The message in the music.
Music, more than any other human communication, has the ability to touch everyone. I have never met anyone who does not like some kind of music. It has the power to lift us up and calm us down. It can bring out all kinds of feelings and evoke memories happy or sad. It can lift our spirits and bring us to tears. And, it can be an inspiration that sets of trains of thought.
I can not remember when I first saw the film, Sister Act. It starred Whoopie Goldberg as flamboyant cabaret singer Deloris Van Cartier, who was working in a Reno hotel and casino. When Deloris witnesses a murder, carried out by her married crook of a lover Vince. She is forced to hide in a Carmelite convent, for her own safety, until the case comes to court.
After she has been in the convent for a while, upsetting the nuns ordered routine, to the chagrin of the convent’s Mother, Sister Mary Clarence, as Deloris was known by the nuns, joins their enthusiastic but very un-tuneful choir. Some of the choir, having heard that their new sister has a background in music, is persuaded to become the choir’s leader. With her professional experience, she teaches them to sing together as a group and introduces some popular music to their repertoire.
What struck me most about the film, was not the teaching of the nuns to sing but the songs which Deloris chose for them. With one exception, and that a jazzed up arrangement of a hymn, the songs that she introduced into the nun’s repertoire were popular music that was never intended to be religious, holy, spiritual or worship songs. Those same songs though, if you actually listen to the words, can be interpreted with a powerful Christian message and in only one case was it necessary to change a single word; in Mary Wells’ song title My Guy, “Guy” was replaced with, as if you hadn’t already guessed, “God”. The film’s finale song was I Will Follow Him , where it is obvious to any Christian, and most other film-goers too, that to “follow him” would be to follow Jesus.
Since first seeing that movie, of which I now own a copy on DVD and watch often, I have been fascinated by music which carries a Christian message but which was, in most cases, entirely unintended by the writer.
I was reminded of this when playing through my car’s radio came Petula Clark‘s 1967 hit record, The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener (lyrics here). I happen to like Pet’s music anyway; it is from the era I was brought up in.
The first impression you get of the song is that it is about envy; wanting more, bigger or ‘one like he’s got that is better than mine’, all the kind of ideas that advertisers try to implant to us consumers. Yet when you listen again more carefully to the lyrics, you quickly come to understand that it is really about resisting temptation; about being content with what you have and not constantly wanting what someone else has. It is no wonder I have never heard this song backing an advertisement; its final words are “I’m so thankful for what I’ve got” not the message any advertiser wants to send to you.
However, the biggest message in the song, for me at least, comes in the verse that goes:
But deep inside I know I’m really lucky
With happiness I’ve never known before
And just as long as you are there beside me
I know that I could ask for nothing more
And living can start with the love in your heart
So with you all the time, all the treasures I long for are mine
The words of this verse “you are there beside me” and “with you all the time” speak to me, as a Christian, of the love of Jesus always with us, if we accept Him. The song shows us that envy can be controlled and does not need to become destructive, or self destructive. If you are ‘content’ and “thankful for what I’ve got” then in time “all the treasures I long for are mine” as we each find the treasures of Heaven.
A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14: 30 NIV