Possibly (…definitely) the nerdiest thing that I do is make corresponding playlists for the liturgical church calendar. These have gone unsung, unnoticed, with no playlist followers on Spotify to bolster my musical and liturgical musings. Even my wife has no love in her heart for these playlists, they are often very sad as she faithfully points out and this year’s Good Friday playlist doesn’t ring through with positivity.
As Good Friday approaches I thought I’d share this little list and some of the tracks that made it this year. Good Friday is when the Church observes the death of Christ. This isn’t yet the point where followers of Jesus would find themselves filled with jubilation and excitement. This side of the cross our looking back stands dually to remind us of the depth of God’s love and the depth of our sin. We reflect on the isolation, abandoning, and suffering of Jesus for the sake of those who abandoned him. It’s a powerful day.
I love Lent and Good Friday, as Sarah Condon waxed recently on the Mockingcast, there is no cultural robbing or dressing up for this liturgy and holiday like there is with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Each of these has come to stand almost as their own separate holidays far removed from the power they can represent in reminding us of grace come near. It’s a true sentiment, no one is trying to do anything for the day that we remind ourselves about our death (Ash Wednesday, I’m man enough to admit that playlist was a real downer…there’s a reason I’m writing about a good Friday playlist), or our sin and the death of Love Come to Town. The point being, there is something to be noted about these days being too dark and gloomy to be celebrated by the culture at large. There are no grocery store displays of Coke cases in the form of a crucifix, for better or worse Good Friday remains ours.
Without further ado, I present a nine-track playlist to help my soul remember what happened at the 9th hour for me and all.
- Blues Run the Game – Jackson C. Frank
How fitting it is that a musician who survived an explosion should write a song about a full acquaintance with the blues. There’s a depth of loneliness and sorrow in this song that gives a voice to an amount of isolation many of us will never know, but someone did.
2. Surrender – Josh White
The only categorically “Christian” song on this list. There’s something about Josh White that has prevented me from listening to much else these days. But with a chorus as simple as, “Lord I surrender, I surrender to you” unashamedly I sing on.
3. Everywhere – Fleetwood Mac
Can he hear me calling out his name? A sentiment I can fully give myself over to. I find myself constantly battling the thought that I’ve reached my forgiveness threshold. It’s hard to miss the irony of “I want to be with you everywhere” and the abandoning of Jesus by his friends. Peter’s self-assured, “I will die with you if I have to” amounts to another self-imposed law that crushes with the weight of its expectation. This song has the beauty of being flipped with the realization that he really does want to be with us, so much so that he came to us. Amen Stevie.
4. Love Come to Town – U2 with BB King
BB has a special place in my heart. My dad is a huge BB King fan, and the Tennessee musician often found himself being played in our car rides together. The raspy hard sung vocals of BB King remind us that “we stand accused.” A sentiment we all know only too well. But let’s introduce the small whisper of hope that maybe there, even for those of us who “held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword, threw the dice when they pierced his side” to know that, “love conquers the great-divide.”
5. Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet – Gavin Byars
Do you have 29 minutes to have a little death and resurrection within yourself? There’s silence…it continues, then the frailest, least impressive voice of a “street tramp” begins to recite the beautiful lyrics “Jesus’ blood never failed me yet, one thing I know, he loves me so.” As it begins with silence, then frailness, Gavin adds a swelling backdrop of strings. The stunning thing about this track is the frailness in the voice of the tramp, that frailty does not end as the song continues, it seems to increase in weakness, and yet the refrain remains. Amen.
6. The Mercy Seat – Johnny Cash
The power of the Law in a song. “I’m innocent, you know” it begins, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, I told the truth.” We keep “shuffling out of life, to hide in death a while” and the good news for us is the Mercy Seat really is waiting.
7. Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones
“Can you guess my name?” Another meaningful track for me as it holds some memories of my time with my Dad playing the Rolling Stones to a car full of kids. Should 5-year-olds be listening to the Stones? Not a question my Dad would even consider. The song from the perspective of the Devil speaks to our perspective as well. All our hidden tendencies and the unknown parts of our lives sing out, “Can you guess my name? If I’m confusing you it’s just the nature of my game.” Even in light of the cross the game continues.
8. Suzanne – Leonard Cohen
Besides being just a truly beautiful song, it has these poetically-waxed lines:
And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
He said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them
But he himself was broken, long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
That lonely wooden tower is the lighthouse for this drowning man, amen Len.
9. Darker With the Day – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
For the darkest day, “The gilled Jesus shivering on the fisherman’s hook” is a note that touches on the reality we are facing. Losing the one we placed all our confidence in would certainly speak to the day growing darker. Intentionally left with the sound or word of despair. We “carry on regardless…I come and go, full of longing for what I do not know…I just gotta say, it grows darker with the day.”
Where is there good news for those who “hope and pray, but it grows darker with the day?”
Longing for something…but that’s a different song and a different playlist.
You can listen here.