Sunday, December 9, 2007

Old vs. New music

As I sit in my living room, I watch Hovie Lister, Big Chief, Doy Ott, Jake Hess and Denver Crumpler, better known as the Statesmen Quartet. In the 1950’s they did a lot of promotion for Nabisco. They had a weekly television program where they would sing songs and advertise for Nabisco (National Biscuit Company). In their day, this was unheard of and way ahead of their time. Just like in a lot of other areas, they were way ahead of their time and probably the most innovative gospel group to ever be on a southern gospel stage. Hovie Lister’s standards in having a group was to have the best singers he could find, the most spiritual he could find, and the best performers that he could find. That sounds like the making of a pretty good group to me.

Not only were they innovative in the way they presented themselves, but they were also innovative in their singing. When I listen to the early Statesmen LPs, Denver Crumpler era and back, I hear so many things that a lot of groups just don’t try today. I hear inverted harmonies, modern harmony, and key changes in the middle of verses without warning or intro. (Just imagine they did all that around just one mic and without a lot of fancy equipment.) And like all changes in music, there were a lot of Christians who didn’t take to well to their music. They still had a good message but because of the type of chords they were using and the instruments they were using, it was somehow less spiritual or couldn’t be classified as “Christian.” Does this struggle seem at all familiar in today’s culture and today’s music world?

So many of the younger southern gospel artist and contemporary artist have this same struggle. Their music does not fit the exact mold of what is the norm for that day and they become outcast in the Christian music world and are not seen as viable Christian musicians. I think back to another Statesmen story. They released a song called “Head’n Home.” Personally this is one of my favorite Statesmen songs. It has a simple message of I’m weary, I want to rest, and I want to go home to heaven. When they released this to radio they had DJs breaking it on the air and saying that they would never play it again. Now roll forward about 40 years to the 1990s. Another group named the Kingsmen Quartet recorded it with a similar track. I didn’t hear of any widespread stories of that CD being broken because it was radical. Times changed and even though back then this song was seen as out in left field it can be done today and accepted without a second thought. In fact, the Kingdom Heirs did a whole CD as tribute to the Statesmen. They did the arrangements as close to the old Statesmen as they could. Still no broken CDs on the air.

I know by this point, a lot who are reading this are wondering where in the world are you going with this. Let me get to my point. I love all kinds of music old and new alike. I love to hear old groups like the Statesmen, Weatherfords, Cathedrals, Imperials, and the Melody Masters and the list could go on. That doesn’t mean that is the only way to do it and there cant be any new good music. It doesn’t matter whether the group decides to wear matching 3 piece suits or jeans and polo shirts. It’s all about the message. Just in case that didn’t come through loud and clear the first time, It’s all about the message. Let’s encourage some of these new younger groups that have the right heart for the ministry. We have enough negativity and tearing down people because we don’t agree with one thing that they are doing when they are doing 10 others that we do agree with. So the next time your favorite group (or not so favorite group) is in town go out to the concert. After the concert put your arm around them and tell them that you appreciate what they are doing and the ministry that they have. You don’t know what kind of encouragement you would be to them and you might just make their day.


1 comment:

Aaron Swain said...

Great post. Can't wait to read more from you guys!