From Publishers Weekly
It's difficult to associate the loneliness and downright mournfulness of the blues with the joyful teachings on salvation that often characterize the Christian religion. Yet in this splendid little book, theologian Nichols engagingly reminds us that the musical genre of the blues helps us to understand what theologians call redemption. Drawing on a wide range of blues singers and their lyrics, he blends the strains of the blues into the harmonies of theology and scripture in order to compose a new song about the powerful manner in which the blues prepare us for understanding the mercy and love of God. In songs such as Mississippi John Hurt's Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, for example, the blues record the loneliness and the desolation the singer feels, and Nichols compares this to the desolation that Christ felt when God forsook him on the cross. Finally, in his mournful songs, Blind Lemon Jefferson juxtaposes the despair of failure with the hope that such failures can be overcome. Nichols's elegant study offers fresh insights into the blues and their meaning for religion. (Sept.)
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From the Back Cover
From the Promised Land to the Mississippi Delta
David expresses his dark side in the Psalms.
The prophets cry out in anguish and condemn social injustices.
And Paul bemoans his frailty as a man.
In Getting the Blues
, Stephen Nichols examines this dissonance in the Bible--what he calls "theology in a minor key"--and leads readers in a vivid exploration of how blues music offers powerful insight into the biblical narrative and the life of Jesus.
Subtly weaving Bible stories together with intriguing details of the lives of blues musicians such as Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, Nichols reveals what blues music teaches about sin, suffering, alienation, and worship. He delves into how the blues can intensify our understanding of bondage to sin and redemption and how the blues encourage us to strive for justice and righteousness. In the end, readers will emerge with a deeper understanding of the value of a theology that lingers on the dark side and embraces Good Friday as well as Easter, suffering as well as joy.
"In the current cultural climate, surrounded by so much sentimentality, we need blues music and its Christian resonances as perhaps never before. Nichols's book should go a long way to putting this art form back on the theological agenda."--Jeremy Begbie
, Duke University
"Too often the Blues is put in opposition to Spirituals. But when the church's songs stray too far from the cries of a broken humanity, they lose their truth, depth, and power. In Getting the Blues
, Stephen Nichols compellingly shows how the minor key of the Blues resonates with the minor keys in scripture and theology. By attending closely to these 'blue notes' Nichols writes truthfully and wisely about God's ways with wayward children--not only famous ones like Muddy Waters and Ma Rainey, but also the likes of you and me."--Christian Scharen
, Yale Center for Faith & Culture; author of One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God