The religion of music

Could the music world be considered a religion?

(Please note that this essay is simply a way of allowing me to apply what I have learned in my Introduction to Religion class into creative writing. Many thanks to Craig King for additional help.)

If there was a way to describe the mass movement where people are consuming music in great quantities, I would simply say it could be a new form of religion.

Take it into consideration - first there are the people who buy the music, better known as fans or consumers. Most fans would prefer to follow a certain band or artist, therefore there is a large following. Some of the groups will even have a name to identify themselves such as: Fumblers (Sarah McLachlan), Dead Heads (Grateful Dead), Pilots (Stone Temple Pilots), Dethheads (Megadeth), and PettyHeads (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers).

But of course, this paper cannot proceed without the acknowledgment of the deities themselves. In actuality - they are not truly deities, but are worshipped to such an extent of a deity by the fans. These people who take on a role as a deity (perceived by the fans) are simply human beings who have a great talent to create good music (or mantras - sacred sounds). One person could be a solo artist or be a member of a band that consists of more than one musicians. The talent of a musician can be playing guitar and writing music, which might be defined by a fan as the musician's power to create music. To transcribe this paragraph into a religious tone: A person who has a talent to be a musician is a deity who has the power to create influential mantras.

The deities' holy mountains can be found in a recording studio, with Los Angeles and New York as the deities' most popular choices of location. This is where the deities use their powers to create the sacred sounds, which are then captured into a machine that will later then transfer the sounds onto a compact disc, better known as an album.

While the gods are in their mountains, practicing and polishing their powers, their followers can be found listening to their older albums. These fans also create a shrine to their gods, which mostly consists of symbols, dolls or even fetishes. Symbols can be the band's or the artist's personal logo that can be easily identified or an image that easily refers to the musician(s). A fetish is an item that is believed to be sacred and has special powers. An example of a fetish is a drumstick given to the fan from a deity at a concert (which will be explained later in rituals). Posters and pictures that capture the essences of the gods can also be found in these shrines that are located in the fans' homes or rooms.

Continuing on - this religion does not and cannot exist without the practice of a ritual, a music concert. This ritual creates a sacred time and space for both the deities and their followers. It is a perfect opportunity for the followers to experience the powers of their deities in an intimate setting. Also enjoying this are the deities - who love to perform their powers before their followers. Another way of perceiving this ritual is it is the sacred time where the deities appear from their mountains, to prove that they are who they are.

To begin a lesson, allow me to introduce a few deities who have a large following and have made a huge impact on the pop culture of the music religion.

1. Nirvana - Kurt Cobain, David Grohl, and Krist Novoselic
These deities arrived in the early 1990's with their most popular mantra - "Smells Like Teen Spirit." This band helped shape a generation, that would be later called as the X generation, with their grunge music. Whether the music would be considered grunge or not, majority of the general population liked the music from Nirvana. It was also with this band, where many other deities looked to them for inspiration. Simply said: Nirvana basically rescued the world from eternal damnation of the "big hair bands" of the 1980's (do your own research under Motley Crue, Slaughter, Poison, Bon Jovi, Winger, etc.) and the ever so cute, annoying New Kids on the Block.

2. Madonna
The most powerful goddess of them all. Ask anyone on the street about Madonna and they will be able to name a song: Vogue, Express Yourself, Music, Like a Prayer, and Holiday - just to name a few. It's not so much of the words she sings that make her so powerful, but also her actions. She stunned the world with her "skimpy" outfits when she first appeared in 1982. Ever since then, she has been able to transform herself into many different images to keep up with the fashion scene. Not only were her tastes of style make her so popular, but also the bold acts she has committed, such as trying to hitch a ride in nude, publish a pornographic book and create music videos (Justify My Love and What It Feels Like for a Girl) that were banned from the airwaves on MTV. It seems as though this goddess will never disappear because no matter what she does - the world could stop and pay attention to her.

3. Michael Jackson
The self proclaimed "King of Pop." This King originally sprang from the head of the younger version of himself when he was a part of the Jackson Five - a popular pop group in the 1970's, singing bubblegum music (if you do not know "ABC" and "Dancing Machine," then I urge you to find a copy and learn them NOW!). This deity is so powerful that with all the money he generates, a portion of it goes to the charities around the world. It is also with this deity that he can gather such a large crowd at a ritual that girls would scream at the top of their lungs until they passed out. Why does Mr. Jackson deserve a spot in this essay? His 1982 album, Thriller is the best selling album ever in the world! To this date, no one has beat his record. Another mention is the music video for "Thriller" also changed the face of music videos, when a big movie director, Michael Landis directed the video. No other deity has the power to create such a great mini-ritual (the music video) for their mantras like Michael Jackson. To this day, the world is still fascinated by the smooth move he introduced in the early 1980's called the Moonwalk.

4. Elvis Presley
Also known as the "King of Rock n' Roll," it was with this man that had mothers covering their children's eyes so they would not see his evil gyrations of his hips. I will admit that I do not know much of this deity, but from what I understand - he sparked off a revolution where teenagers just had to have their rock n' roll at all times. Parents of the 1950's era would be outraged with this revolution that they tried to ban his cool, sassy looks and moves. I do apologize for not knowing much about the King of Rock, but feel free to do some research of your own.

5. The Beatles - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Richard Starkey - "Ringo Starr."
If Elvis Presley was not enough for the world, then I would like to know what the heart attack rates were when The Beatles first appeared in America in 1964. It was Elvis that the Fab Four (as they are popularly known as) would often acknowledged as their inspirations. Little did the band know that thirty years later they would be named as one of the most influential bands in the world.

What makes The Beatles the most powerful deities in the world? Take a look at their chart history - no other band has been able to beat their feats. To give an example: Not having released any new recordings in over thirty years - they can still dominate the charts with the newly released album, One, a compilation of all their number one hits. They were able to maintain the number one position for eight consecutive weeks, topping the current popular boy band Backstreet Boys.

Quite a feat huh? I should end this lesson about The Beatles, for I have been a "member" of this religion for seven years and am still learning something new. Feel free to ask me any questions about these powerful gods or look at my tribute site or search here Beatles Fans - Home Page

Another deity who should be mentioned for his well-written mantras is Bob Dylan Although his power is not up to par like the five I have mentioned, he deserves a spot in this essay. What is so special about him? Even though it can be hard to understand what he is saying, he certainly spoke to his generation in the 1960's. Look through his catalog and you will see that many of his mantras have been covered by a lot of musicians.

If you think this essay is not fully giving recognition to these deities - then you may understand it better after visiting The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is here where the deities are given special attention to their contributions to the music industry. You will certainly find Elvis, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson resting in the holiest mountain mountains of them all.

To conclude this special tribute, as I said in the beginning - this was simply a way of applying terms I have learned in my religion class and put them into creative writing.

Of course deities I kept referring to throughout this essay are only people who have made a huge impact on the pop culture. With everything they have done or will do, there is no other artist or band that can be compared to them. They are not immortal in human form, for some have left us too soon, but since they have a huge following and continue to create new fans, they will be forever immortal through their music and in their fans' hearts.


In memory of Elvis, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, and George Harrison.
Spring 2001