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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Genesis 31 and “Singin’ the Blues”

The Biblical Songbook, the American Songbook and the Church

 Today, we are going to look at Biblical songs that are the blues. A profoundly sad song is found in Genesis 31 (27) when Laban sang the blues about deception and loss because Jacob had run off with Laban’s daughter, Rachel. Remember, he said “Why did you run off secretly and deceive me?”

 Laban may not have pulled out his harp and sang, actually — we don’t know. But he does say if Jacob had been forthright about his plans, Laban would have responded “with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps.” But instead, he ends up singing the blues.

 Laban’s lament of deception reminds me of Melvin Endsley 1956 blues song “Singin’ The Blues” recorded by Guy Mitchell. Mitchell’s rendition was number one on the Billboard Chart for a couple of months in America and in England: “I never felt so much like singin’ the blues,” he sang.

 Mitchell(“Singin’ The Blues” performed by Guy Mitchell) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEwkS57P4eE

 You may remember that Mitchell made a fortune singing the blues with such songs as “My Heart Cries for You” and “Heartaches by the Number.” Laban could have related.

 Another Old Testament sad song is found in Psalm 69 (12), quote “Those who sit at the gate mock me, and I am the strumming songs of the drunkards” end of quote David later laments, “deliver me from those who hate me. Do not let the floodgates engulf me.” And on and on the great biblical lyricist goes. David never just phoned in the lyrics; he felt every word. John Calvin wrote, quote “I call the Psalms the anatomy of the soul. There is not an emotion which is not reflected in these songs. The Holy Spirit has drawn to life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, cares, perplexities which agitate the mind.” end of quote

Teagarden From the American Songbook, the incomparable trombonist Jack Teagarden sang about the agitation using the words and music of Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler’s classic 1932 weeper “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues,” written for the musical Earl Carroll’s Vanities, starring, incidentally, a 24 year old Milton Berle in his first Broadway play.

 (“I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues” performed by Jack Teagarden) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9J0ZvDqI6w

 There’s more blues and biblical songs of agitation where this came from, but for now

 This is Bob Case for “Singing in the Shower: The American Songbook and the Church.”

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