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Michale Been (with beard in middle)Music has always been a big part of my life.  My parents often listened to classical records, big-band stuff, and had their own personal favorites (mother – The Sound of Music soundtrack, father – Johnny Cash records).  As a kid of the late 60’s & all through the 70’s and then coming to age in high-school & college during the 80’s, music for me meant rock & roll (now termed “classic rock”) and its emerging sub-genres of the day – “new wave” and “modern rock”. Of course a little cable channel start-up in 1981 that played “music videos” 24/7 also had a big impact back in the day in culturing my fondness for these new “alternative” rock bands.

However growing up with strong biblical beliefs I often felt conflicted with the dark-side of a lot of rock music’s subject matter. The old saying of “sex, drugs, & rock-n-roll” is true to a great extent – especially during the decadence of a lot of the 70’s & 80’s (though that generally pales with the shrinking morals reverberated in music of later years & today).  As a result I tried listening to Christian music here and there, but I personally found most lacked the musical edge and drive that I liked in mainstream rock music.  Christian music of the day seemed lackluster and pale in comparison (musically speaking). But then I started discovering bands that had what I was looking for – lyrics that spoke of faith & Christian based spirituality with great sounding music.  In 1983 I discovered my all-time favorite band U2 after hearing “New Years Day” on the radio.  At last here was a band of believers (all three guys originally except for bassist Adam Clayton – who later came to believe) who successfully blended biblical imagery and their faith with social & political issues of the day – all with great sounding modern rock music.  I was hooked.  At the same time I began a wider quest to find more bands that were similar in this respect.

One such band that I discovered was a little American band called “The Call”.  The moment I heard their 1983 radio single “The Walls Came Down“, I instantly recognized their own combination of mixing big-sounding rock music with insightful lyrics from a Christian perspective.  The song itself was referencing the biblical story of Joshua in the Old Testament with lyrics that went:

“Well they blew the horns”

“And the walls came down”

“Theyd all been warned”

“And the walls came down”

“They just stood there laughing”

“Theyre not laughing anymore”.

After hearing this song and their lead singer Michael Been’s amazing, “booming” voice I went out and immediately bought the album it was from – “Modern Romans”. And so began my life-long fandom of The Call.  Over the next two decades I would buy all their albums, go to their concerts/shows wherever & whenever possible.  I even had the good fortune to meet the band on a couple of occasions. Michael and his fellow band-mates (Tom Ferrier, Scott Musick, & Jim Goodwin) were always so nice, gracious, and down-to-earth each time I was able to briefly chat with them after their shows.

Over the years The Call toured & opened for big acts like Peter Gabriel and Simple Minds (another group with Christian undertones).  But success like U2 enjoyed never came their way. They were recognized and praised by other like-minded musicians – many of whom participated in making Call albums (Bono of U2, Jim Kerr of Simple Minds, Garth Hudson & Robbie Robertson of The Band). But even with that, they never achieved wide-spread commercial success.  By the early 2000’s they dis-banded and Michael became more focused on helping his son Robert’s musical career in his own rock band “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club”.

I had hoped to one day see The Call possibly reunite, create new material and play again.  Michael had such a tremendous voice and also played a mean electric bass guitar! But that was not to be. This past August (2010) while traveling with his son & running sound at a BRMC show in Belgium, Michael Been died of a massive heart attack at 60 years old.  Few people in the world noticed or gave it much thought. In fact it hardly made any news at all.  When I heard it, I felt like I had lost a dear friend & mentor.  Michael’s songs and lyrics always strengthened my spiritual psyche on numerous occasions over the years – often when I needed it the most.

I often wished that I could have been able to sit down and talk with Michael about his own beliefs.  I wondered if he and I might have similar biblical viewpoints in many areas.  I often thought we just might because of his song’s lyrics.  Additionally in a 1987 interview in response to being asked about the various biblical references scattered throughout his lyrics he replied: “Well, I try to write about my own life experiences, and I’m a Christian myself, so I write from that point of view. Although it wouldn’t be the type of Christianity commonly practiced these days.”  Sure that could mean a great many things.  A lot of people out there have viewpoints that could very well be controversial to mainstream beliefs.  And certainly Michael wasn’t afraid of controversy – he himself played the Apostle John in Martin Scorsese’s 1988 polemical film “The Last Temptation of Christ“.

Though I most likely will never know for certain this side of The Resurrection, I personally think Michael may have believed some of the same biblical viewpoints that most of us who write for this kingdomready blog believe.  In particular, I think he too believed in The Resurrection of the Dead at the end of the age as our hope for eternal life vs. the mainstream belief of “going to heaven when you die”.  My opinion on this stems from various clues Michael sprinkled throughout many of his different song lyrics over the years with The Call.  Here are some of them:
From the song “Oklahoma” (awesome song with rich imagery of hot summers & tornadoes from my parent’s home state):

“Preacher cried out – Hell’s been raised”
“Fever broke and the dead raised up, The ground broke open and the dead were raised”

From the song “I Still Believe” (a powerful song of faith & my personal favorite song from The Call)

“I’ll wait till the end of time for you like everybody else”

From the song “Everywhere I Go

“Raise me up”

“Keep that promise that you made”

“Wake me up”

“Keep that promise that you made”

From the song “Turn a Blind Eye” (listing a host of things people ignore/don’t recognize)

“To The Resurrection”

From the song “Surrender” (my 2nd fave Call song)

“Well I know its gonna end in laughter”

“Son I know its gonna end in joy”

“The surrender in the garden”

“Don’t you run death poet no more”

From the song “Let the Day Begin” (ironically the campaign theme song used by Al Gore during his 2000 Presidential bid)

“To the closing of the age”

Again I must admit that I have no actual knowledge of what Michael Been fully believed in the areas of his personal faith.  But the  clues mentioned above could very well support my hypothesis.  And whether he really believed in conditional immortality is not that important to me.  As a fan enjoying their music and his lyrics as I chose to view them, the music of him & his band The Call has brought me tremendous enjoyment over the years and the added benefit of a boost to my faith resolve that few musical acts have done before or since.

In his song “Everywhere I Go” Michael wrote & sung the lyric “Raise me up, Keep that promise that you made, Wake me up, Keep that promise that you made.”  I believe that promise comes from Jesus himself in John chapter five.

John 5:28-29

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

 

That is our hope. That is the biblical expectation.  That is what “I Still Believe”.I hope to see him and all of you in that resurrection of life at his coming (1 Cor. 15:23) – at “the closing of the age”!

RS

NOTE: A really great write up of another Christian fan is one called Michael Been Remembered – from another blog site (“The Greatest Christian Albums of All Time“).  Check it out, he has in-depth comments about all their albums & other video links too.

4 Responses to “Resurrection Rock? (Faith & hope in the music of Michael Been & The Call)”

  1. on 28 Feb 2011 at 10:22 pmDoubting Thomas

    Ron S.
    I added “I Still Believe” and “Everywhere I Go” to my favorites on YouTube. I also believe U2 was one of the greatest bands, but I didn’t know about their Christian roots (that they were all Christians). Thank-you for sharing some of your love of music with us…

  2. on 01 Mar 2011 at 9:22 amXavier

    Joshua Tree…’nuff said! 😉

  3. on 01 Mar 2011 at 2:02 pmRon S.

    DT,

    Thanks. The Youtube link I posted above to “I Still Believe” is the studio/album version from the GREAT “Reconciled” album (which also has “Everywhere I Go” on it). Here’s a YouTube link to footage from a 1986 concert (first tour I saw them): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=272T8hZUqcs

    U2 has a ton of Biblical imagery in their songs. One of these days I’ll do a post/write-up on their stuff.

    Though since Xavier brings up the Joshua Tree – here’s a great line from a moving song on that album.

    From “One Tree Hill

    I’ll see you again
    When the stars fall from the sky
    And the moon has turned red
    Over One Tree Hill

    FYI – the song was written about Bono’s close friend & assistant – Greg Carroll. Greg was killed in 1986 in a motorcycle accident and the song was written about/to him.

    I’ve always been intrigued that Bono used the apocalyptic imagery that Revelations uses to speak of the end of the age (stars falling from the sky & moon turning blood red) in conjunction with when Bono will see his friend again. Could Mr. Paul “Bono-Vox” Hewson believe we are re-united with the dead only in resurrection at the end of the age instead of the traditional going to heaven the minute you die? That lyric certainly points toward the former!

  4. on 01 Mar 2011 at 9:30 pmDoubting Thomas

    Ron S,
    Thanks for the new link. I liked it better than the other one, so I replaced the other “I Still Believe” in my favorites with this version. It is interesting that Bono wrote that lyric about seeing his friend again at the end times, instead of immediately after his own death (like most Christian churches teach). Have a good night and God Bless…

  

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