By Joel Hess
Yes, last night I could not avoid watching some of the Beatles’ 50th anniversary show while enjoying some Olympic snowboarding and skiing. Predictably, I was deeply depressed about the producers’ choice of who would perform the fab four’s hits. Oh, they won a Grammy? Don’t get me started.
Still, I love the Beatles. I know, boring! I am pretty sure everyone loves them whether they admit it or not. Some like to say it is bubble gum music or just a funny coincidence. A Fox News contributor suggested 11 bands better than the Beatles. It was an interesting list until she mentioned Tom Petty. If she lived in Singapore she would getting a caning.
I would like to say I don’t really care for John and Paul as the Liverpudlians call them. Unfortunately I am stricken with musical snobbery and hipsterness. If something becomes popular I try to find reasons to dismiss it. I am usually correct. Don’t trust the hoi polloi. If you were to drink with me you would know that after 2 manhattans I will opine on the superiority of the Rolling Stones, Zombies and VU, but by my third I will be re-interpreting “I’ve just seen a face” on banjo and declaring “Something” as the greatest song ever written. The Beatles are legendary. As hard as it is to admit, sometimes what is popular is truly great and clichés are actually true.
Like Martin Luther, and I suppose cynics and believers could say Jesus, the Beatles were not only brilliant but appeared at the right time and right place. They entered the music world with a blank slate. They did anything they wanted to musically, even play back a guitar solo backwards and everyone said – that’s cool! Yet somehow miraculously they walked the line between complex and simple, avant garde and catchy! Every single song is perfect! Not too perfect – like Neil Diamond, but perfect like DaVinci. Not perfect like a circle, but perfect like a flower. What’s even more amazing is that they didn’t even know it. They weren’t really trying! They just did it. It just flowed. Sure there are plenty of musicians and bands who have been equally gifted in this regard. Yet, tragically, their wings are clipped because they were not the first and therefore will always be regarded as a derivative in some way. God bless the derivatives of this world. We need you. Would you rather be a redundant and famous or original and unknown?
Our Lord, who is wisdom incarnate, certainly provided a British, nee, heavenly invasion. As St. Paul says, born at just the right time. And certainly Luke makes a case that Jesus’ entrance into the world was divinely placed in the midst of Octavius’ reign and the pax romana that allowed roads to be opened and cultures to be shared, let alone words of a peculiar and alien king (though we should have known Him, John laments). And His words and songs still thread the line between perfectly catchy to unfathomably deep. Scholars can stare for years at a single sentence and toddlers can come to Him indeed be blessed by Him. And when we are at a loss for words or are unable to think too hard, we all, poor and rich, stupid and smart can eat and drink Him in.
They screamed and threw their coats on the ground when He entered Jerusalem. Yet the fervor of His song caused evil in our bellies to vomit ‘crucify Him.’ And instead of being cut down on a New York City street by a maniac, He was put on the cross by all too reasonable men. His life was not taken, but He laid it down. And then the chorus became clear, “it is finished.” And its refrain is still sung today with each of us adding derivative verses to the same song sung by the same Spirit on hospital beds, before caskets, in tears of joy or sadness. He is risen Alleluia.
This song has been sung for 2000 years, but only grows louder and more beautiful reaching the very edges of the universe from which it began before there was a beginning. Amen.