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David Bowie – The Hysteria, the Sorrow, the Frustration and the Hope

This is my article on David Bowie in Christian Today   – it is slightly amended because I wanted to tidy up a couple of things.  The article came as a result of a conversation with my wife, Annabel, as she gave me a lift down to the church.  And then all these ideas just popped into my head, so I wrote them down and quite surprizingly it has gone, as they say, ‘viral’.  There are so many ‘Bowies’ out there – who need to hear the Good News!  As always comments appreciated.

Its great that The Scotsman has put much of this on their website!

And The Herald

David Bowie’s death, grief, and the frustration of a society that has nothing to offer the lonely

It was a shock. Of course it was. Make your coffee, switch on the radio and you hear Life on Mars on Radio 4. What had happened? Had Bowie died? Indeed he had. An unconventional celebrity life, with an unconventional celebrity death. In this age of social media, gossip columns and photographers desperate for that one image, it is astonishing that David Bowie had cancer for 18 months and it never once got into the media. No one – apart from close friends and family – knew. He did something really unusual for a modern celebrity. He died privately.

Bowie Bingo

 But now everyone wants to have their say. I played Twitter Bingo that morning. David Cameron – check. Nicola Sturgeon – check. Media stars – check. Church leaders – check. It wasn’t long before I had a full house. Even the Vatican got in on the act – its newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, paid tribute. “One might even say that, beyond the apparent excesses, the legacy of David Bowie… is enclosed in its own sort of personal sobriety, expressed even in the lean physique, almost threadlike.”

I’m sure that many people were genuine in their tributes and did feel a real sorrow. Others may just have been playing the game; saying something for the sake of being seen to say something and show that they ‘cared’. God alone knows. I suspect the wall-to-wall coverage combined with the political, religious and cultural leaders’ interest was largely because those who are now in charge grew up with David Bowie as part of the soundtrack of their life. And to lose that is a sorrow.

Heaven 

But what really interested and saddened me was the number of spokespeople who made comments about him being in heaven. I hadn’t realised that so many of the great and good believed in heaven – and surely they would not be lying to us? Or just using heaven as an excuse to make a corny pun about ‘starman’ now looking down on us? And that set me thinking – what do we really think about heaven? I thought that in this naturalistic, materialist world we could be all grown up and just say, “He’s gone, he had a good life, did a lot of daft things, did a lot of good things, we will miss him, but he’s gone”. I haven’t checked but I almost expected Richard Dawkins to tweet, “He’s gone. There is nothing left of him but his music and family. He’s not in heaven”. But it appears that in popular culture, we still cannot face up to the nihilist existentialism of atheistic naturalism. It seems that the Bible was right about eternity being in our hearts. “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end”(Ecclesiastes 3:10-11).

So those who were happily singing “Imagine there’s no heaven” a few months ago are now telling everyone that David Bowie is in this heaven that they imagine does not exist? And those who want to say something nice and believe that everyone goes to heaven, think that Bowie is up there along with Lemmy, Hendrix and of course Stalin, Hitler and Jack the Ripper. That is, after all, the logic of their position. And again I have not looked, but I am sure that in the bloggersphere somewhere, there are some ‘Christians’ who are taking the opportunity to tell everyone he is in hell and how as a bisexual rock star drug addict he is a warning to us all. And there will be those who are writing about how he was converted on his deathbed and they can tell this because of a) something Bowie said, b) a dream they had or c) a very reliable source, a friend of a friend, who is ‘in the know’.

Sorrow

All I can say is that I feel a real and frustrating sorrow. Let me explain. Bowie, like most human beings was a complex man, who experienced many changes in his life. For example he moved from being gay/bisexual to being heterosexual. In an interview with Tony Parsons in Arena magazine in 1993 he said, “In the States, towards the end of the Seventies, I think the gay body was pretty hostile towards me because I didn’t seem to be supporting the gay movement in any kind of way. And I was sad about that. Because I had come to the realisation that I was pretty much heterosexual”.

He cannot just be simply pigeonholed according to what we want to be true. I didn’t know David Bowie and I am in no position to pass any judgement upon him. I do think he was a musical genius and much of his music was also part of the soundtrack of my early life. But the sorrow comes from what I heard him express, and the pathetic solutions offered to him by a society that he helped create.

Believer?

Firstly, there is no doubt that he was not an atheist. He said so. In that interview with Tony Parsons he explained why he had said the Lord’s Prayer at the Freddy Mercury tribute concert. “In rock music, especially in the performance arena, there is no room for prayer, but I think that so many of the songs people write are prayers. A lot of my songs seem to be prayers for unity within myself. On a personal level, I have an undying belief in God’s existence. For me it is unquestionable.”

Incidentally, I personally found that moment of saying the Lord’s Prayer absolutely extraordinary. It was so unexpected and somewhat surreal. Did Bowie not realise it was a public ‘secular’ event? How dare he bring religion into it! Did he not care how many people he would offend? Probably not.

 

Does this mean that we can claim him as a card-carrying Christian? Not at all. As far as I know he never professed to be one. But like all intelligent and creative people, he did show a great interest in the Bible, in Jesus Christ and in the great questions that Christ is the answer to. In his 1993 Album, The Buddha of Suburbia he wrote the following lines in the song, Sex and the Church:

Though the idea of compassion
Is said to be
The union of Christ
And his bride, the Christian
It’s all very puzzling.

All the Lonely People

The most poignant moment in the Parsons interview was when Bowie explained his collapse into drugs, sex and despair by saying, “I felt totally, absolutely alone. And I probably was alone because I pretty much had abandoned God.”

And that is where the frustration part of the sorrow comes. Because Bowie himself was clearly a seeker. He recognised that the ‘hole within’ would not be filled by ‘sex and drugs and rock ‘n’roll’. He needed to know that there is “a way back to God, from the dark paths of sin, there’s a door that is open and you may go in; at Calvary’s Cross is where you begin, when you come as a sinner to Jesus”. A society that has itself abandoned God has nothing to offer the person who is lonely because they feel they have abandoned God.

I mourn for David Bowie. As I mourn for ‘all the lonely people’, whose need for fulfilment, forgiveness, faith and a future can only be met by Christ.

Bowie’s last album, Blackstar, realised this month, has a poignancy about it that is painful. Especially this from the song Lazarus:

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now.

Life to the Living 

Bowie is gone. I know not where. Who knows what happened in the last years, months and moments of his life? We mourn his passing. Let the dead bury their dead. Meanwhile our task is to bring Life to the living. Let us bring the Good News to those who are lonely because they feel they have abandoned God, that He has not abandoned them.

22 comments

  1. Brilliant article. It is the sanest, most balanced and perceptive commentary I have read or heard the last few days. I wouldn’t mind using this material on Sunday if you don’t mind a heretic quoting you!

  2. Creative, confused? Lost, found? Intensely private in his latter years. It was wonderful that his closest, friends, colleagues and family lovingly honoured him with their confidentiality. Extremely rare today

    From what I’ve seen, heard (National News) and read (The Times, yesterday)) at the end of his life, he had a fear of death. The snippets of the video with his last album seemed to me searingly bleak, achingly black ending with climbing into a black wardrobe. Echoes of Narnia? Perhaps, but He was recorded as saying people read into his work things that were never there in the first place.

    Will many understand the reference to Lazarus, and Bowie’s quoted words. If they are not a reference to Bowie’s own life, they can certainly be said of Jesus in the Rich man and Lazarus. By His wounds we are healed, in His resurrection, raised to life.

    Tom Bradbury on ITV National news. at Ten last night said something about Bowie’s death raising questions about death of all of us . Truly, God has placed (a longing for) eternity in our hearts.

    As a Christian I can not really celebrate the life of my loved ones unless in the midst of grief I can be celebratory in their death, secured in the knowledge of their welcoming embrace by Jesus

    This isn’t a prayer for him, but may there be rejoicing before the Angels.

    Geoff

  3. Apologies David. Didn’t mean to restate your point about eternity, Skim read your posting, went out, returned and posted a comment without re-reading.

    Amazed you pulled it all together so quickly, had it at your fingertips as it were. Much appreciated.

    Geoff

  4. I don’t care either way, but thought this was important.

    “According to The Christian Post , “Bowie told Ellen DeGeneres in a 2004 interview that he experimented with a number of religions including Christianity before finding his place as a singer. ‘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,’ he said.”

    In his search for meaning, Bowie admittedly tried pretty much everything this culture offered, but did not find the meaning he sought. He was filled with questions throughout his life.

    Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/david-bowie-heaven-154752/#eDvZAUDXdYrBpo9O.99

    Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/david-bowie-heaven-154752/#kiD9qUlwgdBHtdcd.99

    Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/david-bowie-heaven-154752/#oCLh4Dx1tGk082hh.99

  5. There are some really good points, and I’m glad the writer does not fall into the typical Christian stance of thinking everyone, no matter what kind of life they’ve lived, goes to this ethereal place called heaven where they continue to observe what goes on here below.

    On the other hand, I think the closing line — “Bowie is gone. I know not where.” — is needlessly ambivalent. On his own admission, Bowie led a promiscuous life, had abandoned God, and said he was almost an atheist. Perhaps Bowie had some change towards the end of his life that only he knew about. But short of this it would not seem this leaves us with much hope when measured against the call of the Gospel, namely that we must repent if we would enter the kingdom of God.

    By the way, the quote where Bowie says the existence of God is unquestionable comes from a 1993 interview. From an interview ten years later, he confesses he is all but an atheist.

  6. Very interesting with what you say about the Lord’s prayer and quote about lyrics in songs.

    A few that come to my mind:

    “Help me Jesus, show the way
    I can’t hold on another day

    I was hungry, felling low,
    I just couldn’t make out which way to go
    Chasing rainbows that have no end,
    The road is long without friend

    Be my friend, be my brother,
    Be the piper, play the call” Whitesnake “Blindman”

    “hand of god has struck the hour.
    Day of judgement, god is calling,
    on their knees the war pigs crawling.
    Begging mercy for their sins,” Black Sabbath “War Pigs”

    “You’re the Jesus that didn’t get nailed
    I know you got a Jonestown mind
    I couldn’t change it if I tried
    Trained to drain
    Why you can’t explain
    You’re everything that
    You don’t want to be
    You’re just chocking on your coca-cola
    Chocking on your dreams” The Almighty “Jonestown Mind”

  7. I wrote my post before reading this, although I did hear your dulcet tones on the Radio today. You should probably check that I’m not misquoting you and the Sister-lady from the Church with the craziest name I ever heard. Oh no, it was not quite as enjoyable as “Hardley Pentecostal Church” or “Boring Assembly of God,” not to mention “St Peter’s, in the chains of his most holy bondage”!

  8. Good heavens! True, nobody knows where David Bowie ‘has gone’ but the YouTube presentations ‘Blackstar’ and ‘Lazarus’ are very dark indeed. I am led to understand that they are full of occult symbolism and having just watched them I can well believe it.

    1. Yes I have been reading recently that David Bowie did dabble in the occult a great deal. Apparently this is common knowledge but I only just learned about it. 🙁

      Even relatively benign bands seem to often have occult links, not just the obvious ones like 1980s heavy metal poseurs and some of the hippie groups of the 1960s. Amongst others that I would have considered less likely are Elvis (he and Priscilla eventually burnt his occult books), Frank Zappa, Darryl Hall from Hall and Oates and Robert Fripp from King Crimson. I would have thought they’d have more sense.

      Also, I was a huge fan of Peter Gabriel and Genesis in my youth. Over time I have, however, learned some disturbing things about the religious views of some members of this band…

      I will discuss these here. First of all, Peter Gabriel himself is a very eccentric person as anyone who has read his *authorised* biography by Spencer Bright will realise. Of course, this is also part of the appeal of his intellectual songwriting, as he looks at the world in unusual ways.

      In terms of his religious beliefs, here are some quotes. I don’t know if the moderator of this site allows guests to post URLs so I will just provide the quotes themselves and anyone should be able to easily find the sources I am drawing by Googling.

      The first two quotes, from two different interviews, indicate Peter Gabriel’s views on Buddhism and Christianity:

      “When I’m thinking of God I’m a Buddhist, when I’m in pain and despair I’m a Christian.”

      “On the existence of a god, “Who knows? I think I’ve always been interested in spiritual things. I’ve never practiced much. And, I guess, Buddhism is probably the most appealing to me of the world’s religions. Yet I think in moments of panic and crisis, I suddenly start praying, back to Christian roots. So that’s about where I am. So in the song, ‘More Than This,’ I mean, I do think there is more to life than what we see in our everyday world. But I don’t really know what it is, or what form it takes.””

      On writing the music for the highly controversial/arguably blasphemous film, the Last Temptation of Christ, Peter Gabriel had this to say:

      “If people’s faith is so weak that it can be destroyed by a film, then it really isn’t much to begin with. I think people may find themselves reviewing their own lives and their own points of view on religion as a result of the film. I’m very proud to have been a part of it.”

      Peter Gabriel’s spiritual course has also led him down some occult paths. In one print interview I read, he talked about trying to levitate. In an online interview, he talks about attending an EST course:

      ““Anyone with an open mind wanting to explore the world was drawn to that movement. There were fairly scary adventures that could change lives. Last year I met Werner Erhard [born John Paul Rosenberg, the former salesman who created the EST course]; many people feel negatively about him, but I enjoyed him enormously. The whole system he set up felt like a hard-sell American organization but if you didn’t have a year to spend in an ashram yet still wanted to shake up your life a bit, you could go for a couple of weekends and get severely challenged.”

      In an interview from the early Genesis days, he talks about his interest in the occult:

      ” … I like a lot of occult fantasy. There’s a lot of things in that area that interest meópeople in New York doing research with plant responses, and a community in Scotland supposed to be producing amazing cabbages by talking to them…

      HP: You’re supposed to talk to your plants …

      Peter: Dolphins. All these things. A lot of really interesting things that well not so much dolphins, but those subjects which have been branded occult or wishy washy, people are now beginning to investigate a little more seriously.

      HP: Technology seems to be going hand in hand with mysticism. I don’t think the people who invented the transistor in 1947 would have presumed that it would lead to a mystical relationship berween yourself and the transistor, which, at least, it has for me. Do you think mysticism is going to continue. Whether you call it occult or mysticism, that sense of the intellect growing fantasy levels. Do you think the normal person on the street is going to be affected?

      Peter: The group itself is bourgeois escapism, but as far as this sort of thing, I think a lot of them will become less mystical. Kids will become school kids, will accept them for a sort of diet of scientific fact will include things that are now called mystical. Yeah. I think there’s a growing interest in that sort of thing. A lot of rejection of present values. There has to be a reawakening of interest in spiritual matters.”

      On the song, “Intruder”:

      “PG: Yeah, there’s a transvestite element, a clothes fetish. There’s part of me in that…”

      I think we see this transvestite/gender bender influence alluded to in some Peter Gabriel-era Genesis songs as well, such as “I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe)”, “Fountain of Salmacis” (a Greek myth about the first hermaphrodite), “Willow Farm” and “Cinema Show”.

      There are also atheist references in “The Musical Box” (“the nurse will tell you lies, About a kingdom beyond the skies” although in this song, Peter Gabriel is playing the role of a ghost so it is hard to tell if it reflects his real beliefs.

      Many songs on the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway concept album also supposedly contain occult ideas including “The Chamber of 32 Doors”, while “Lilywhite Lilith” draws on Kabbalah (Jewish occultism).

      “Supper’s Ready” was supposedly about Peter’s wife, Jill Gabriel, being possessed by the devil at some point, though Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett has allegedly she actually had a bad LSD trip. Nevertheless, the song draws heavily on imagery from the Book of Revelation.

      In Peter Gabriel’s solo career, the song “Humdrum” from his first solo album, inverts the occultic Hermetic saying, “as above, so below” as “as below, so above”. Also found on his first solo album is “Here Comes the Flood”, a song about mental telepathy/psychic phenomena.

      On his second solo album, Peter Gabriel worked with Robert Fripp from the band King Crimson who was notoriously heavily into the occult.

      On his fourth album, there are songs linked to a wide array of world religions from the Christianity of “Lay Your Hands on Me” to the voodoo of ‘Kiss of Life”, to the Native American shamanism/tribal initiation ceremony of “San Jacinto” to the African animist tribalism of “Rhythm of the Heat”. Finally, “Growing Up” on the Up album is all about karma and reincarnation.

      In terms of other Genesis members, here is what I know about their religious beliefs:

      The band’s early guitarist, Steve Hackett, was – and still is – heavily into spiritualism and the occult. Here is an extract from a 2017 interview:

      “It is in the nature of a conversation with Hackett that it becomes digressive as he pursues a tangential idea. He says he was having a conversation with Peter Gabriel recently about the afterlife (“and not just after Genesis!”) and how they both believe there is something beyond the grave.

      He is on a personal on-going quest researching this on this by reading Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and various spiritualists.

      That sounds like the making of an excellent concept album?
      “Oh yeah,” he laughs, “I’ve occasionally delved into that sort of stuff.””

      In the 1970s, his first concept album was based on his fascination with Tarot cards:

      “When it came to a direction of the album, Hackett thought of a loose concept from his newfound interest in Tarot cards, which he used to title the album’s tracks, and their lyrics, based on various cards in a deck. He took the cards that had conjured the strongest feeling and “mapped out a way of working…””.

      By contrast, the band’s bass player and main guitarist, Mike Rutherford, converted to Christianity at some point in the 1980s. Here is a quote from him about his Christian faith:

      “My own Mom lives with me at age 90, and every moment is precious. My father passed when I was in my late teens, and our relationship was a bit strained, although I know we loved each other. I wish that I had been able to communicate with him better. As a Christian, my hope he is in heaven, and that we’ll get the chance then to catch up.”

      Some of Mike Rutherford’s songs with his spin-off band, Mike and the Mechanics, touch upon Christian themes, notably the songs “I Believe” and “Silent Running” which touch on where to put one’s faith and answered prayer.

      Keyboardist Tony Banks seems to be an atheist. I couldn’t find much online about his views, apart from this quote from an interview:

      “Is there a spiritual component to your music?

      No, not really, I’m afraid. I’m an earthbound man. What I can say is my whole experience of music is very pure. I hear music as music. I don’t hear it in any other way. So, I try not to analyze it. If I do, then it becomes something else. When I don’t analyze music, there’s something going on in my brain that is completely unrelated to anything physical. It’s something totally outside of that.”

      The lyrics of his 1978 song, “Burning Rope” point to agnosticism on Banks’ behalf while “One for the Vine” from the same period is a critique of a false messiah or possibly all religion in general. 1997’s “One Man’s Fool” is specifically a critique of terrorists but in it he writes that all beliefs are the same and none are worth dying for, so apparently a repudiation of all martyrs, not just suicide bombers.

      Phil Collins was once an atheist. In the opening pages of his autobiography, Not Dead Yet, he also talks about going to a clairvoyant at one point, so he was at least interested in spiritualism/occultism enough to check it out. In more recent years, he has become a Freemason. This will undoubtedly concern some Christians but, to become a Freemason, one must at least acknowledge the existence of a deity so he has apparently progressed on from atheism. To tell the truth, I don’t know know much about Freemasonry and it is hard to discern facts from conspiracy theories about the Masonic Lodge on the internet so just how occultic they are, I will leave to those better informed than myself.

      Having covered the main members of Genesis, here is what I know about the religious beliefs ofother people associated with the band:

      Anthony Phillips – No information.

      Ray Wilson – seems to be “spiritual but not religious”. Here is a quote:

      “My singer songwriter style comes from artists like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and so on. This music was played all through my youth, by my Father and I just grew to love it and feel for it. These artists wrote great lyrics about life and non religion based spiritualiity. I totally get that, as a person and artist.”

      Bill Bruford (concert drummer for part of the 1970s):

      “Are you a religious man? Well, I’m a lapsed atheist. I tried, honestly, but I’m just no good at it. I tried shopping on Sundays, but I just couldn’t get into it. If Sunday is a choice between God and shopping, I know which one frightens me the least.”

      Chester Thompson (concert drummer for Genesis from the late 1970s through to the 1990s) is a born-again Christian. From a 2002 interview:

      “World of Genesis: As a Born Again Christian, does your involvement on contemporary Christian and Gospel albums reinforce your faith?

      Chester Thompson: I guess it depends on the project. A normal recording session I can’t say would make that much difference. I’ve done several live recordings that would do that more. There have been some live gospel concerts/recording sessions that have been pretty amazing, but the actual recording session is a little more of a sterile environment. In the studio, you may or may not hear any lyrical content, but there is something that happens live that is a whole other dynamic all together.”

      From the same interview:

      “I’ve done a lot of jazz, pop and Christian stuff.”

      Daryl Stuermer – No information.

      Anthony Drennan – No information.

      Nir Zidkyahu – No information.

      In summary, as I noted at the outset, I was a Genesis fan from my teens, However, the fact that Peter Gabriel and Steve Hacket dabbled in the occult / spiritualism and that this is reflected in some lyrics, deeply disturbs me yo the point I no longer listen to the early albums on which they featured. Fortunately, there are a wealth of later albums from the band’s core trio of Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins and Tony Banks from 1978’s “… And Then There Were Three…” album onwards. Indeed, most fans of the band will never even hear the early albums featuring Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett, as they were made when the band was still an underground phenomenon, long before Phil Collins became singer and they found mainstream success in a much more clean-cut, radio-friendly format, devoid of Peter Gabriel’s costumed theatrics and eccentricities.

      Hardcore fans of the band, though, nearly invariably consider the early years with Gabriel and Hackett the band’s best ftom an artistic standpoint. To a certain extent they are correct with the group performing long, multilayered songs in complex time signatures with multiple movements and often highly literate lyrics. However given the occult references and Gabriel and Hackett’s spiritualist dabblings, I really don’t think it is healthy for Christian’s to listen to this music. The ponderous rhythms of these and much of Gabriel’s solo music can also have a depressing effect, compared to upbeat later Phil Collins-led Genesis and the even more bright and uptempo songs on Phil Collins’ solo albums. It is up to the individual Christiannof course but I no longer listen to any of Peter Gabriel’s music because if the spiritualist/occult themes that he often explores.

      God bless

      David,
      Australia

      1. Thanks so much for posting my long diatribe on religion, the occult, Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Phil Colllins, Pastor.

        Here are a couple of additional thoughts on Phil Collins’ religious views. He may have possibly gone through a period of questioning in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was at the height of his fame and popular acclaim. At this time, he released his last album with Genesis, called We Can’t Dance. On it are two tracks that touch on religious issues. The first of these is called “Jesus, He Knows Me” and it takes a satirical swipe at US televangelist conmen/false preachers.

        The other song is called “Tell Me Why” and Phil says he was prompted to write it after seeing the suffering of Kurdish children on television during the 1991 Gulf War. It contains this lyric:

        “If there’s a God
        Is he watching?
        Can he give a ray of hope?
        So much pain and so much sorrow
        Tell me what does he see
        When he looks at you
        When he looks at me
        What would he say?
        It seems there’s no-one listening”

        Just prior to this, he had released his fourth solo album, “But Seriously…” to mass critical success. One of the biggest hits on it was “Another Day in Paradise” about homelessness. It contains a similar lyric:

        “Oh Lord, is there nothing more anybody can do?
        Oh Lord, there must be something you can say”

        Both songs seem to be written from an agnostic’s perspective, crying out to a God he is not sure exists for justice and wondering how He views/judges the human race.

        Another song on the same album, “Colours”, is about Apartheid. In it, Collins again sings about social justice and judgement but this time he is concerned about humans sitting in judgement on each other, usurping the role that rightfully belongs to God. Here is an extract:

        “You can keep your toy soldiers
        To segregate the black and white
        But when the dust settles
        And the blood stops running
        How do you sleep at night?

        No matter what you say
        What makes you so high and mighty?
        What makes you so qualified?
        You can sit there and say
        How many have their freedom
        But how many more have died?

        You decide to sit in judgment
        Trying to play God yourself
        Someday soon the buck is gonna stop
        Stop with you and no one else”

        Another song, from his first solo album, “Face Value” is a US roots/country-style ballad about the suffering of pioneers in the American frontier west. It contains this chorus:

        “But me oh, I’m getting stronger by the minute
        My wife’s expecting, but I hope she can wait
        ‘Cause this winter looks like it’s gonna be another bad one
        But spring’ll soon be here,
        Oh, God I hope it’s not late”

        The way he sings it, I don’t think the last line is blasphemous. It seems more like an earnest prayer from the narrator of the song.

        It is worth noting that Phil Collins is also close friends with the Christian convert, Eric Clapton, and on the “We Can’t Dance” album, he recorded a beautiful, bluesy dirge (uncharacteristic for Genesis) about the tragic death of Clapton’s infant son, Connor, called “Since I Lost You”. (This was the same event, of course, which led to Clapton composing his own tribute to Connor, “Tears in Heaven”.) Perhaps the death of the infant and the strength of Clapton’s Christian faith through this personal tragedy, influenced Phil Collins’ outlook at this time, too but this is pure speculation on my part.

        People accuse Phil Collins of being too preachy and overly-earnest with his lyrics. While this is probably justified, I would rather listen to him than Peter Gabriel’s more literary, artful lyrics that dabble in esoteric / occult themes. Collins is sometimes accused of hypocrisy too, being an extremely wealthy Rock star telling others how to live their lives but I believe the earnestness at this stage of his career was sincere and that he was using the success he had acquired on previous albums to bring attention to social issues and try to affect some change for the better in the world. Whilst not a Christian at that time, he seems to have a God-given sense of the need for justice in the world and is searching for answers, whilst Gabriel endlessly dabbled in mysticism, the occult and spiritualism influenced by his hippie background and eccentricity. Whilst more commercial, Phil’s “feel good” music does not leave me do depressed or disturbed as Peter’s ponderous songs and esoteric so I know which I would rather listen to after a long youth as an avid fan of Peter’s “art rock” music with its satanic leanings, so I know which one I’d much rather listen to now, despite artistic merits.

        Going back to the subject I opened these two posts with, another rock star who apparently dabbled in the occult which will probably surprise people is Sting. Apparently, he was a devotee of the notorious English satanist/occultist, Alesister Crowley. The Beatles and Rolling Stones apparently dabbled in Crowley’s satanism also. Finally, an act, about which I know little, is an American named Trent Reznor, who has a one-man electronic/industrial music band which goes under the name, “Nine Inch Nails” and which is apparently very popular amongst angsty Goth/emo teens. Reznor claims he always believed in God but was opposed to institutional religion but his lyrics are full of direct attacks on God himself which seemingly belie that fact. Apparently in recent years Reznor has kicked his hard drug habit and now writes more positive, less dark music and is more pro-God. I hope and pray this is true, given his immense influence on the young. The Who also dabbled in Eastern mysticism and the most notorious occultist of all was Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, who was such a devout disciple of Aleister Crowley that he even bought the deceased satanist’s old house. (He loaned it to Genesis in the Peter Gabriel/Steve Hackett era and they recorded an album there.) It is tragic that so much of the popular music scene has been tainted by psychedelic drugs and satanism and that the Hippy movement – which did have its positive aspects, IMHO, such as its peace movement focus- had its links to New Age and occultist ideas, including free love and sexual revolution, which still taint our ever-increasing promiscuous culture to this day.

  9. Re. your comments above, in the 2nd paragraph after the heading, Heaven, I think John Lennon’s line, ‘Imagine there’s no heaven’ was/is intended to highlight the very real damage which has been done to humanity by the man-made construct of institutionalised religion – the promise of a reward in heaven is what has motivated many murders in the name of religious fundamentalism; the intense focus on an afterlife which will be so much better than what we have here and now has resulted in a collective failure to value this existence for the wonderful things that it is, intrinsically and for its own sake; the concept that we will go to heaven if we are ‘good’ has infantalised us as human beings and robbed us of the sense that being compassionate, kind and generous to others can be reward in itself, at the time, and generate happiness right now . . . So it’s perfectly possible that someone who relates to Lennon’s meaning can still talk about heaven in a very different context and sense. I personally don’t think that Christians have the monopoly on heaven – but then again I realise that one of the tenets of institutionalised Christianity is of course that they do!! Just my thoughts, for what they are worth . . .

  10. Susan,

    One of the difficulties of blogs and tweets is the simplistic reductionism they can foster or espouse.

    You have raised some interesting points which to do justice to may require a lengthy discussion not possible here.

    What is institutionalised Christianity to you? In fact what is Christianity to you? What is the central message of Christianity? It is far from a “man made construct” which Freud and others have sought to reduce it to. Who on earth could or ever has constructed the triune God of Christianity.

    I fear that you may not have heard it, especially with your comment about getting to heaven if we are “good”. That is the polar opposite of the good news of Jesus Christ, of Christianity.

    If you want to know what Christianity is look to Christ, read the gospels. Do you see compassion, kindness, generosity? Do you see Him infantilising , humanity? Is God the Son becoming a human being a demonstration of God Infantilising humanity ? Do you really not see, compassion, kindness, generosity from Christians, with a focus on the here and now? Because if you don’t I suggest you don’t know any.

    If God created you in His image are you thereby infantilised? Is it not a humbling honour?

    As I’ve said in other posts, I was an atheist until 47 and would have embraced most of your your stated views, especially heaven being a human idea. And I really liked Lennon’s song “Imagine”.

    As a Christian, I now see it as deeply shallow seeing “only sky.” and lacking in knowledge and understanding of the Good News of God in Jesus Christ..I now see “heaven” as God’s idea, a life of eternity, in union with Him. What could be more glorious?. More life affirming ? An eternal life which can start now in Christ Jesus. This is not embraced by any other belief system/religion.

    Could I suggest you read the gospel of John chapter 17 as a good place to start.

    Geoff,

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