another night, another nightsong.
the song that has been on repeat in my head more than any other in the wake of the devastation of hurricane katrina, even more so than "when the levee breaks," is duke ellington's "come sunday," particularly the version by mahalia jackson on the 1958 recording of black, brown & beige.
understandably, events like this really make one question whether there is such a thing as God, and, unfortunately, makes one question the people who do believe when they're connected to tripe like this. (a minority opinion, really. credit is due to the southern baptists for the work they're doing, regardless of any political disagreements one may have w/ them.) me, i'm not religious--i'm catholic, which is less of a joke than it seems (see also: "when the levee breaks). during the funeral of the pope, i reflected on the man and his beliefs and it seemed to me that someone whose faith was that deep and genuine, and, unlike some of his brethren, entirelydetached from political and (debatably) world gain ... well, how could he not go to some sort of heaven? a piece in the latest economist discusses a study at the university of michigan that shows that physical changes in the brain occur w/ the mere suggestion that a medication will help. could such a thing carry over in matters of faith? regardless of the answer, hearing mahalia jackson sing "come sunday" is, for me, another one of those moments where i simply believe that, if there is no heaven, she has carved out some place for herself after death.
lines like "He’ll give peace and comfort to every troubled mind" may be hard for those whose houses have been consumed by untrammeled waters to swallow. less so supplication like:
Lord, dear Lord of love,or the rudiments of optimism embodied by this lyric:
God almighty, God above,
please look down and see my people through.
i believe the sun and moon,lyrics aside, it's the melody of the song that make it, for me, so apposite. it's determinedly an earthbound song as the minor key makes clear. in the rare moments when the song does seem to ascend, it's the fleeting moments in life when the sun and the moon shine in the sky, unobstructed by clouds. i would argue that the original version from 1943, w/ johnny hodges bearing the load, is as powerful; if i prefer mahalia's version today it's b/c it puts a human face and voice to the music. putting a human face to things is especially pertinent right now as one tries to move away from the requisite sensationalism (and ratings) katrina provided for the twenty-four hour news cycle, and toward the victims and all the basics which they need provided.
will shine up in the sky.
when the day is grey
i know it's clouds passing by.