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Reverends rock out
The lives of a reverend and a rock or R&B; musician would seem to be mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, country rock pioneer-turned-pastor Richie Furay is hardly the only strong soul who’s managed to exist with one foot in each camp.
The Reverend Al Green — Pastor Green leads the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, Tenn. On steaming, Christian-soul numbers such as “Take Me to the River” and “My God is Real,” the Rev. Green “symbolizes the secular/sacred divide that gives soul music its emotional power,” according to the “Rough Guide to Rock.”
The Reverend Solomon Burke — At the tender age of 9, he was already hailed as the “Wonder Boy Preacher” and was preaching and singing in the House of All Good People, a Philadelphia church operated by his family. By age 12, he was belting out soul-stirring gospel hymns and preaching the Word on “Solomon’s Temple,” a Christian radio show he hosted. In 1960, at age 24, King Solomon signed to Atlantic Records and helped build that label into a temple of soul. Mick Jagger has cited the Rev. Burke as a major influence (musically, not philosophically).
The Reverend Little Richard Penniman — The road between redemption and sin never ran a more zigzag course than throughthe life of Little Richard. Legend has it that the Tutti-Frutti man decided to give up rock and take up the cross full time during a tour of Australia in 1957 after seeing a ball of fire shoot across the sky (possibly Russia’s Sputnik satellite). Ordained that year as a minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, he returned to rock in 1964.
The Reverend Gary Davis — A blind, itinerant musician in South Carolina in his early years, the Rev. Davis was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1933 and later moved to Harlem, where he played his guitar and preached on the streets for three decades. He helped popularize “Hesitation Blues,” later recorded by Hot Tuna.
The Reverend Horton Heat — Many suspect that the Rev. Heat is not a true man of the cloth but simply has adopted the title in a pathetic attempt to bring a semblance of respectability to songs of highly questionable moral tone, such as “Love Whip,” “Wiggle Stick” and “It’s Martini Time.” His irregular congregation gathers sporadically at places such as the 9:30 Club in the District.
By John R. Bolton
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