Hip-Hop, Music and Culture, Music and Worship, Rock

Questionable Searches (John Piper Hip Hop Edition)

John Piper

aroma contemporary christian music lyrics

Ink and parchment with a bit of mustiness for good measure.

christian song called trying too hard


church hymns predictable chords

All of them. ‘Nuff said. BOOM!

does god honor groaning as way of worship?

Why yes he does. What kind of question is that? Have you not heard of the Christian Metal scene? He also accepts scream, yells and cries especially when set against de-tuned guitars with killer riffs.

harlem shake in bible meaning

The town of Harlemite was an ancient Israelite town which was destroyed due to something called the “shake”. People became obsessed with doing the “shake” and eventually everyone ran themselves out of town because of all the shaking. They decided to stop the “shake” but the town, sadly, was already gone. So they started a new town and this is the story of how Jerusalem was founded. Fact.

is john jacob jingleheimer schmidt out of the bible

Half of him is. John and Jacob are in there but Jingleheimer and Schmidt are oddly not to be found. If you had asked, “Is John Jacob Jehoshaphat Shemaryahu out of the bible?” The answer would have been yes, of course.

john piper hip hop

Yes John Piper does hip hop. He goes by the moniker MC Biblical Manhood Against Feminism and the Post-Modern World and is the manliest hip hopper out there. Also highly influential with other rappers, see here.

young cheesy christian girl band

Like Beyonce, Chuck E Cheese has an all woman band. Don't let the mustache fool you.

Like Beyonce, Chuck E Cheese has an all woman band. Don’t let the mustache fool you.

Classical, Hip-Hop, Music and Culture, Rock, World Music

Month in Music (March 2013)


A review of the month in music.

Christ and Pop Culture, Music and Culture, Rock

“All clichés are true. The years really do speed by. Life really is as short as they tell you it is. And there really is a God–so do I buy that one? If all the other clichés are true…” David Bowie

Last week, Jimi Hendrix reigned in the number two spot on the Billboard 200 and this week that position is filled by David Bowie’s new album The Next Day. It is only fitting that one of Bowie’s songs on the new album (“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”) contains the line,”Stars are never sleeping/ Dead ones and the living,” in light of this surprising takeover of the charts by two classic rockers, one dead and one living. Unlike Hendrix who saw his music as religion, Bowie has explored a pantheon of religious beliefs as he noted in a 2004 Ellen interview: “I was young, fancy free and Tibetan Buddhism appealed to me at that time. I thought, ‘There’s salvation.’ It didn’t really work. Then I went through Nietzsche, Satanism, Christianity… pottery, and ended up singing. It’s been a long road.”

In his darkest cocaine fueled days he turned towards Christianity and wrote “Station to Station” as his contemplation of the stations of the cross. In a February 1997 Q Magazineinterview Bowie stated, “The ‘Station to Station’ track itself is very much concerned with the stations of the cross… I’ve never read a review that really sussed it. It’s an extremely dark album. Miserable time to live through, I must say.”

Country, Music and Culture, Theology Through Music

Times Ain’t Nothing Like They Used To Be: ‘James Alley Blues’ and the Suffering of Marriage

Editor’s Note: Today we welcome my fellow Christ and Pop Culture contributor Nick Rynerson to Retuned.


Among the American musical landscape (littered with niche music, one hit wonders and obscure junk) there are a few tracks that stand the test of time and like a good wine, evolve with age. Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music is teeming with those kinds of songs. Essentially a bootleg (1952 didn’t have the most airtight intellectual property laws) compiled with the utmost of fanatical preoccupation, Harry Smith traveled the States buying up old 78s, trying to find the essence of American music. On this compilation exists some of the greatest country, blues, gospel and bluegrass songs every recorded.

Of all the great songs Harry Smith has introduced us to, one that has captured my imagination is Richard “Rabbit” Brown’s James Alley Blues. One of his few known recordings, recorded with Victor in 1927, the song has become a cornerstone of American music. At first glance, James Alley Blues, a relatively simple country blues tune about tough marital love, is nothing all that special. But upon further review, the words prove themselves to be a memoriam to love that is almost Tennysonian in its understated magnificence and committed despair.

Before digging into the meat of Brown’s magnum opus, I would advise taking a couple of listens. It isn’t required, the lyrics are posted below, but if you let the musical aesthetic and the words wash over you, the likelihood of this essay striking a chord might increase a bit. And for your listening pleasure, I have provided three great versions of the song. The first by Brown himself, the second by David Johansen of The New York Dolls and the third by Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett of Wilco.




Brown has captured the pain, pressure and labor of marriage better than any marriage book I have leafed my way through. He isn’t offering advice and he isn’t giving us a guide to marital bliss, but Brown is like a friend who can relate. He’s telling his story to a married friend, as if to both soothe his own worries and offer some blessed reassurance to press on.

As a recently married guy fighting his way through the dreaded first year, Browns’ words pointedly relevant for ms. Don’t misunderstand me here; marriage, even a new, tough marraige isn’t a complete hell, far from it. And what I love about James Alley Blues is that Brown isn’t writing this song to his enemy, but to his comrade, his life partner. In an honest song about committed love and the valleys that come along with the mountains of martial love, Brown is lamenting and doting.

Times ain’t now nothing like they used to be
Oh times ain’t now nothing like they used to be
And I’m tellin’ you all the truth, oh take it for (from) me

I done seen better days but I’m puttin’ up with these
I done seen better days but I’m puttin’ up with these
I been havin’ a much better time with these girls now I’m so hard to please

In the first two phrases of James Alley Blues, Brown is remembering that time in the relationship that was easy, satisfying and passionate. It is the sacred time in a relationship before things became difficult, before life reared its head and the two lovebirds realized the blemishes of one another. It’s the time that haunts the brokenhearted and embitters the stale couple. It’s partially a romanticized state and partially a rush of newness. It’s the first ‘feelings’ of love. These are the feelings that mature into a deep love, that grow stronger but are never as intoxicating as those immortalized times. Here we see Brown wrestling with the demythologizing of love. Like the Christian who returns from a conference, a camp or a retreat and can find no satisfaction in the day to day of life. It’s the phenomenon of discontent. The time before you pick up your cross and begin to take painful, repetitive steps.

But then, in a moment of clarity, Brown realizes he couldn’t have it any other way, despite his desires to run to new, exciting women.  Maybe he did. Maybe he’s saying that he did stray in unfaithfulness. But either way, his mind has wandered and his contentment is suffering for it. Even though he knows that he is where he ought to be. Brown is like a Christian caught in the arms of a vice that not only betrays his conscience but also makes the communion of man and God unsavory. It’s the clash of escapism and responsibility.

‘Cos I was born in the country she thinks I’m easy to rule
‘Cos I was born in the country she thinks I’m easy to rule
She try to hitch me to her wagon, she want to drive me like a mule

You know I bought some groceries and I paid the rent
Yes I buy some groceries and I pay the rent
She try to make me wash her clothes but I got good common sense

Here Brown expresses his discontent with her. She thinks he’s easy to rule. “Easy to rule” is attributed to Brown’s perceived incompetence.  She doesn’t validate him or view him as worthy of leadership. Her excuse: he’s from the country. But this is Genesis 3, “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16). Many women, when they entrust themselves to men in marriage soon find the man they married fundamentally lacking because of their own fear, the reality that the husband has the responsibility can be crippling. Eve was bound to her husband and he was given headship. This was Eve’s curse; that she would want to reign, but wouldn’t.

I can’t understand that fear perfectly, but I have seen it in my wife and in the wives of those around me. It’s natural and it’s from the guilt of Adam that it comes. It’s nothing new to mankind. And neither is the man’s response: self-justification. Brown does what she asks, or tries to. But at a point, he cannot keep up with the demands, so he digs his heels in. Then come the arguments, the fights and the discontent. The seeds of despair have been sewn.

I said if you don’t want me why don’t you tell me so
You know, if you don’t want me why don’t you tell me so
Because it ain’t like a man that ain’t got nowhere to go

I’ve been givin’ you sugar for sugar, let you get salt for salt
I’ll give you sugar for sugar, let you get salt for salt
And if you can’t get ‘long with me well it’s your own fault

In despair comes pride. Here is Brown’s stubbornness coming to a head, like it does in all of us. “If you don’t want to be with me, fine. I don’t need you either”, he says. Maybe he’s convinced himself of it in the moment or maybe he is trying to scare her back into kindness. It proves what we probably already knew, Brown isn’t an innocent bystander. He’s fighting back. This is his side of the story at it’s most biased. He is telling us (or maybe himself) that he is easy to love, that he always responds in love to his perfect bride. Maybe he thinks that, maybe it’s a guilt tactic. Most fights have a few of those thrown in. We are all so blind to our self-righteousness. And it seems to me that Brown has been building himself a fortress of good works to guard against the critical eye of his true love. The combination can be fundamentally toxic.

How you wanted me to love you and you treat me mean
How do you want me to love you, you keep on treatin’ me mean
You’re my daily thought and my nightly dream

Sometimes I think that you too sweet to die
Sometimes I think that you too sweet to die
And another time I think you oughta be buried alive

Here it comes to a head. He keeps defending himself until he can’t anymore and he breaks into a three-line love song. He loves his wife, dang it. Amidst his pride, his foolishness, and her mistreatment. Now, some of the reworked versions, Johansen’s in particular, replace “nightly dream” with “nightmare dream”. And I think this is a real slight at Brown’s intended meaning. She isn’t a horrible soulless woman, she is Brown’s true love, and if you catch them in between fights he would probably sing her praises all the livelong day.

But that doesn’t change the fact that marriage is hard as hell and Brown has taken us into the middle of a war zone that is marital conflict. For me, my wife is the one relationship in my life that can so quickly swing between doting adoration and violent frustrations. Marriage is hard to make sense of, especially for a newlywed like myself. Some days are so hard, so painful that I despair of life itself and other days I am so aware of the great divine gift that my wife is. But it’s a struggle. But every fight, every date night, every family emergency, and every late night conversation are leading to a great and perfect Marriage Supper where every tear shall be wiped away and every wrong righted. The journey is for our growth and Jesus is very evidently changing both of us, but in the meantime, it’s nice to have Richard “Rabbit” Brown to empathize with me.


In the first episode of the final season of Fringe (“Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11”), music plays a vital role in Walter Bishop’s narrative as seen in the clip below.

Music as Walter explains, “helps you shift perspective, to see things differently” which the Observer correlates to hope. Interestingly, the song Dr. Bishop hears in his head is Zbigniew Preisner’s Song for the Unification of Europe (Patrice’s version), a song deriving its text from 1 Corinthians 13, known for its exposition on hope, faith and especially, love. Music, which is lacking in this future world, embodies hope in Walter’s mind and once he has found music, he can see the signs of hope as the following video shows.

This song in the final scene of the episode is Yazoo’s Only You, which views love as hope in a similar manner to 1 Corinthians 13:  

Looking from a window above
It’s like a story of love, can you hear me?
Came back only yesterday
I’m moving farther away, want you near me

All I needed was the love you gave
All I needed for another day
And all I ever knew, only you

Sometimes when I think of her name
When it’s only a game and I need you
Listen to the words that you say
It’s getting harder to stay when I see you

Music has been seemingly all but removed by the Observers in this dystopian future. But yet it remains. A token of hope pointing towards something greater, that amidst a fallen and broken world “love never fails” (1 Corinth. 13:8). For even the Fringe team in this bleak future “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39) This is hope. The hope Walter remembered in a song based on an ancient text speaking of a the already/not yet hope not only for Dr. Bishop but for all of humanity.