Born-again Bassist: Every Song is a God

12th-century musicians with music instruments vadya at Shaivism Hindu temple Hoysaleswara arts Halebidu Karnataka India

I have a religious analogy for working on songs (never mind that I’m an atheist).

This is it in a nutshell:

  • Every song is a god.
  • Musicians performing a song are conducting a sacrament, the purpose of which is to serve and glorify the particular song god.
  • If a musician tries to glorify himself (with extra volume, overplaying, or attention-hogging stage antics) then the song god suffers.

I’ve always thought of myself as a songwriter first, and a bassist second. Since I haven’t been in a band in many years, the bass hasn’t been a part of my songwriting toolkit. I’ve been composing almost exclusively on acoustic guitar–when I’ve made time to compose at all. Now that I’m recording, and collaborating on Indaba, I’m finding that my approach to bass has changed.

I never was a particularly flashy player, but looking back, I realize that my approach to composition used to be concerned with holding my interest as a bassist, and not always with what was right for the song. When a member of a band said “my part is boring to play” I’d say, “Suck it up for the good of the song.” But…I always made my own part interesting, at least as a player.

I seem to have turned the tables on myself now. My newer songs–and the songs to which I’m contributing on Indaba–aren’t necessarily built from the bass up. I’m often left with the feeling that the bass parts are unsatisfying to play.

Suck it up, Johnson, for the song gods.

After years of neglect I’ve been starting to enjoy playing bass again lately, mostly because of a song called “Blindin’Lights.” It’s by a guy named Robert Tripp from the Indaba Music site, and I offered to put bass to it.

So far I’m the only one who has contributed. I just think it’s a really cool song.

“Blindin’ Lights”

“Blindin’ Lights,” has given me a chance to have it both ways as a bassist. I’m not quite sure what the lyrics are about, but here’s my interpretation:

It’s directed toward a Christian Pentecostal, who is obsessed with salvation, but is living a miserable life.

Remind me when we get there. Sometimes I think it’s hard to tell.
That blissful destination, but gettin’ there’s the part that’s hell.

I see you crawling on the floor. It’s like your barely alive.
The blindin’ lights have consumed you. You’re movin’ real slow when you’re talking that jive.

Sometimes I feel like a savior when I’m talking you down.
That’s the same old conclusion. On tower goes up, there’s another falls down.

“Crawling on the floor”…”talking that jive”… “tower…falls down”...? I take these as references to Pentecostal writhing and speaking in tongues and their link to the Biblical myth of the Tower of Babel.

…the languages of humanity were differentiated at the Tower of Babel leading to confusion, but were reunited at Pentecost…

I liked the song even before I began to analyze the words. And until Robert tells me I’m off base, my take on the lyrics is another reason for me to enjoy working on this song.

Photo Credit: Ms Sarah Welch (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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