Tag Archives: Christian

Tommy James tells a rockin’ story about his life in rock ‘n’ roll

January 15, 2011

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As you’ve bounced up and down on the dance floor at your cousin’s wedding, admit it, you’ve always wondered who was “Mony,” the inspiration behind the monster rock ‘n’ roll classic that gets even Uncle Clem to loosen his inhibitions and boogie down.

Tommy James  lets us all in on the secret in “Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James and the Shondells.”

This may be the best semi-autobiography I’ve ever read. It’s a page-turner right from the start, close to drama, overbrimming with nostalgia for boomers.  Writer Martin Fitzpatrick has crafted taped interviews with the hit-making guitar player into a 225-page Scribner hardback that reads as if Tommy James is sitting in your living room telling you about his life.

How so many of the Shondells’ hits came to be and how they came to climb the charts pulled me back to those heady days of the sixties and seventies when I first heard “Hanky Panky” and “I Think We’re Alone Now” pouring out of the radio. If you were a teenager then, I’ll bet you still know all the lyrics.

Backstage in the music industry

But as interesting as the making of the songs are, it’s the back story of the music business that adds a fullness to the story of this kid from Niles, Mich., whose songs got played every 20 minutes on Top 40 radio.

New York mob connected Roulette Records and its president Morris Levy share the Tommy James story right from the start, and it maybe because the principals are dead — some violently — that James can publish this tell-all.

James himself is probably lucky to be alive, lucky the mob didn’t turn on him but even more fortunate the pills and alcohol life of a rocker didn’t kill him as it did his contemporaries like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

In those No. 1-record years, James admits to doing everything but what is expected of the Christian he eventually becomes. The drugs, the booze and jumping into bed with whomever was convenient play no small part in two divorces.

James credits the Betty Ford Clinic with sobering him up, and says it was there that he turned back to Christianity.

It makes for a feel-good ending, but then feel-good songs by Tommy James and the Shondells have pumped life into dance floors everywhere for more than 40 years now. — bz

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Christians may appreciate sci-fi look at the Magi

January 11, 2011

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Science fiction really isn’t my taste, but this Christmastide I savored an interesting, action-filled novel about the Three Kings.

Probably is best termed historical fiction with leanings toward sci-fi, “Epiphany: The Untold Epic Journey of the Magi” is a terrific read. The sci-fi flavor offers a new take on the old story of the wise men who followed a star and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus at Bethlehem.

I normally don’t go for stuff about humans with super powers — too much deus-ex-machina for me. But author Paul Harrington doesn’t allow the magic to get in the way of his interesting tale of Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspar and all they ran into as the star led them to the place when they could pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews.

Harrington’s fictionalized version of the travels of the Magi is just that — fiction. Matthew’s Gospel reveals only that the Magi came from the east. But Harrington holds fairly close to the basic storyline in the gospel, and the creativity he adds to the scriptural text does nothing to take away from the birth of Christ and the events the gospel writer saved for posterity.

Put a tickler on your calendar to pick it up next Advent when you’re once again setting up your Nativity Season and take the journey to Jesus with some wise men. — bz

(“Epiphany: The Untold Epic Journey of the Magi” is available at http://www.epiphany-site.com and http://www.Amazon.com)

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Let Dietrich Bonhoeffer guide your prayer, but don’t get too comfortable

March 17, 2010

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Bonhoeffer cover

“Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Meditation and Prayer,”

edited by Peter Frick

The Lutheran Pastor who conspired to assassinate Adolph Hitler and lost his life as a result left a handful of writings that challenge Christians yet today to be Christian.

Peter Frick, a college educator, has drawn excerpts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s works to be used to encourage the daily practice of meditation and prayer. It was a practice Bonhoeffer encouraged when, while part of the resistance movement, he directed an underground seminary in Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1937, before his opposition to Germany’s warring leadership led to his eventual arrest and hanging.

That activism, that engagement, that hard-core brand of following Jesus Christ — even when difficult — no, especially when difficult — permeates the 56 pages of this slim-but-powerful purse-sized paperback from Liturgical Press (www.litpress.org).

Bonhoeffer has gifts to share about self-reflection, about self-deception, about silence, about a community praying for one another, about temptation, about suffering. Frick invites his readers to absorb them one day at a time, focusing on one thought throughout the day or even for several days.

They are so meaty that you can. Each meditation is less than a page, but page after page I found myself stopping to internalize the thought there in black and white. Take Bonhoeffer’s warning against “cheap grace”:

“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession.”

Bonhoeffer’s faith is a faith of meditation, prayer and then action or consequence. His is not a half-way Christianity. He preaches the Gospel put into action in the world. Check out these excerpts:

“…it is certainly never pious to close the eyes that God gave us to see our neighbor and his or her need, simply to avoid seeing whatever is sad or dreadful.”

“Nothing is more ruinous for life together than to mistrust the spontaneity of others and suspect their motives. To psychologize and analyze people . . . is to destroy all trust. . . . People don’t exist to look into the abyss of each other’s hearts . . . but to encounter and accept eath other just as they are.”

“It may be that the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow; in that case, we shall gladly stop working for a better future. But not before.”

There’s more where that came from. — bz

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