Monday, 30 May 2011

Imagine I did it my way

Dave Faulkner a Methodist Minister  and blogger had a rare Sunday off yesterday, went to a church which he doesn't identify on a "no names, no pack drill" basis, and stumbled on one of the hobby horses I rarely mention here - the inappropriate choice of secular music for a religious services.

In Dave's case his eyebrows were raised by the organist's  choice of John Lenon's Imagine to play before the service. It's the one that contains the lines "Imagine there's no religion" with its implication that the world would be a better place without us sky pilots and G-d botherers.

Dave admits that when requested for funerals he blocks it and encourages another choice of Beatles music such as Twist and Shout.

My hobby horse is that awful song by Frank Sinatra I did it my way . I thought it was an urban myth in the 1990s that people actually chose it as a funeral hymn. In 2005 the Co-operative Funeral Services (who will be sorting me out when the time comes) published a survey showing it was the most popular of all secular tunes at funerals.

Even then I wasn't convinced that anyone could be so crass as to play it at a funeral until a few weeks ago when I passed the larger chapel at a crematorium , we were in the smaller chapel.


I know there was a Christian minister as we saw the mourners gathering as we filed in (actually for some reason I assumed she was a Methodist). It was a much bigger funeral  than ours and there was a relay to the overflow loudspeaker outside, which did  irritate us as we met in the garden of remembrance. To be honest I already felt antipathy to the deceased.

Then the Minister said, "And now we will play a song which really sums up his attitude to life" and the loudspeakers burst into life with I did it my way.

Is it a polite way to remember a selfish person? It is a celebration of individualistic self satisfaction expressing no regrets for the hurt they may have caused. I just cannot understand how anyone can choose it to mark the death of a loved one, but they do, in their thousands.

My preference is that we celebrate when  people  "do it God's way".

My final hymn will be what some see as a secular choice Jerusalem and they will march me out to Ode to Joy. 


8 comments:

Ian G said...

'Ode to Joy' is a lovely piece of music, but as the EU anthem somewhat antipathetic to the sentiments associated with 'Jerusalem'.

However, in total agreement about 'My Way'. People are fooled by Sinatra's presentation of it as a brave ballad, a hymn to personal integrity; except it isn't.

The Sex Pistols version of it is much closer to its real meaning; loud, arrogant, swaggering, agressive etc. etc. Ironically, this makes it also more honest.

Dave Faulkner said...

Thanks for picking up my post here, David, and for commenting on my blog. What gets me about 'My Way',as I am sure it does you, too, is the overbearing note of hubris in the lyrics - as if 'Mistakes, I've made a few' covers humility. So much for grace ...

Methodist Preacher said...

'Ode to Joy' is a lovely piece of music, but as the EU anthem somewhat antipathetic to the sentiments associated with 'Jerusalem'. - Ian I completely disagree with you on this one. I see absolutely no conflict between celebrating social and economic justice in England and wanting it for everywhere else, including the countries of the EU!

One point Dave about "Imagine", not so relevant for "My Way" - why should the devil have the best tunes? Perhaps we should write a Christianised version?

Rev Tony B said...

I have to say I quite like 'Imagine' as a piece of music. And I seldom hear all the words of any pop song, because I'm too involved in the music. It's like people choosing "Dear Lord and Father of mankind" for their wedding 'cos it's a nice tune: "forgive our foolish ways"? "let sense be dumb, let flesh retire"? You want to sing THAT at your wedding??

And I completely agree about 'Ode to Joy" - it has something special about it, whatever the words. Apart from "Alle Menschen werden Bruder" who knows what it says - and why can't I find a video clip of Rowan Atkinson's wonderful performance of it??

Methodist Worship Leader said...

Jerusalem does have a very stirring tune, but the first verse, it seems to me, is a series of questions to which the answer is "No"!

PamBG said...

What I mind about "Jerusalem" is that most unchurched folk seem to think it's about "God is on the side of Great Britain" when, in fact, it's not about that at all. What makes it inappropriate, to my mind, is the fact that so many people misunderstand the lyrics.

Methodist Preacher said...

Pam I think the people who come to my funeral will understand its context and not see it as in anyway nationalistic but an expression of the Christian Socialism that has been my life's commitment. Incidentally, I think its a good few years off yet!

Ian G said...

Ian I completely disagree with you on this one. I see absolutely no conflict between celebrating social and economic justice in England and wanting it for everywhere else, including the countries of the EU!

David, I am not surprised, but you are responding to what you think I wrote. I did not say the 'sentiments of 'Jerusalem''. I said 'the sentiments associated with 'Jerusalem''. Not, by any means, the same thing.