Pandaemonium

THE DEVIL’S TUNES AND THE MUSIC OF ANGELS

giotto-angel

The devil has the best tunes? Perhaps. But the music of angels can be damn fine too. So, here is a Christmas soundtrack splicing some of my favourite gospel tracks with songs in which the devil pops up (most of which derive, of course, from the blues/gospel tradition).  For the music of the angels I could easily have created a whole soundtrack simply of Mahalia Jackson songs, but I have restricted myself to just two, which open and close the list. The final track is her version of Silent Night, a carol that has little depth or emotion and one that I usually disdain. It is a measure of Jackson’s brilliance that she transforms it somehow into a work of hair-tingling beauty. Amazing Grace has become something of a cliché. But stripped down, it can be a very moving hymn. I have chosen here the Judy Collins version; not, perhaps, as emotionally resonant as when sung by Mahalia Jackson or Aretha Franklin, but the clarity of Collins’ voice gives it a different dimension. And for anyone who knows of The Rivers of Babylon only through the execrable Boney M, here is the original Melodians’ version. As for the devil’s tunes, I could have as easily filled the list with Robert Johnson tracks as I could have with Mahalia Jackson songs, but I have settled on just one; not one of his more celebrated tracks, such as Hellhound on my Trail, but one of my favourites, Preaching Blues (Up Jumped the Devil).

So, enjoy. And Merry Christmas all!


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Mahalia Jackson
In the upper room

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Robert Johnson
Preaching blues (Up jumped the devil)

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Aretha Franklin
Precious Lord

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Eartha Kitt
I want to be evil

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Blind Willie Johnson
Keep your lamp trimmed and burned

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Johnny Cash
The devil’s right hand

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Sam Cooke
That’s heaven to me

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Sonny Boy Williamson
I’ve been dealing with devil

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Melodians
By the rivers of Babylon

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The Rolling Stones
Sympathy for the devil

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Judy Collins
Amazing grace

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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Red right hand

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Mahalia Jackson
Silent Night

3 comments

  1. Gillian Sathanandan

    Thank you Kenan, not only do you have a beautiful mind you have great taste in Music too! Merry Christmas and looking forward greatly to your new book in 2014!

  2. bruce madeiros

    Kenan
    Interesting choice of music , my favourite was Amazing Grace. I wonder if next year when we remember the beginnings of the Great War that Silent Night may be popular as it was the “heavenly” music was sung together by the Germans & the Brits on that christmas of 1914 during the 4 years of “hell” music of bombs and bullets and the “donkeys” shouting at the “lions” and forced them to face the ” firing squads” of the machine gun posts
    Bruce

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