Josh Busman on “’Cosmic American Music’: Religiosity and Old-Time America”

For your reading pleasure, this week The Avid Listener brings you part 3 of Josh Busman’s series about Religious Listening. His entry point for this week’s essay is The Byrds, and in particular, their 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. So what does the classic rock band have to do with Religious Listening, you might ask?


“In light of the politically-progressive music of their first two folk albums and the psychedelic experimentation of the next three, some of the songs on Sweetheart undoubtedly came to Byrds fans as something of a shock. Many of the songs they chose to cover on the album carry strong traditional Christian messages that were seemingly out of sync with the band’s previous output. In particular, one might consider their cover of the Louvin Brothers’ 1959 song ‘The Christian Life.’ Given the overtly confessional lyrics of the song, particularly the refrain of ‘I like the Christian life,’ one might think it natural to ask about the personal, spiritual commitments of the individual band members involved in this recording. The lyrics are first person and discuss a robust sense of fundamentalist Christian faith. Did members of The Byrds experience some kind of conversion in the eight months between the release of The Notorious Byrd Brothers and the release of Sweetheart of the Rodeo? Is this song a testament to their newfound faith?”…

Read the entire essay here. If you missed how Josh sets up the concept of Religious Listening, here’s his first essay. This will be our final essay of 2015. We’ll be back in the new year with more fabulous, readable scholarship, starting with Josh’s final installment of this series.

If you use The Avid Listener in the classroom, make sure to consult our latest digest before planning your Spring syllabi. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for tips for integrating TAL into your classroom.

The Avid Listener. Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.



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