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Gods and Guitars: Seeking the Sacred in Post-1960s Popular Music Paperback – October 27, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What do Salman Rushdie and literary criticism have to do with rock music? For Gilmour (Call Me the Seeker: Listening to Religion in Popular Music), these things are very much related. The author believes that song lyrics can sometimes stand on their own apart from music, and moreover, they can reveal something about an artist's religious and spiritual views. This may not appear at first to be an enlightened perspective, but the author's artful use of Rushdie's fiction clearly shows how it is possible. The usual suspects in the religion and rock conversation (U2, Springsteen) are not as prominent, leaving room for more obscure but equally vital musicians like Daniel Lanois and Burton Cummings. Especially constructive is the chapter Outrageous Religion, about the influence of sexuality and the occult on some styles of rock music, such as heavy metal. The author also ventures into Hindu and Muslim influences on rock music, a foray that few scholars have attempted. His treatment enriches the dialogue between religion and rock well beyond the usual Judeo-Christian interpretations. Tune in, read on and enjoy. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

In this eclectic, engaging, and entertaining book, Gilmour doesn’t try to be comprehensive. His choices of musicians, songs, and albums for discussion reflect his age and personal tastes, he admits. He does something else, too, that proves controversial in some quarters; he reduces albums and songs to lyrics, largely stripping them of their musicality. He firmly believes that lyrics can stand alone as texts; hence, his approach to music here is primarily literary. He focuses on post-Woodstock music because it represents a generation shaped by an anti-establishment, nonconformist attitude. But what really appeals to him is the religious terminology and imagery he finds pervasive in post-1960s Western pop music, from George Harrison and Bob Dylan to Kanye West and Alicia Keys. Among specific works he discusses are Harrison’s posthumously released Brainwashed; Neil Young’s Prairie Wind, in which Young responds to 9/11; and Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible, a harsh examination of “church life” in North America. He also assesses the social-justice work of U2 and Bob Geldof. --June Sawyers

Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press; Original edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602581398
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602581395
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,490,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Gilmour teaches English and biblical literature at Providence University College in Manitoba, Canada. His current research and writing interests include religion and the Bible in popular music, Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam, C. S. Lewis, and animal ethics in theological perspective.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on February 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
From the African-American songs of the 19th century through the folk music and rock of the 20th century, a significant segment of popular secular music has been endowed with profound spiritual messages focused on themes social justice and the emotional ramifications of love, sacrifice, and even the occasional biblical text. In "Gods And Guitars: Seeking The Sacred In Post-1960s Popular Music", academician Michael J. Gilmour (Providence college, Manitoba, Canada) explores the lyrics of popular and influential songs composed and performed by such illustrious music icons as Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Pearl Jam, Joni Mitchell, U2, and others. Enhanced with extensive notes, an invaluable bibliography for further and more detailed study, and a comprehensive Index, "Gods And Guitars" is an especially recommended addition to personal, academic, and community library 20th Century Popular Music reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
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