click here for lyrics and more
I can’t remember the train of thought, or musical musing, which led me from Laurie Anderson to Randy Newman. It may have gone in the other direction. I ordered “Sail Away” on the 10th of Jan., then posted the piece about Laurie (O Superman) 2 days later. They patently have much in common, being led by ideas, with the music often an ironic accompaniment. They both subtly invoke America as a favourite butt for their satire. Moreover,
[their] best songs implicate the listener *
[they] presume an intelligence and literacy in [their] audience *
as I do too, with visitors to this site. Accordingly, I present without further comment God’s Song (that’s why I love mankind). It opens in a new window or tab. Here are the lyrics:
Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why / For if the children of Israel were to multiply / Why must any of the children die? / So he asked the Lord / And the Lord said: Man means nothing he means less to me / Than the lowliest cactus flower / Or the humblest Yucca tree / He chases round this desert / Cause he thinks that’s where I’ll be / That’s why I love mankind / I recoil in horror fro the foulness of thee / From the squalor and the filth and the misery / How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me / That’s why I love mankind / The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree / The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV / They picked their four greatest priests / And they began to speak / They said, “Lord, a plague is on the world / Lord, no man is free / The temples that we built to you / Have tumbled into the sea / Lord, if you won’t take care of us / Won’t you please, please let us be?” / And the Lord said / And the Lord said / I burn down your cities—how blind you must be / I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we / You all must be crazy to put your faith in me / That’s why I love mankind / You really need me / That’s why I love mankind
* See article in Popmatters: “What does Randy Newman say when he talks with God?” which includes this:
Greil Marcus suggests that “His best songs implicate the listener” (Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music. New York: Plume, 2015. p.108), while Kevin Courrier argues that Newman “presumes an intelligence and literacy in his audience” (Randy Newman’s American Dreams. Toronto: ECW Press, 2005. p.xvi).
The article also saves me from trying to set down my own thoughts after listening to the “Sail Away” album, and goes beyond them. I particularly like its use of the word “maltheistic” which cannot be found in the OED. Wiktionary is helpful though:
maltheism: The belief that there is an evil God or gods.
Etymology: macaronic nonce coinage from mal-, from Latin malus (“bad”), + theism (compare misotheism and dystheism). Attested in Usenet discussions from 1985