunk To Karaoke”: Hit Song Mocks God. N.p., Aug. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.
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Yusco, Alan, and Ed Prior. “RELIGIOUS ROCK… The music of devils in the CHURCH” RELIGIOUS ROCK… The Music of Devils in the CHURCH. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.