Song of the Day

Like a Ship by Pastor T.L. Barrett & The Youth for Christ Choir (1971)

I sail for pleasure / But I found pain / I look for sunshine, yes I did / But I found rain

I know what you’re thinking…gospel funk music?!?!  Quite a surprise from the guy who’s waxed poetic about the likes of Ghostface Killah and the Dead Boys, but a good song is a good song is a good song.  You can’t beat killer gospel funk.

Listen to this song.  It’s pretty amazing.  It’s all about the bass — bass line, that is.  It’s a classic late 60’s/early 70’s bass riff that wouldn’t be out of place on any number of R&B or soul albums at the time.  It grooves.  The Pastor can bring it vocally, but the Youth for Christ Choir absolutely shine in backing him up.  The other songs on this album are equally breathtaking.  I highly recommend giving it a listen.

What’s more amazing is the story of Pastor T.L. Barrett.  As gorgeous as this song is, his life and career were anything but.  He was expelled from high school.  At 17, he had a child with a 37-year-old woman and was charged with lack of child support.  In 1989, he was charged with running a pyramid scheme that took over $2 million from his congregation.  He was ordered to repay $1.2 million or go to jail.  And his youngest daughter was murdered by an ex-boyfriend.  All of this doesn’t make Pastor T.L. Barrett a bad man.  Flawed, maybe, but not bad.

Not that the Pastor is in this category, but he makes me think about famous artists who’ve recently fallen from grace for doing awful things — Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. to name a few.  Is it possible to separate the art from the human being?  Can I actually like a piece of art knowing the person who created it, or performed it, has committed despicable acts?  Should I laugh and enjoy Cosby’s classic Himself album when I hear it or does his decades-long predatory streak ruin the art?  Can I still enjoy watching House of Cards or American Beauty or The Usual Suspects knowing Spacey was a creep to others on the set?  Should I keep watching re-runs of Louie on FX because it’s a brilliant show or should I completely disregard it because he’s a fucking weirdo around women?  I can only speak for me, but these are not easy questions to answer.  Sure, part of me wants to say “I’m done” with anything these people have ever done, but…man, I like their work.  Should I feel guilty feeling this way?  Can I still enjoy watching Chinatown knowing Roman Polanski later sexually molested a 13-year-old girl and fled the country to avoid incarceration?  Does it have to be one or the other or can two opposing sides somehow coexist in one’s mind.  Man, this is a tough one, but if I’m being honest, I can separate the two.  I can enjoy the art while despising the person.  I’m not saying that’s right by any stretch of the imagination, but it works for me.  Who knows, I’ll probably change my mind on this a dozen times over the next month.

Now I’m not saying the good Pastor deserves that level of scrutiny for his past actions.  He doesn’t.  As far as I’m concerned, I can just enjoy this album, revel in its glory, and pretend like I’m attending church for once.  Glory hallelujah!!!

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