Regular perusers of my blog and those who know me in person are quite familiar with my unqualified, perhaps hyperbolic praises of NSYNC and the BackStreet Boys. As somewhat of an aesthetic relativist, no barriers exist to steal the joys simple, popular music from my life. One can even gain a philosophical insight from Pop: the manufactured yet exciting, automatic yet amusing beats that are the exoskeletons of Pop songs serve to remind us, or at least me, of the uniformity of Nature and the conformity of all to her Law, with the exception of miracles. Certainly, this was not the intention of the infamous production companies, but so far as I'm concerned, epiphanies sprung from thinking too hard are legitimate. Indeed, in a letter to a friend, I summed up my thoughts on NSYNC in succinct, comic form, approximately: NSYNC was a band composed of Justin Timberlake, Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, and JC Chasez, brought together by Divine Providence, that is- was [sob] rightly adored by teeming millions, until their "friends" peer-pressured them into liking Heavy Metal and Rock instead of Pop
. Exaggeration, but there's more than a grain of truth to it!
Nonetheless, it would be unrealistic to give a 90s Pop group the title of Best Band of All Time. While some would be inclined to say the Beatles were the best, I am not among their number. While they clearly managed to attract a more lasting audience (though the crowds they drew in the 1960s weren't too different from the followings more recent "boy bands" acquired in the 90s, at least demographically), and certainly enjoy it from time to time, there is just something about them that's not quite right. Most likely, they're simply too anti-Christ for my tastes. 90s boy bands, though of less enduring appeal to most, at least avoided impiety, and actually gave God His rightful place in many songs. So then , the common answer, the Beatles, is out.
While I certainly don't know enough about music to grant the Best Band of All Time award yet, I have lately given it some thought. One possibility I was enjoying earlier today is the Kingston Trio. My father's long, long been a fan of the Kingston Trio, and I figure he raised me right, because I've also appreciated them since my childhood. I can remember to my dad listening to "Reuben James" in the other room as I did my homework on one particularly pleasant evening in elementary school. That's always the first memory which comes to mind. A personal favorite is "Greenback Dollar", which goes like this:Some people say I'm a no 'count. Others say I'm no good.
But I'm just a nat'ral-born travelin' man, doin' what I think I should, O, yeah. Doin' what I think I should.
And I don't give a damn about a greenback dollar, spend it as fast as I can.
For a wailin' song and a good guitar,
the only things that I understand, poor boy, the only things that I understand.
When I was a little baby, my momma said, "Hey, son.
Travel where you will and grow to be a man
And sing what must be sung, poor boy. Sing what must be sung."
Now that I'm a grown man, I've traveled here and there.
I've learned that a bottle of brandy and a song,
The only ones who ever care, poor boy, the only ones who ever care.
[Chorus, repeat first verse and repeat Chorus]
You'd have to hear the song, originally from their 1962 album New Frontier
to appreciate it. One of the reasons I adore it so is the theme of practical individualism. Now, as Catholics, we're much more community-oriented and respectful of authority than the Protestant heretics, who believe in private interpretation and sola Scriptura
despite the Bible's own words.We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
- II Peter 1:19-21, King James Version
Nonetheless, as a Traditional Catholic without the privilege to live in St. Marys, Kansas or Richmond, New Hampshire, and even as a man trying to be just in a corrupt world, one must remove himself from the dominion of the secular world and her ideas in order to survive, often to a degree resembling the American ideology of individualism. What else can our fundamental attitude, adopted from necessity, be besides a form of individualism? Although I was lucky enough to be received into the Catholic Church a few weeks after Pope Benedct XVI came in, giving Traditionalists their first reliable ally at the top since the second Vatican Council, our situation remains that of a remnant loyal to a hierarchy that could hardly care less, and in some cases detests our actions. For the sake of loyalty to higher principles, we must rely on our resilience to remain pure in our actions, with recourse only to God.
Individualism may be a theme of "Greenback Dollar", but individualism with loyalty to some exterior principle. While "But I'm just a nat'ral-born travelin' man, doin' what I think I should" may sound like moral relativism, the speaker's mother would not have told him to "Sing what must be sung" if there were no objective Truth or righteous cause to pursue. In this light,
"Greenback Dollar" recalls the righteous self-reliance in Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
and Fred Zinneman's High Noon
; the former is my favorite film, period. For this reason, the Kingston Trio deserves moral kudos for the song, laden with meaning and still so accessible to the American mind. Of course, there are other excellent songs from the Kingston Trio which deserve a listen; to my fellow Bay Staters I heartily recommend "M.T.A.", though its message will serve as an indictment of the fee-raising regime Mitt Romney put in place.
Given my parents' permission, I plan on borrowing some Kingston Trio CDs to listen to when I return to Assumpion next week; fans of folk at AC seem to be few in number, and many could use an intro to the Trio.