A Rock And Roll Altar

23 Feb

My book, Jesus Rocks The World, is specifically about music directed towards, about or somehow related to God, in a Christian sense. However, that in itself is a byproduct of the secular model, which itself was influenced by a more primitive spiritual model through the music created by slaves and their masters, over centuries of exploitation, pain, and suffering. Robert Darden’s excellent book, People Get Ready: A New History of Black Gospel Music, tells the story from the slave’s side.


I didn’t realize how important music was to modern civilization until I was an adult with children of my own who were listening to music. I listened to their music to filter what I wanted them to listen to, until they turned 18 and then turned them loose. At the same time I was always involved in music from a non musician’s point of view, so I observed it as a historian and have seen it involved in the toppling of governments from the U.S.S.R. to Egypt. Concerts themselves resemble church services to the point that they are interchangeable with mega churches featuring worship bands that have recording contracts.


The secular arena is filled with artists that reflect every point of view and musical taste, and over the decades I was present to observe hundreds of them at major concerts in both genres. As a rock and roll journalist I took thousands of photos of the groups to help document what I was experiencing. At home I surround myself with images that I developed and enlarged in my darkroom or had the custom lab print for me. Sometimes I would take a dozen images and cut them up to make a collage, as I recently did with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are not a religious act, but their music connects with much of the population on a spiritual level. I’ve attended a half dozen of their concerts since 1986, when they toured with Bob Dylan, and photographed the last two times. I decided to create a photo collage out of twenty images from my archive. After I assembled the collage I weighed it down with eight items that were small and had enough weight to prevent the glued foam core from warping during the drying time. When I looked at what I had, I took my digital camera that was one of the weights and took a photo of what looked to me like an altar or shrine. I even lit the candle that I bought one time when the electricity went out.




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