Tuesday 27 October 2009

This one is for you, Seamus!

(The year is 1978)

Brethren, if you'd all open your hymnals to page 103, we will sing the words of Psalm 137, "By the Waters of Babylon."

Seamus (sotto voce): "Which version?"


Corky said...

Hey, that was a good job on that old hymn. Maybe not CoG style but still...good find.

SmilinJackSprat said...

Wonderful, these reggae artists, Bobby Farrell (Aruba), Liz Mitchell (Jamaica), Marcia Barrett (Jamaica) and Maizie Williams (Montserrat). To think this was recorded 31 years ago!

Here's another version of the same Psalm, also beautiful. A Sefer Tehilim (Book of Psalms) opens to "Al Naharot Bavel" and the young Mizrahi sensation, 15 years old, Meydad Tasa, sings.

Two settings beautifully performed by reps of two peoples, each stolen from native soil to live and work in the lands of their captors. In each case an enlightened consciousness emerged to enrich all of us.

Questeruk said...

Ahh Boney M…...

Their hit ‘By the Waters of Babylon’ was no 1 in the UK at about the same time the ‘Purple Hymnal’ reached these shores.

The first time we sang the WCG version of ‘By the Waters of Babylon’ I remember the song leader introducing it as ‘We will now sing the current No 1 hit By the Waters of Babylon’. I think I have always associated the two together.

Coincidently, lead singer of Boney M, Liz Mitchell, who still sings as ‘Boney M featuring Liz Mitchell’, is a member of the ‘New Testament Church of God’. Liz currently has a new gospel album out ‘Let it be’, with many of the numbers being adapted from hymns of The New Testament Church of God.

But this is just a name coincidence – her church is a part of a Pentecostal group of churches, with no connection with WCG.

Anonymous said...

Loved it !!

I always dreaded singing that song in WCG. Couldn't stand it. But these women turned it into something that is just delightful to listen to.

Thanks for the post.

PurpleHymnal said...

The Purple Joy Killer version of that song was the only one I ever knew, and was actually my favourite (back in my bad old BI days). Once I disabused myself of that notion, any time I thought of how much I liked that hymn, or the melody ran through my head, I felt sick.

This was a great find, Gavin. Brings a lump to the throat, when you compare the two versions. Ours was dour and dire and anti-Semitic; this one was anything but.

Great find!

Baywolfe said...

I'd give it a 92. The lyrics are a little lame but you certainly can dance to it.

Anonymous said...

By de Ribbers of Babylon.

Yes,I remember the occasion well.

Boney M had it all over the purple hymnal.

I was introduced to the history of the transplanted Jews in Babylon by Arthur Mee's encyclopaedia,sometime in the......,er, let's say at least a decade before 1978.There was a B&W painting that I still see in the mind's eye.

Perhaps Gavin could introduce audio to his blog and we could hear the delightful strains of Boney M all over again.


Anonymous said...

Did anyone but me notice that in the Boney M song Rasputin, the spoken part in the middle of the song sounds just like Garner Ted?

Carolyn said...

Boney M's album with this song was actually the first CD I ever purchased. I still have it and I love it. When this song was on the radio, it was really hard not to break out in rythm and swaying when singing it in church … ah, the memories …

PurpleHymnal said...

"Boney M's album with this song was actually the first CD I ever purchased."

I'm surprised you were allowed to make such a purchase, Carolyn. You are lucky that your family was so liberal.

I certainly never felt like "breaking into rhythm" or "swaying" to Dwight's version of the song --- instead visualizing the church-mandated theology that WE were the "captives on the river of "Babylon", being the "chosen elect" in captivity in "the world" after all.

Like I said, Gavin, great find. Completely different spin on the church's version. The two versions are absolutely nothing alike. Which is a good thing!

...let the words of our mouth/and the meditation of our hearts/be acceptable in thy sight/here tonight...

Completely different spin.

Anonymous said...

Dwight Armstrong wrote four-part hymns for untrained, unauditioned masses of non-musicians without benefit of auditions, rehearsals or carefully nuanced instrumental accompaniment. His hymns were more often than not led by not-that-musical deacon and elder hopefuls and sung by people like we, without benefit of gentle Calypso rhythms or even Boney M's strikingly good looks. So we naturally sounded like congregations tend to sound with out-of-tune, broken-string-bashed-piano accompaniment in rented classrooms, Masonic temples and sundry other acoustically nightmarish venues.

A savvy arranger, good enough to write for Boney M, and with access to that wonderfully attractive group during its heyday, could have made Dwight Armstrong's version sound -- and look -- just fine, thank you.

PurpleHymnal said...

You missed my point, Anon; it wasn't the sound of the hymns that was the problem; it was their underlying theology that was the biggest part of the indoctrination.

Paco said...

Did the Boney M. version have the part about taking babies and smashing their heads against a rock, or is that just in the Psalm? That was always the vision that popped into my mind when we sang that song. "Happy he that rewardeth thee, just as thou to us hast done"- SMASH! Very upsetting.

PurpleHymnal said...

Me too Paco, me too.

Anonymous said...

Purple, I can’t agree with you in terms of indoctrination drawn from the Psalms. They don't comport with lovey-dovey church theories, but that’s to their credit, IMO. The psalms often reflect a relationship between God and Israel on one side, and Israel's enemies on the other. I'm sure you know this. This Psalm 137 meditates on a reality that can only be changed through repentance.

Bad blood between Esau and Jacob goes back to Rebecca’s womb, where those two were fighting before their birth. Esau/Edom was, and still is, Jacob’s archenemy. He disdained his birthright and sold it for a bowl of red soup. He should have known better; one doesn't thumb his nose at gifts from God. The decision was irreversible. His mother and brother later conspired, shamefully, to steal his blessings -- which he did not deserve.

The story is ugly as sin, with no improvements in sight other than the destruction of Edom -- but he despised his birthright, and only later loathed Jacob for obtaining it. God couldn't trust world leadership to a man who had no respect for the awesome birthright. (We are reading about Creation in these stories, a process that is still evolving through human choices that are designing the human family through “natural selection.”)

One doesn't find God patting Esau on the head, "nice boy, nice boy." Esau showed no remorse over his crude appraisal of his birthright. And, "Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. ... Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter. Moab is my washbasin; upon Edom I toss my sandal." If God is Love, then love must require the destruction of Esau.

How does one destroy a people without destroying its children? Noah’s flood and the destruction of Sodom, at God’s hand, no less, were indiscriminate with children. Everyone either drowned or was burned to death. Grasping these harsh realities is a matter of proper indoctrination. We are up to our eyeballs in an ongoing evolution that will ultimately produce the best that we can be. Those who cannot or will not adapt, like Esau and his children, will go the way of the dinosaurs.

PurpleHymnal said...

"Purple, I can’t agree with you in terms of indoctrination drawn from the Psalms."

Fine, then we shall agree to disagree, and I didn't read any further in your comment.

For all others interested in the indoctrination the hymns helped with, please see the website linked to my username, above.