I must have been about ten or so when Jimmy Tepper and I decided to climb the hill in my backyard and work our way to the church that always hovered over us. It seemed like only moments later we were inside enjoying the air conditioning, the water fountain, and amazing ourselves with how empty the building was. Where were all the people? Of course this was a weekday but a church this big can’t be left all alone, we thought.
Being young boys we needed to explore and explore we did until we found ourselves in the main sanctuary. A sanctuary with a piano. Along with any form of candy or an opportunity to annoy a young lady, an unattended piano was high on my list of weaknesses. I just had to indulge my fingers, freshly filthy from the climb up the hill.
Within seconds I was pounding out the only “church” song I knew. And there I was singing as loud as angelic host, “Jesus Christ, Superstar, who in the hell do you think you are?”
Yes, not only was singing something that later I would realize was sacrilege, I was singing my older brother’s, I’m-a-Jew-and-I-hate-Jesus translation. No worries. The reverend quickly arrived to stop me. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” he spat. I was I’ll give you that, I was.
There were two other unintentional musical guffaws for the Lord that taught me that I needed to wait a long time before stepping out in faith by song in His name. A couple of months before actually dedicating my life to the Lord, at 19, I was hanging out with some Christians and I so wanted to fit in that when the subject came to my musical abilities, I kinda bragged that I was learning some Gospel songs.
Actually there were only two. And they were to be my final two strikes, such that would shut me down for a very long time. At that moment I ran to the piano and played a song I had recently heard on a Grace Jones record. As I was singing, “I’m sick and tired of this bullshit, pure shit, same shit. Hey Jesus come on down and save us…” The air got so hot and thick in the room.
But nothing like the air later when a friend’s band invited me on stage that night and the song I picked was Kris Kristofferson’s “Why me Lord?” I’m not really sure how it happened. Maybe it was the devil himself but I massacred the thing. I started off key and too high for my register and when it came time for the chorus my screeching rivaled Roseanne Barr’s national anthem that would occur decades later.
Well the audience was incensed. And I was humiliated. I sat down after my “appearance” and thought it was over until my friend’s wife said, “I’m sure it was because folks are used to a more reverent interpretation of that particular piece.” Like I sang it that way on purpose!
To this day “Bullshit” and “Why Me Lord?” are two of my all-time favorite songs but I have not performed either of them since. Nor do I ever plan to. I did however record “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar” on my “Burn In Hell” CD in 2009.
Quite well I may add.
While it would only be months before I accepted Jesus and wrote “Lord” on the very same night, it would be years, decades actually before God gave me my music ministry where I would walk, talk, sing, dance and preach with such confidence that the shame of my early attempts would actually appear humorous.