Liturgical Music Redux: Bad Songs

You know, I think this blog is really good for me, because I get things off my chest here and then I don’t have to rant about them in real life anymore.  And I also think that’s why (aside from getting busy with the start of school) I lost steam on my Liturgical Music “Week.”  I vented my spleen and felt better and lost energy for writing more about it.
But I did promise two more posts, one about bad songs and one that explains what music at Mass is “supposed” to be like.  [edit: I never wrote that one, probably because it would have required actual research instead of ranting.] Bad Songs is more fun, so that is tonight’s topic.
I already wrote about songs that have been spoiled by being retrofitted with inclusive language, and about songs that are heretical, or poorly sung.  Today I write about songs that are just BAD.  And my number one bad song (and yes, I realize that it is a favorite of many people, including my own father) is The Servant Song.
Okay, now I feel mean.  I’m looking for links so you can experience the awfulness that is this song and here is the first one I found.  It’s the man who actually wrote the song performing it.  Does it make it better that I am giving him free exposure?  Actually, this version is interesting because the rhythm is not quite as annoying and he has made the song inclusive without diluting its meaning as the version we sing in my parish does.  Okay, here is a version with the words we use.  I am not really making my case here because this is the most beautiful rendition of this song I can imagine.  These people could make anything sound good.  I’d like to hear what they can do with some GOOD songs.
Here is a link to the lyrics as they are currently sung.  And really, the lyrics are my main problem with this song.  The first stanza is okay, although it was stronger as “Brother, let me be your servant,” or even as Mr. Gaillard himself has changed it to “Brother, Sister. let me serve you.”  And I understand and appreciate the sentiment.  The second stanza is okay in the original, but doesn’t make logical sense anymore.  “We are travelers on the road” implies no relationship among the travelers.  Here again Mr. Gaillard’s revision to  “We are family on the road” is better if you can get past the Sister Sledge vibe.
I cannot say enough how much I hate the third stanza.  It is nonsense from beginning to end.  Someone tell me what it is supposed to mean?  William used to have a dinosaur flashlight.  When you pressed a button it opened its mouth and roared and the light shone from its mouth.  Whenever I hear this verse I imagine a Christ light, very similar.  My grandmother used to have a nightlight in the shape of the Blessed Mother.  Do you think I could get a patent on my Christ light idea?
Fourth stanza, sappy and repetitive, and I hate the way the composer ignores the principle of parallel construction in order to bend his words to the music.  I hate poetry that has been bent to fit.
Fifth stanza, again, what does it mean?  It rhymes, it fits the music (sort of), but what is he trying to say?  And that a-a-aaa-go-ny is just odious.  That particular word, accompanied by that irritating arrangement of notes that probably has a certain name that a musician would know, just nauseates me.
So, there you have it.  Call me unreasonable.  I know a lot of people LOVE this song (just looking on YouTube confirmed this).  I am not one of them.
I had another Bad Song I wanted to write about but I can’t remember what it is right now.  We will probably sing it at Mass this week though so I’ll come back to it then.
[edit:  I remembered.  It’s The Summons and it is cringeworthy tripe, especially the line about kissing the leper clean.]

0 thoughts on “Liturgical Music Redux: Bad Songs

  1. cindy

    Hi ! Love your blog, so relate to all the Catholic speak.
    Ditto on The Servant Song. Thankfully, we rarely hear it at our parish. I am fortunate to belong to a parish at which Michael Joncas often says mass and David Haas comes to do many concerts. Have you been to one of his concerts and heard the back stories of the songs he writes? Truly fantastic.
    My favorite song in Church is Digo Si, Senor (I Say Yes, My Lord.) Have you heard it?

  2. Thanks, Cindy! What parish do you attend? I’ve never been to a David Haas concert. I imagine knowing the what goes into the writing of any song would make it more meaningful. Even watching the video of the composer of the Servant Song singing it made me feel just a little more fondly toward the song. 🙂 As I’ve been writing these comments on liturgical music I’ve decided that I’m find with most of the songs that originally appeared in the Glory and Praise hymnals because they are almost all based on scripture. Of course Michael Joncas’s On Eagle’s Wings is one of my favorites! It’s when the modern composers try writing lyrics out of their heads that they start to run into trouble with doctrine, not to mention rhyme scheme and sense! I believe we may have sung Digo Si, Senor, once or twice, but I can’t recall the tune. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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