ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM’s webpage for #teachingAnthem1969
This is Chapter 20 (day 28):
BROTHER LOVE’S TRAVELING SALVATION SHOW
Written by Neil Diamond
Performed by Neil Diamond
Recorded at American Sound Studio, Memphis, Tennessee 1969
Drummer: Gene Chrisman
Ray gave Norman his fiery stare. Well?
Norman sighed and opened the bus door, clambered down the steps, and waved at the girl, who was still far away. “How far you going?” he shouted.
The girl looked behind her, then back at Norman, stunned, then scared.
Ray hopped off the bus. “That’s not how you do it! You all lily-white and tall and got a bus and calling to this girl. You’re in Mississippi, Man!”
He strutted to the girl and had words with her that Norman couldn’t hear. He pointed to the bus. They talked and the baby played with his hands. The girl smiled. Molly stood on the bottom step of the stepwell, at the folding door, and watched.
I *loved* this overwrought, ebullient, gospel-roots song when I was a teenager. And now, it’s perfect for this chapter, where Molly and Norman — and Ray — pick up Emily and her baby.
The song is a perfect metaphor for where we are in the story, and it works, too, because Neil Diamond recorded it at American Sound Studio in Memphis. Memphis is the next destination for our travelers. Little do they know they will encounter not only the studio but the man who is recording there on this day… and it’s not Neil Diamond.
You can read more about the genesis for this song (a revival in Jackson, Mississippi!) in Neil Diamonds words, here. A snippet: “This song was written about a revival meeting I was at in Jackson, Mississippi. I went there because I was curious, and also because I was a college kid who had all the answers – no one was going to teach me anything and I could lay a few answers on them. I sat in the back of this tent meeting and I got really caught up in the music – clapping, the singing – tremendously exciting. After a while I felt something about the people – there was a tremendous yearning, looking for answers. Trying to ease a very hard burden of very rough lives. After a while the music stopped and a preacher walked out. I remember thinking that all the education I had, all the books, all the words, all the learning I went through at college didn’t mean anything to these people, I had nothing for them. So I found myself pulling for this man who was about to give them something that I couldn’t even begin to give them.”
That’s a theme of this section of ANTHEM, a search for meaning and a way to figure out what you really believe and what it means to be human… all the things that a formal education can’t teach you.