A quote from a Bruce Cockburn song I referenced in one of my earliest posts. After an evening of mocking ghosts, ghouls, opened graves, beasts from hell, and creepy things (plus associated, in pagan Samhain, with the swallowing up of light by the darkness of winter) comes All Saints Day. Lest Halloween overshadow the day which follows it, here are a few music vids suitable for the occasion. Last year's post referenced a few saints (and unfortunately Youtube has pulled one of the videos since); this year I thought I'd dig into the subject a bit more - using music, natch. Since I'm not long back from a trip to N'awlins, you might notice a wee Big Easy influence here or there...
But we often gotta start with the dark to notice the light, so here's a saintly song which starts right there, with the grim reaper hovering:
"Get six gamblers to carry my coffin Six chorus girls to sing me a song
Put a twenty-piece jazz band on my tail gate
To raise Hell as we go along."
OK so maybe the time for hell-raising's gone, but the jazz idea... let's run with it. There are so many great versions of this song to choose from that I just had to include 2 other variations. Here's sultry chanteuse Cassandra Wilson:
and a more upbeat version from the Preservation Hall crew:
So... this idea of saints, and All Saints Day, stems from the Christian notion of the bond between those who have died in the faith and those who are currently trying to walk the walk here - what the 4th Century Apostles Creed* refers to as the "communion of saints." Different denominations may take slightly different angles on this notion but the idea of unity between those alive and those gone before is a central theme.
Isn't it pretty arrogant for a community to self-describe its members as saints? Well yes.... if it's a claim of personal achievement and the title is only supposed to be reserved for those with particularly noble characters. But there's the problem - it lies with a dodgy definition. Most of the Biblical characters deemed saints had their faults well recorded in the text, the same text which refers to those who believe as saints. So it's a statement of hope and expectation of those who see that a change is required, not a claim of achievement by the individuals of personal purity.
Don't believe me? Take it from guys who resist the title, and have professed sympathy for the devil:
"Saint Paul the persecutor
Was a cruel and sinful man
Jesus hit him with a blinding light
And then his life began
I said yeah
I said yeah
Augustin knew temptation
He loved women, wine and song
And all the special pleasures
Of doing something wrong
I said yeah
I said yeah
I said yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
You'll never make a saint of me
Oh yeah, oh yeah
You'll never make a saint of me"
In St John's Book of Revelation (a pastoral book for people suffering under persecution rather than a book to be mined for explicit detail of a sequence of events in the future), the suffering saints cry out "How Long?"
So do Bono and Billie Joe Armstrong:
The wait may seem long, but the saints look forward with hope and trust of future fix. So someone should really write a tune to celebrate that. Oh wait...
That's quite a communion up there on stage. A lot of my faves as well as BBK - Slash, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi... heck there's even room in the communion for a ginger (Mick Hucknall)....
But, tho' I'm not among the most faithful of followers at the temple of Bruce, for me this is the most worshipful version....
Happy All Saints Day!
*present form of words dates from as late as 8th Century but main components go back at least to 4th, if not to 1st Century.