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The 27 Club, Rock and Roll and that stone in your hand
The other day, after hearing about Amy Winehouse's death I began doing a search on her life. I didn't know too much about her and was just interested in learning a little more. While doing this search I found out her age at the time of her death gave her immediate membership into the legendary "27 Club". Sometimes referred to as the Forever 27 Club, this is basically a compiled group of famous and almost famous composers, musicians and singers who died at the age of 27. The rank of members include such famed rock-and-rollers as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, as well as other performers like Blues maestro Robert Johnson and Ragtime pianist Louis Chauvin.
Now I already knew some things about several of these folks but I'd not heard of the club before. Interested, I did a little research. During my search surfing I came across a certain article regarding the 27 Club that, to say it at the most kind, came across as just a wee bit harsh. For obviously the author is under the impression that Rock and Roll is connected to Satan worship.
Now I've heard the same claims made by this author tossed around all my life. These claims have sank into the mindset of willing believers deeper than the killer's hooked hand of out urban legend. The basic premise is just as appropriate for telling around the campfire on a spooky night: that Rock-and-Roll was created by the devil. That if you play certain records or albums backward you hear Satanic messages. That Satan's main objective with Rock is to turn the young against parents and Jesus alike. And last but not least, some godless rock stars have even sold their soul to the devil. The author who wrote this article referred to all these things, along with raising the suggestion that the members of the 27 Club were all immoral, depraved drug users who made deals with the Evil One, bargaining away their souls for the rewards of stardom, luxury and privilege. The further dark suggestion was that no one should be surprised if it Satan wasn't the last visitor Amy Winehouse had that fateful last hour of her life.
Now I try to keep an open mind on such theories. In my youth my friends and I actually did play records backward or slowed them down in the attempt to prove or disprove that encoded message thing. And I'll admit if you play that one Beatles song according to suggested code-unearthing guidelines, it could be interpreted as "Paul is dead".
Of course, we shouldn't forget that when that album was being made literally hundreds of anti-Rock-and-Roll critics were already playing records on turntables in a manner no piece of vinyl was ever supposed to be played. I believe the Beatles saw this as an opportunity to cash in. And whether that little message was deliberately put in as a hoax or just to make sales, who really cares? If Paul McCartney died umpteen years ago and was replaced by a look-alike, well the world is none the worse. McCartney (or to speak skeptic-correctly here - whoever is still pretending to be the original McCartney) has donated millions to charitable organizations. Sorry, but if the Beatles were committed to serving Satan, even if they let his dark majesty replace the original Paul, I can't see as the substitute's charitable actions are going to meet Satan's seal of approval. Or, for that matter, George Harrison's many charitable activities while he was alive.
To be fair to the argument that well, McCartney did die and was dragged to hell, I have re-studied and considered the other "facts" that contribute to the sermon against Rock-and-Roll and successful music performers in general. I've come to some startling conclusions. They're not attractive, perhaps even disturbing. But that's what the bare truth should do. So here you, are you ready? Let's begin...
The evil dancing
One of the earliest warning signs Satanic Watchdogs picked up on about Rock-and-Roll was the dancing. As all pure, abstemious church-goers know dancing is a spiritually threatening activity. Just because King David danced and Jesus danced doesn't mean any of the rest of us should. Dancing makes your body gyrate. Its the kind of gyrating that makes you sweat and your skin flush and a gleam of happiness appear in your eyes. If done hard enough the gyration could even muss a perfectly sensible ponytail or worse, rumple the pair of trousers your hard-working mom spent hours to starch and press in just a way even God doesn't know what side of the crotch your boys lean to. Yet, when it comes to Rock-and-Roll dancing, Satanic Watchdogs know exactly how and where this dangerous trend started. And these diligent folks have been trying since the 1950's to warn everyone else about it.
According to a relative of mine this is how it went down (and this woman wears long denim skirts and no cosmetics so you know it has to be true!): many years ago in a deep, dark, unholy jungle of Africa a group of nice Missionaries from the bright, clean and morally superior industrialized world happened to turn on the radio they'd brought along. Their favorite gospel channel was all distorted and fuzzy (remember, this is the jungle and away from the civilized world). So they dialed for a channel that would come in. Low and behold they found one; one that was airing music. This music wasn't the kind the Missionaries were used to, and after a time the announcer came on to say hello to his listeners, reminding them to stay tuned for more "Rock and Roll" hits right after an important (and paid) word about acne cream.
Well, the Missionaries waited for the music to come back. and when it did who should drop by but a native from one of the nearby villages. The villager stopped and listened to the music and when the song was over the Missionaries saw a look of horror on the poor woman's face.So they asked her what was troubling her. The villager pointed to the radio and said -in her broken English, of course, because remember this isn't the CIVILIZED world- "That music is just like our tribe's old music, the music we danced to and had a merry time to. The same music you taught us is composed by Satan!"
Ah, ha!! The truth was out! Satan was working through this new-fangled music to recruit the youth of the world into his Hellish legions. So the concerned Missionaries at once snapped off the radio and immediately wrote their congressman back in the civilized world to warn them of the immediate danger. Then they left the jungle, leaving the converted natives with a nice hymnal and returned to the U.S. to give witness about this evil new music that was corrupting the underage. In this effort they held many revivals where they made big bonfires. Into the big bonfires went hundreds of Rock-and-Roll records. These were successfully destroyed and the Missionaries continued on, doing more bonfires and putting on even more prayer services. During these prayer services the Missionaries and their followers prayed for deliverance from evil by asking God to have Elvis drafted, for Little Richard be struck mute and for incestuous Jerry Lee Lewis to get right with the Lord.
To their credit Elvis was drafted and Little Richard may as well have been struck mute as his career took a swan dive soon afterward. As for Jerry Lee Lewis no one knows if he did get right with the Lord, but his cousin Jimmy Swaggart became a TV Evangelist minister who has notably been quite critical of Rock-and-Roll music. The god-fearing Swaggart also has a world-renowned reputation for his charitable work with women who work on street corners!
The song Stairway To Heaven
This Led Zeppelin song, found on the Zoso album, is loved by millions and has been rerecorded by several artists. However, the original is considered by practically every Rock enthusiast alive as one of the greatest songs ever composed, performed and recorded.
However, according to Satanic Watchdogs who devote their valuable time spinning suspect vinyl records backward on turntables, Stairway To Heaven is one of the most contemptible songs Satan ever delivered unto earth. The Satanic Watchdogs say that the lyrics, "'Cause you know that sometimes words have two meanings" is a beckon for listeners to turn off the turntable, flip the record over and play it backwards. By doing this, they contend, the listener will be introduced to a clear and undeniable message from the Devil. Now while the experts on this matter disagree on what this clear and undeniable message is, the consensus is it has something to do with "my sweet Satan". Some claim it is specifically goes on to say, "He will give those with him 666; there was a tool shed where he made us to suffer, sad Satan."
Imagine the disappointment of my friends and I when we tried this and had just as much trouble deciding on the clear and undeniable message. My buddy Helen swore it sounded more like, "Miles eats bacon" while my friend Dwayne vowed he understood the message as, "General Mills baking". On the other hand I distinctly heard, "Cicily Mills tried Trix cereal, starch taste made me swoon; bad rating."
My Mama didn't raise a dummy. Grateful to Miss Mills and Led Zeppelin for the warning I didn't touch another damned box of Trix for the duration of my high school days.
So, my many attempts to find an honest to goodness Satanic message in Rock-and-Roll records have met complete failure. I've even tried country/western records, jazz records, Blues records, classical albums; heck, I even tried the soundtrack from Deliverance. And not a single devilish whisper was to be found on any of these.
After years of searching, however, I did eventually find one suspect message on an album. This happened to be on a CD and I played hell getting that contraption to play backward. But my perseverance to find the truth paid off. Now it was a rather friendish, almost chilling summon this, but I wanted to be sure so I recruited my husband and kids for help. They all gave a listen, and yep, they said they heard the message too. Now we can't swear to it in a court of law, and who knows? It may just be the devil working on our auditory channels, but we're at least 99% convinced it was there, lurking under the pretext of accepted contemporary media and inlaid in a piece of an innocent-looking disc: Satan says eat your meat and dessert, forget the salad!
We found the chilling message on this!!
Satan took 'em all out while they enjoyed a VICE!!!
Anyone who is a self-respecting Satanic Watchdog knows instinctively that ALL musicians indulge in nasty vices. But those who also happen to believe that the members of the 27 Club were taken by Satan are assured that every single blasted one of these sinners were enjoying their favorite vice when the ole devil took them to their infernal reward. There is Janis Joplin, whose death was recorded as a heroin dose. Ok, not officially, but everyone who claimed she owed them money said she was addicted to it. But hold on, there was Jimi Hendrix! He wasn't doing drugs, no, but died from an overdose of old-fashioned Devil's Juice -alcohol! And we can just put aside the fact the coroner in that case lost his job over that bungled report and for overlooking the good possibility it was a homicide. But there's Jim Morrison! Don't forget the sinewy, over-sexed Lizard King. Yep, the cause of his death was officially listed and recorded as...unknown. Well, forget Morrison. How about that Brian Jones guy from the Rolling Stones? There's nothing like a hit of pool water going down your lungs for a good high, right? Not right? Well in that case there's Kurt Cobain..ah, ha!! Addicted to gun shots in the chest. Sigh. Alright, alright, what about R&B singer Jesse Belvin? If the head-on collision hadn't got him you just have to know the addiction to Junior Mints eventually would have!
If modern music didn't exist the devil wouldn't be making these deals for souls
Oh yeah.. it all started with the cheapening of morals ushered in after the civil war by dance music developed by non-church going "artists" from the southern United States. You know the type: people who drink moonshine, smoke cigarettes and cigars, marry their kissing cousins, have friendly relations with their papist neighbors and think the banjo is a real musical instrument! The heathens! Yeah, those types have been around for decades, slowly fine-tuning their hellish songs and coaxing young people to dance. With the invention of electricity they forged the first electric guitar. As if the acoustic guitar wasn't good enough to play hellish tunes on. Anyway, for society it has been a downhill tumble toward the Devil's clutches ever since because these decadent musicians have been bargaining away their souls to Satan left and right.
Never mind that the first alleged incident of a musician trading his soul for fame and glory was Niccolò Paganini. Born in Genoa, Italy in 1782, Paganini was a child virtuoso and grew up to be one of the most famous composers and violinists of his day. His abilities were so astounding and his music so exciting for audiences that soon his jealous peers began whispering that this man had to be in league with some supernatural force. Why, no mere human could play with such lightning speed and utter, soul-riveting beauty! And then, when he took suddenly sick and died before receiving last rites..well, that confirmed his enemies' charges, didn't it?
So the legend grew. To this very day the name Paganini instills emotions of simultaneous fear and admiration among classical musicians. His perfect, brilliant pieces are still played; these performances still thrill audiences. And the belief continues that no mortal could ever be blessed with such astonishing talent by either nature or God. But you know what? Paganini lived past the age of 27.
Should we assume the Devil just let Paganini hang around past the age of 27 because there are no violins in hell?
Or do we concede that yeah, there are simply going to be people who die at the age of 27, even famous musicians? Can we admit that there are a heck of a lot of Rock musicians who have attained success and fortune and don't owe their accomplishments to a bargain with evil? Is it possible to acknowledge that the Divine often blesses people with creative talents, even if it is a talent for a musical art form we don't personally like? If we are able to 'fess up to all these things, then maybe, just maybe we can also credit the Divine for giving us music, all music?
I know, its a hard idea for some to swallow. But I think Jesus may just agree that one swallow is a little easier than trying to cast a bunch of heavy stones around.