on September 9, 2003
A few months back, my landlady forced me to sit through an hour of CMT music videos so I could see this one funny video. An hour later, I hadn't seen the video she was looking for, but I was captivated by a video by Johnny Cash, "Hurt" - even more so when I saw it was written by NIN's Trent Reznor. A country legend covering an alternative ballad - quite a dichotomy.
Dichotomy seems to be the central theme of the latest Spiritual Journeys' tome from Relevant Books. Every artist profiled it seems has a problem reconciling their faith with their lives - much like what normal people go through. The authors cut through the fame and fortune shield and go right to the heart of the matter - the artist's struggle with faith and with a church that you would think should support them.
The book avoids the standard Christian rhetoric - in fact, it flat out defies it with it's honest look at real people and their rise to fame and the labors they engaged in to get there - both good and bad, avoiding the plastic-looking halos on the heads of the artists commonly associated with what has become known as contemporary 'Christian music.'
I should say here that I am not a big fan of the rap and hip-hop universes, but I still found the stories compelling enough to read, and, to be honest, was surprised by a number of the artists profiled. Having no experience with them other than hearing older people complain about their music, I had no idea some of them explored their faith the way they did.
I must mention a couple of caveats, though. The book focuses a little too strongly on dichotomies. The artists profiled all "walk the line" between good and evil, often choosing the incorrect path. I wish they had also included a few artists who tend to be a little less notorious, but still straddle both universes. Some stories I'd like to have seen explored include Bruce Cockburn, Charlie Sexton, Pierce Pettis, Michael Been and the Call, Tonio K., Vigilantes of Love, Sam Phillips, Van Morrison, and, as a guilty pleasure, Jon Bon Jovi. It seemed odd that the king of offensively embracing faith, "The Artist," was absent from the pages as well. Also, unfortunately for such a well-put together book there are quite a few typos, including passages where a member of a band or a music reviewer's name changes from one paragraph to another. Needless to say, it jarred the senses and made the book a little harder to read. Hopefully they will clear those up in the next edition.
Overall, Spiritual Journeys is a walk worth taking, especially if you are fans of Johnny, Lauryn, Moby, Wyclef Jean, Creed, Dylan, Kravitz, T-Bone, P. Diddy, Al Green, and Destiny's Child. (oh, yeah, and U2, although I'd recommend Walk On for a more in-depth look at the world's most famous band.)