A white atheist avant garde pop music icon’s take on gospel music

Brian Eno, known to many as the brains and brilliance behind Roxy Music, and also the production muse on albums by David Bowie, The Talking Heads, U2, and Coldplay, was interviewed in The Guardian. He has a lot to say about music in general, but I was struck particularly by his take on gospel music:

“I belong to a gospel choir. They know I am an atheist but they are very tolerant. Ultimately, the message of gospel music is that everything’s going to be all right. If you listen to millions of gospel records – and I have – and try to distill what they all have in common it’s a sense that somehow we can triumph. There could be many thousands of things. But the message… well , there are two messages… one is a kind of optimism for the future rather than a pessimism. Gospel music is never pessimistic, it’s never ‘oh my god, its all going down the tubes’, like the blues often is. Gospel music is always about the possibility of transcendence, of things getting better. It’s also about the loss of ego, that you will win through or get over things by losing yourself, becoming part of something better. Both those messages are completely universal and are nothing to do with religion or a particular religion. They’re to do with basic human attitudes and you can have that attitude and therefore sing gospel even if you are not religious.”

I wanted to jump up and down and shout “Hallelujah!” when I read this. What do you think?


By | 2013-02-14T10:24:59+00:00 Tuesday, July 31, 2012|Gospel Music, Music|4 Comments

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  1. Jupiter June 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    I grew up in a southern baptist christian household and decided that I was an atheist around the age of 15. Gospel music though has never left me, it just stirs my emotions and is like a conduit to connect me with myself. I am sure singing with other people makes you feel connected with them as well. It bugged me for a while that gospel, this wonderfully powerful way of singing always mentioned God or Jesus. But I realized the more I allowed myself to simply like what I liked without bigotry I could see that the God or the Jesus in the songs was just a reflection of myself, the very reasoning that lead me to become an atheist in the first place. I completely understand Eno’s experience with gospel to the human and the universal.

    • Dawn Boyer September 23, 2014 at 10:16 am - Reply

      Thanks, Jupiter, for such a thoughtful and articulate response. Singing with other people is one of the most powerful things we can do–it’s good for our physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual health. In fact, studies show that people who sing together actually live longer. We’ll soon be publishing a post on that, so stay tuned!

  2. http://autoinsurancequotesur.info/ March 28, 2016 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Stay with this guys, you’re helping a lot of people.

  3. http://maple4x4.com/ March 29, 2016 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    Apparently this is what the esteemed Willis was talkin’ ’bout.

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