When Joe Biden gave his victory speech, he quoted the anthem On the wings of the eagle Express the Catholic faith that sustains it.
Composed by Father Jan Michael Joncas, the song was written console a friend whose father had just died. He made his debut as a result.
Often derided by music snobs, the anthem has become, due to the real comfort it brings, a favorite among people on the pews, especially when sung at funerals.
In his own life, Biden learned to bear the burden of suffering. At first, he lost his wife and one-year-old daughter in a car accident. And his son Beau, who was particularly fond of the anthem, died at the age of 46 from brain cancer.
Vatican II said that the liturgy “should be distinguished by a noble simplicity” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 34). Folk songs are marked by this quality. It’s no surprise that they can provide quiet strength in our darkest hours.
“Noble Simplicity” became the slogan of a musical revolution introduced in the 1760s and 1770s, writes music historian Larry Wolff. German philosopher and poet Johann Gottfried von Herder “promoted the idea of the simple folk song as an ancient and admirable form of music, different from culture to culture but ubiquitous throughout the world”, notes Wolff.
Nowadays, folk songs loved by the masses are usually expressed by rock music. The same week Biden was elected, Canada’s TVOntario premiered another excellent documentary via YouTube.
Picture My Face: The Teenage Head Story Ilooks back at a Canadian garage rock band that won a gold record in Canada.
They were about to break into the American market in 1980. But a tragic accident suddenly interrupted their trajectory to mega-stardom.
Guitarist and songwriter Gord Lewis was seriously injured. Although he later returned to the band, they spent the next four decades playing small gigs across Canada.
In 2008, singer Frankie Venom died aged 52 of throat cancer, leaving the band reeling once again from tragedy.
The documentary begins with a brutal juxtaposition. It shows the band in concert at the height of their success, then in the present day with the band taking a limo ride to visit Frankie’s grave.
They look at the words on Frankie’s headstone: “Picture My Face”. This is the name of the band’s first single, which appeared on their debut album in Canada.
But in the documentary, the phrase takes on new meaning. Exploring the impact of death and suffering on the lives of band members, it expresses fond remembrance.
Gord Lewis, still reeling from Frankie’s death and his own car accident, is shown struggling with severe depression. The band supplemented Gord’s medical treatments with efforts to have Gord record a new album with them and play live shows.
The documentary chronicles much of this real pain and struggle as it happens. We cheer on the band as Gord again plays a triumphant concert with them at the end of the film.
The film’s central message is provided by Gord’s brother, Father David Lewis, interviewed at his parish, St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church.
“I believe in Gord’s calling and I believe in mine,” says Father Lewis. As he listens to the music of Teenage Head in front of the camera, he exclaims: “I love it! To like. It’s from God! God is part of it.
Father Lewis explains how he believes rock music “simply gives strength”. He also reveals, “Gord and I lost our parents, so we feel like orphans. And I think Gord felt that when Frank died.
The importance of this type of music? “Suffering. It’s all about suffering,” Father Lewis announces. “I think that’s what rock and roll does. You learn to suffer.
It is an impromptu homily on the central theme of the film. “Blues and rock and roll are about suffering and expressing it with hope,” he says.
A must-watch, this documentary will get you thinking about the presence of pain and loss in your own life. Maybe you’ll even start listening to old records from the 1980s.
But if you want to experience a contemporary expression of the cathartic power of rock and roll, check out English hard rock band Wytch Hazel’s new album, III: Pentecost.
In their Christian lyrics, Wytch Hazel combine words from scripture with influences from early music and 1970s metal.
Every track is brilliant. Coincidentally, I celebrated the US election results with Wytch Hazel’s gorgeous headline dry bones mounted strong:
“Here a power restoration work has been sent / We will rise like eagles by his mighty breath.”