“Why Should the Devil Have All of the Good Music?”

“Why Should the Devil Have All of the Good Music?”- Variously attributed to Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Salvation Army founder William Booth

First let’s put that myth to bed. There is no evidence Martin Luther, John Wesley, or William Booth said such but according to my parent’s generation we were all going to hell listening to the Devil’s own rock-n-roll.

It would seem each previous generation thought the same thing all the way back to the Middle Ages. I wonder what my grandparents thought about the “torch singers” of the Forties or their parents thought of the Jazz and Blues in the Twenties? I wonder if my mother sat under an “apple tree” with anyone else but my father during WW 2 while listening to Glenn Miller or The Andrews Sisters.

Reading the reactions to Sam Smith and Kim Petra’s performance at the Grammy’s and Rihanna’s performance during the Super Bowl another older generation thinks the younger generation is on the slippery slope to hell and these performers are minions of Lucifer providing a helping hand to their downward haul. It also gives, in Sam’s and Kim’s case, a convenient “Satanic” target for those not happy with the “woke” support of the LGBTQIA+ community and who, in Rihanna’s case, might believe that “Negro” music and the “Devil’s” music are the same.

This is not an opinion piece on how good someone’s music is or is not. I was unimpressed by both performances, but Sam, Kim, and Rihanna were not singing to people in my age group demographics any more than Perry Como or Dean Martin were singing to mine during the Fifties. Many of the singers who sang to my demographic are molding in the grave…except for Keith Richards and Willie Nelson, of course. They will outlive my grandchildren it seems.

To quote Tom Taylor, a writer for Far Out, a site in the UK, “From utterly insane tales of Kiss front man Gene Simmons having a cow’s tongue to the satanic panic of Judas Priest sneaking hidden messages into their songs, the devil is often depicted as the despicable puppet master who makes the marionette of rock ‘n’ roll move. It was yelled at Elvis Presley when his hips were first thrusting pop culture into existence, and it continues to this day in the mutated form of musicians being accused of being in the Illuminati. We may have secularized the slander, but rock ‘n’ roll has always been tarred with the brush of Beelzebub.”

I would have to add Jerry Lee Lewis’ “great balls of fire,” Little Richard “banging your box”, Chuck Berry’s “little ding-a-ling”, and Lew Christie’s “rhapsody of teen-age love gone too far in the rain.” I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Tina Turner seeming to make oral love to her microphone while shaking it in the oh so short skirts and high heels.

Several of these performers were banned from mainstream radio play at various times and Elvis’ hips were not visible on the old Ed Sullivan Show as he was purposely filmed from the waist up. Somehow banning sounds familiar in the light of today. How many from my generation slowed down their forty-fives trying to figure out exactly what “Louie, Louie” was up to on that Kingsman record.

I’d say much of my generation’s devil’s music was more metaphor than ‘out there’, but it was there. And when the late Sixties hit with the dope smokin’, go, go girls dancin’ in cages, and the braless halter tops, it was obvious that Satan had us by the hand and was seductively drawing in another generation with his music instead of using a serpent to tempt with an apple.

Unfortunately, much of the devil’s music railed against by my parents’ generation had to do more with who was singing it rather than what was being sung. The “whitewashed” rhythm and blues and Rock-a-Billy of Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Carl Perkins was bad enough, and don-t get them talkin’ bout those longhaired British boys, but white kids crowded around a bandstand featuring African American singers and cheering while dancing “The Dirty Dog” was proof that Satan was moving among us.

That reminded me of a few “PJ” driven Frat and Sorority parties. PJ stood for Purple Jesus, a fruity concoction involving grape juice and grain alcohol or moonshine that would leave you uttering Jesus’ name in vain from the next morning’s hangover. Jesus’ name but it was Lucifer’s brew.

I never danced The Dirty Dog but my crew cut was present to hear James Brown and Fabulous Flames, Eddie Floyd, Billy Stewart, Otis Redding, and Archie Bell at venues where the performers themselves were not welcomed had they not been singing. Big haired white girls in Bobby Socks jumping around cheering for “The Godfather of Soul” as he pranced about singing “Try Me” was more than some of the previous generation could endure.

In my research I found the “Devil’s Music” moniker dates back much farther than just my lifetime. During the Medieval period music that was not church music nor followed the church’s rules was the Devil’s music. Gregorian chants or be damned!

Madrigals were considered the Devil’s music because they sang mostly about having sex. Ending a piece on a minor chord was also forbidden which gave us the Piccardi third (raising the third of the final chord of a piece in a minor so it cold ended on a major). The tritone was also banned. (I have no idea what a Piccardi third or tritone was or a cold end, but failing to use them must have been bad sending the performer straight to the bowels of hell.) Did you know that most of our concepts of Satan and Hell comes from Dante’s The Divine Comedy and not the Bible?

In modern and American terms, the Blues was considered the devil’s music by both the White and African American religious communities at the turn of the 20th century because of song content tied to drinking and dancing. The Baptist, especially, considered any dancing “dirty dancing” and only one step above the horizontal rumba.

The association of the Blues and Jazz with the Devil carried over to rock and roll and Elvis’ hips. Didn’t Blues great Robert Johnson sell his soul to the Devil? Well…that’s the legend at least.

Drinking, dancing, and forbidden sex were the original reasons. Voodoo New Orleans musicians didn’t help the cause nor did the fears I addressed earlier by middle Americans about their white kids listening to “black” music. Then there was Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath…and now Sam Smith, Kim Petra, and Rihanna. My guess is that protests will continue and someone else will take their place in future generations.

John Lennon of The Beatles didn’t endear himself to Christians in 1966 when he made his infamous comment that The Beatles were, “More popular than God.” Christians everywhere added to the air pollution as they burned their vinyl Beatles records. It was a comment taken out of context and judging from The Beatles’ lasting influence and the decline in the Christian church, he might have been correct.

My generation, the latter-day Boomers who are the standard bearers, along with the Gen Xers they produced, for the “our off springs are turning to Satanism” group. I find such comments humorous. I remember the heat we took for growing our hair long, platform shoes, miniskirts, hot pants, and go-go boots…the Devil’s weed, “Make love not war” and “the summer of love.” Yes, Satan was behind our every move, I guess. Now we do what our previous generations did, point and cry out, “You are going to hell and your music is taking you there.”

I do think we had cooler cars with better music blasting from our AM radios or eight tracks. We dressed cooler with our bell bottoms and flowery shirts with long, pointy collars or Nehru jackets. Grandma before she was Grandma looked great without a bra on under her sweater and in her miniskirt and boots, a Salem 100 held between lips or fingers featuring bright red lacquered fingernails and lipstick. Red, the color of the Devil, right Sam? Right Rihanna? The devil dressed us too, I know our parents believed it.

Those horrible dances we did…unscripted like Pagan fertility dances…some of which were successful, and I wonder how many Gen Xers were conceived in the back seats of cars listening to Chicago Transits’ “Memory of the Coming Good” or Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman?”

Remember the angel and devil scene from Animal House? I had a few of those conversations, the angelic voice on one shoulder was usually drowned out by the devil’s on the other. Some of my escapades didn’t hold up well in the light of day but at the time….

I don’t think my music and the performances of the day took me down the primrose path to destruction. They simply made me hard of hearing. I don’t think Satan had much to do with it. Satan is more about punishment and the evil and temptation he punishes comes from within us.

Generations of young people have wanted to explore the secular world and have run afoul of societal norms written by the previous generations. Is that a sin? Maybe but again, I believe Satan has little to do with it. It is too easy to blame our evils on the Devil and not on ourselves

There “would be hell to pay when he got home. But the devil was in the back seat, keeping time to the music, and hell was a long way up the road. — T.C. Boyle

From 1968, a bit of my own Devil’s Music

Don Miller writes at https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Famazon.com%2Fauthor%2Fcigarman501%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR1tgjq5rieg3xT9P8sXpjmjtFvzyIbFO720vp2Mz92TDSp1MxyErONZwOA&h=AT0Nf5rzG7Hx_ZPo_ty1cKqJ6SGltRu7IY-Jnw-wg___W5vdYUSezDC7BJE_g_xUfqUDzy_a-i6RGmKwlZkcZ4rUqe3qZkbC2AZDJnH3niSQNdKFPtitUgkJcTo9PLA_y1fJ8NbdkqLNqLg_YDQPFQ

His latest novel is “Thunder Along the Copperhead”, a depression era historical romance

For What It’s Worth

 

The song has been running in my head since I heard it early this morning as I tromped up and down the hills around my foothills home. The pain of the steep hills has been replaced by the pain of my broken mind. I’m not depressed, am I? “Children what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down” reminds me of a flushed toilet with its contents circling before disappearing. Maybe I am depressed.  Thank you, Buffalo Springfield and my playlist.

The song became an anthem for the anti-war crowd in the late Sixties and early Seventies but was not written as such. It was written to protest a curfew put into place around the famed Whiskey a Go-Go, a West Hollywood music venue. The status quo (read conservative adults) had become upset about the noise, loitering and traffic congestion caused by crazy kids high on life, “Young people speakin’ their minds, are getting so much resistance far behind.” The culture clash became known as the Sunset Strip curfew riots and featured counterculture clashes with the Los Angeles Police.

My thoughts, my thoughts…. In the late Sixties, I was not a member of the counterculture. I was still the proud, flat-top sporting, John Wayne adoring, “my country right or wrong” conservative.  I’m still proud just not as conservative as I once was.  My country can be and has been wrong.

I grew out of my flat-top during my high school and college years but no one would have confused me with a long-haired hippie freak.  I ignored protest music for the soulful sounds of rhythm and blues and Beach Music, and bells and Jesus sandles for Weegins and stifly starched khakis.  Afterall if it didn’t effect me why should I worry…well, I’m worried.

Because of my worry I have become the aging, white-bearded, balding hippie, embracing those things I should have embraced fifty years ago, although I still toke on cigars rather than weed and find the conservative drug of choice, beer, and Jack Daniels, more palatable…beer and Jack Daniels separately, not mixed. Certain libations transcend social and political orientations.

I had flirted with the left but hadn’t gone ape-shit liberal until my Autumn years when I found Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin more in line with my musical and political taste than Florida-Georgia Line. Country?  That ain’t country.

It always begins with the devil’s music…even if it was from the Sixties.  Having ignored it in my youth it was as if I had discovered Coronado’s Seven Cities of Gold.  First, it’s Rock-n-Roll and before you know it, sex and drugs along with a good dose of liberalism are rearing their radical heads.

I’m a little long of tooth for “free love” and “psychedelics” but my middle of the road liberalism seemed to fit better with what I believe are the ills facing our world; global climate change, hunger, lack of clean water, wage inequality, unchecked capitalism, and a government that reminds me more of a Russian oligarchy.  Funny…my change coincided with the birth of grand children.

My thoughts ramble, I am astounded.  “Something’s happin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” Those people I considered liberal in my childhood and my early adulthood have become the status quo of today, the conservative adults wondering what has happened to the youth of today…or their aging hippie teacher.

This from the former blue jean, mini-skirted, halter topped or John Travolta “catch me, f@#$ me” leisure suited crowd, now nattily dressed in their dark blue suits and red ties. They are now the conservatives resisting social and political change, many to the point of embracing any conspiracy related to the evils hiding under their beds.

My “outlaw”, dope-smoking brother even became the paragon of the conservative status quo, forgoing Seventies drug use and briefly flirting with Tea Party politics.  Well, he is still a tee shirt, cargo pants kind of guy.  At least he wears his UNC cap “fore and aft.”  I believe it might have something to do with marriage and business ownership.  Settling down?

My characterization is unfair, my brother is the epitome of the too-often quoted, “social liberal, fiscal conservative.” He helped start and continues to support a food kitchen and other social programs.

The give away is his musical tastes.  They are “neo-hippie” and “Americana”…kind of like mine. He doesn’t think modern country is country either.  It seems his square pegs won’t fit in my round holes…maybe I should take a look at my own square pegs.

Truth?  We don’t stray far from each other’s political or social beliefs. We enjoy many of the same things, and share a live and let live attitude.  I just find it necessary to give grief to my younger brother.

What amazes…and concerns me are the protests popping up.  I should say the types of protests.  Stanchly conservative, dare I say right-wing reactionaries…protestors dressed in camo and battle gear, sporting assault-style weapons have replaced hippies putting flowers down the barrel of rifles.  What?

Make Love, not War does not seem to be their mantra. I think the lyrics from Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, might fit them better.“All along the watchtower, princes kept the view.  While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.”  It seems they want to keep the masses in view…and under their thumb.Based on Isaiah, I like the Hendrix version the best.

It was just a few years, months ago, the same folk were shaming “liberal” teachers for walking out of their classes for more pay and smaller class sizes, global climate change idiots led by a sixteen year old, railing against Black Lives Matter, and cheering when Native Americans were arrested or water blasted for protesting an oil pipeline through their native lands. Oil pipe…peace pipe…hum…water pipe.

The hippie legions from fifty years ago are either rolling in their graves or wondering what kind of bad shit was in those edibles or ‘srooms.

“What a field day for the heat.  A thousand people in the street.  Singing songs and a carryin’ signs.  Mostly say, “hooray for our side.” 

It’s time we stopped.  Hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

Stephen Stills was quoted saying, “It (For What it’s Worth) turned out to be indicative of what was about to happen.” And I would add, “Continues to happen.” The only changes are the participants and the battlefields they argue over.

“There’s battle lines being drawn and nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”

***

Added note:  I don’t want to be  accused of viewing history through rose colored granny glasses.  Not all left led protest were peaceful and the violence was not necessarily prompted by the minions of the status quo.  At least the police didn’t face protestors with AR-15s.

I decided to include All Along the Watchtower….

YouTube.  Jimi Hendrix live in Munster, 1/14/69

Buffalo Springfield, YouTube Vid of them at the Hollywood Palace in 1967.

The Flower Power photograph is by Bernie Boston, taken during “March on The Pentagon”, 21 October 1967.

Featured image is of protesters of the Michagin shelter in place order.