I recently stumbled upon a recording of a great session by Luther Dickinson of the Mississippi All Stars in Grace-St.Luke’s Episcopal Church in Memphis. Luther Dickinson is, in my view, an outstanding performer and exponent of modern day blues, with his distinctive singing style and guitar playing, both of which at times sound almost careless, but which are, in fact, carefully styled and show considerable expertise. Apart from that, there is real feeling and emotion in Dickinson’s music, as well as a great deal of good-natured fun.
The session in St. Luke’s has Luther ranging across a number of topics, including the relationship between Saturday night and Sunday morning for the musician, heaven, the death of his father, and gospel and blues music. The often perceived tension between the gospel and the world is clearly one that Luther has faced, but now seems quite comfortable with, accepting his church background and the gospel music on which he was raised as a quite integral part of him as a musician. He quite unabashedly performs a number of sacred songs, as he has done on a number of his recordings (including Onwards and Upward; Hambone’s Meditations). He explains that for him, performing music and bringing love and joy to people is a “ministry.”
There’s a great segment in the video where Dickinson talks about the “famous jam session in the sky.” He quips, “You got Miles Davis playing with Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman – with Martin Luther King doing the voice over!”
He then launches into Jelly Rolling All Over Heaven, “about this great dance session” in the sky, which he performs with some pretty nifty guitar work. Musician’s heaven, says Luther, “Lord knows, it’s filled with a joyful noise!”
I’m not sure that the biblical idea of “heaven” is a place up in the sky somewhere (it’s really more to do with God renewing and transforming the earth – see my post on this topic), but for sure music’s gotta be a part of God’s future for us. Music is integral to our humanity, but at the same time transcendent – it’s a gift of God, for now and for the future.