MUSIC SPOTLIGHT

Music is a powerful reality in our lives. It has the power to transform a person for good or for evil. Today we get caught up in so much of the worst music. Music that serves no purpose besides pure entertainment. We would like to dedicate this section to suggesting music that we think is beautiful, thoughtful, powerful and impactful as a force for good.

Girl in the War

by Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter begins his album The Animal Years with a song that grafts itself into your mind from the first listen and never leaves. Girl in the War is a song that is at first glance an anti - war ballad but after repeated listens, it soon becomes so much more than just a political statement. It’s a love song. Pure and simple. A love song about a father and his daughter, a love song about suffering humanity and its God, a love song about a heart and a soul. 

 

The song centers around a conversation between Peter and Paul. This of course, can mean the two great saints of the Catholic Church but on a deeper level they are simply the mind and the heart. St. Paul was the great mind of our Church and the first Pope was all heart. And this is exactly what is going on in this Josh Ritter masterwork. 

Peter has become cynical. He cries out to his God but feels like Laurel begging Hardy for a gun. If one remembers correctly, Laurel was always the child in the eyes of Hardy. Laurel would be begging for a gun and Hardy would never let him have it. God has abandoned Man and with it has come the raging tide of war and destruction. Paul responds with a line that is confusing with regards to its meaning. What is the intention behind imagining the Holy Ghost as a dragon? As we know, the dove came on Pentecost with tongues of fire that descended upon the Apostles of Christ. The dove, a symbol of peace bringing all knowing flames of truth is replaced by a dragon, a symbol of power that wreaks havoc from below in a consuming fashion.

 

Thought and peace are gone. There is no reasoning to this war, there is no rational explanation for why all the destruction and death - there is only the knowledge that we are all under the power of a force far greater than ourselves. A force that has forgotten the realm of Man behind walls where angels hide behind doors whose keys have been lost.

Paul once again tries to get Peter to stop trying to figure out why this is all happening. And this is where Ritter reaches his peak in lyricism and songwriting. 

 

But I gotta girl in the war, Paul her eyes are like champagne

They sparkle, bubble over, in the morning all you got is rain

Sparkle, bubble over, in the morning all you got is rain

They sparkle, bubble over, in the morning all you got is rain

 

Peter cries out to him in desperation. And in a moment of anguish and sorrow he tells Paul about her eyes. Her eyes, like champagne, were full of life and joy when she went out to the war. But after the war, the long night of destruction and horror, the champagne has gone flat and all that is left is tears.It’s an image that I will never forget. The wondrous image of a woman’s eyes likened to sweet champagne soon turned to bitter tears.

 

Wonder. Pure wonder.

 

The song is a battle between bitter cynicism and powerful love. It acknowledges that there is a power above but it is a power hidden and removed. Why? Who caused it? Man? God?

 

The lyrics of rage are the words that so many weak souls might speak in a time of frustration. But what are the final thoughts of the song? What idea do they leave us with? Rain. Tears yes. But still rain. An all cleansing rain. A rain that brings with it new life, new hope and quite possibly - new grace to carry on.

The beauty of the song is the ambiguity and questions that it leaves the listener with. It is a mysterious song. A mystery that is so welcome in a modern musical landscape that is full of banal platitudes and dull dance hall numbers.

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