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Gods and Guitars
Seeking the Sacred in Post-1960s Popular Music

By Michael J. Gilmour

Gods and Guitars
Paperback, 216 pages $29.95
Published: 15th November 2009
ISBN: 9781602581395
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Cultural Studies, All Religious Studies, Religion & Popular Culture

Though American attitudes toward religion changed dramatically during the 1960s, interest in spirituality itself never diminished. If we listen closely, Michael Gilmour contends, we can hear an extensive religious vocabulary in the popular music of the decades that followed—articulating each generation’s spiritual quest, a yearning for social justice, and the emotional highs of love and sex.

Probing the lyrical canons of seminal artists including Cat Stevens, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, U2, Ozzy Osbourne, Pearl Jam, Madonna, and Kanye West, Gilmour considers the ways—and reasons why--pop music’s secular poets and prophets adopted religious phrases, motifs, and sacred texts.

Introduction: Spirituality in Post-1960s Lyrics
Track 1: Religion on Record: Popular Music's Anxiety of Influence
Track 2: Church in a Guitar Case: Comfort and Compassion in Popular Music
Track 3: Outrageous Religion: Sex, Defiance, and Obsession with the Sacred
Track 4: Looking Beyond the Steeple and Menorah
Track 5: Fade Out: Stealing from the Sacred and Rewriting Religion

“With analysis that throbs with rhythm and passion, Gilmour demonstrates why rock ‘n’ roll is the sacred text of postmodern spirituality.”

—Stephen H. Webb, Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Wabash College

“A fascinating caress and collision of rock music and Scriptures that displays a huge library of theological and art wisdom.”

—Steve Stockman, author of Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2 and The Rock Cries Out: Discovering Eternal Truth in Unlikely Music

What do Salman Rushdie and literary criticism have to do with rock music? For Gilmour (Call Me the Seeker: Listening to Religion in Popular Music), these things are very much related. The author believes that song lyrics can sometimes stand on their own apart from music, and moreover, they can reveal something about an artist’s religious and spiritual views. This may not appear at first to be an enlightened perspective, but the author’s artful use of Rushdie’s fiction clearly shows how it is possible. The usual suspects in the religion and rock conversation (U2, Springsteen) are not as prominent, leaving room for more obscure but equally vital musicians like Daniel Lanois and Burton Cummings. Especially constructive is the chapter “Outrageous Religion,” about the influence of sexuality and the occult on some styles of rock music, such as heavy metal. The author also ventures into Hindu and Muslim influences on rock music, a foray that few scholars have attempted. His treatment enriches the dialogue between religion and rock well beyond the usual Judeo-Christian interpretations. Tune in, read on and enjoy. (Nov.)

—Publishers Weekly (October 5, 2009)

Michael J. Gilmour is a writer on religion and music whose other works include Call Me the Seeker: Listening to Religion in Popular Music (editor, 2005) and Tangled Up in the Bible: Bob Dylan and Scripture (2004).  He lives in Manitoba, Canada, where he serves on the faculty of Providence College. 

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 216 pages
 9in x 6in

  MUS029000, MUS035000
 Baylor University Press

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