Pop Goes the Bible! Radio 4, Saturday
I'd always thought that lyrics inspired by the Bible didn't come much better than Dylan's "God said to Abraham, 'Kill me a son' / Abe said, 'Man, you must be putting me on'," in Highway 61 Revisited. But Paul Gambaccini revealed some decent competition in Pop Goes the Bible!.
"Now Adam and Evil they go hand in hand / Eve taught him sin, that's the way it began," sang Elvis, while Gene McDaniels's A Hundred Pounds of Clay retold Genesis: "He created a woman – and lots of lovin' for a man." The BBC banned it because it suggested that Eve was created out of building materials.
Bible boffin Diana Lipton explained why biblical plots make great source material – "We have a rich treasury of resonances and images in our mind connected with them" – and also pointed out that it's a two-way process: "Popular songs enable us to look back at the Bible and see it in a new light. They refresh the Bible."
That's certainly true of the magnificent Shadrack, written by Robert MacGimsey, a white songwriter everyone assumed was black. "We ain't going to bow to no golden idol! / Shadrack, Meshach, Abednego!..."
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