‘Style? Not a style as in ”that’s a great style of music” no I mean in the personal sense of the word. Of course personal style is a rare asset these days. Who possesses style? In fashion there are some style icons, some world-renowned, some more obscure. For instance Gianni Agneli CEO of the Italian car company Fiat out of Turin Italy had great style, he wore hiking boots with his beautiful cut suits. He wore them everywhere…and he didn’t care….if they molested the elegance of the suit. He wore them, he added the rough rugged footwear, to fine woolens and the most delicate silks….and we saw it was good! His grandson.. who is the archetype of machismo tries to add odd items to his ensembles. But is not half as stylish as the average cable guy, or gospel singer. The world style should never be placed in one sentence with gospel singer, one might argue. But ole Gianni had style! Other style guys were Chuck Yeager, Dean Martin. One of the few guys in Gospel music that had that swagger was James S.Weatherington. Bass singer of the Statesmen Quartet. Those spectator-shoes (two toned wingtips) he wore, the pinstriped wool suits, and that wicked grin…very very stylish. Another guy who is quite stylish in Gospel music as far as wardrobe goes is Buddy Greene. With his Oxford button-down shirts, bow-ties, and corduroys…and his simple wire-framed glasses. Like Weatherington his art is right in step with his personal appearance. Greene’s choice of words, songs, and other musicians/singers were consistently classy, anyway which way you look at it…poetic. Even folks who might not like Buddy’s kind of music recognize the modest genius that Greene is. A true craftsman!
Robert Redford had style, JFK had it, and so did Sidney Poitier. The recently passed Nelson Mandela had style that was inside of him, he had commanding dignity….or natural grace. Glen Payne a typical Texas dresser had style, not one I would try to emulate ever..but to me it made Glen even better, and wouldn’t have had it any other way! Glen’s real style and strength was like Mandela’s….a gentle grace that came from within, that overshadowed his Texas-styled suits. What a wonderful gracious man, Glen is on my ‘wanna see in Heaven list (yeah yeah I know last time I’m mentioning that list) but Glen’s almost on top of that list. The Obvious Marvelous holds the number one spot of course, cause He’s the one who got me in, in the first place! But Glen I gotta meet too! Wanna sing with him, in perfect voice…..wow Glen must sound even greater up there…imagine that!
Style has always been a scarce thing, but never seemed there to be such shortage on style as today. Style has rapidly become a synonym for ‘weird’. Style, real class is a rare thing…not only in the entertainment world, its rare in general. How many people you meet these days that have a class, or style of their own? I’m not talking of people who wear weird clothing, and want to stand out, or want to be different. No…I’m talking about men and women that are different, that have ‘something’ that few got. People who quietly walk into a room, and do get noticed immediately! People who stand on stage, and have a such a commanding presence that it doesn’t matter if the lighting is not right, or the sound is too loud .People that make your ears pop open, and you are able to listen through the imperfections of the audio/visual framework. People who make you focus on their performance, their soul. Take Elvis Presley for instance, not really a bespoke dresser. But rather a flashy loud awful dresser. Wearing preposterous and ridiculous clothes, on and off stage.Yet the clothes didn’t matter. Glen’ suits were quite awful too…but I still am blown away by his powerful voice, humble spirit and gentle grace. Glen, like Elvis’s singing and presence were so special. Which shows that ultimately the inside is more important than the outside. So style, real class must come from within…style and class are never self-seeking. They quietly serve with dignity, it’s like love.
John Madden once said that ‘self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble’. Humbleness…not many people have that virtuous trade anymore. No it’s ME first, and to hell with all the rest. I was first, I’ve got a right, I’m entitled to…..and so on. A string of words, a chain reaction, repetitious like machine-gun fire ‘he does it, she does it, why wouldn’t I? We all know what we want. But fail to notice the drink of water a despairing African kid longs for so much. Yet we sing ‘There is a River”…we are that river….let us quench the thirsty while while it flows. Instead we defend our homes with guns, but really don’t give a damn about the neighbours! We almost religiously defend the right to own fire-arms, but bypass the core message of our faith like ‘love your enemies’. Why? Because it’s inconvenient, it goes against our sinful nature, and as God as our witness we’ve got a right! Wrong! You heard it right! Wrong…it’s all arrogance….we are all wrong! Thinking you are right is just arrogance…plain and simple. And I know what I’m talking about…I’m usually right!
Francis of Assisi said; ” Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self”. He knew it…and I bet Francis had style and grace! Grace….did you know that, that word was the origin of the word ‘Charisma’? It came from Church Latin, from Greek; [kharisma, which originates from kharis = grace, favour].
Charisma can not be faked, summoned, or even be taught, it’s a gift that transcends the perfect pitch, the highest note, the finest cottons, or the sweetest score of music. It’s divine….a God-given thing….some have that…and some don’t. While I’m writing this I’m thinking, would I like southern gospel music as much as I do, if they all dressed real good? I think I would, but probably would have been less fun. I mean you need a good laugh once in a while don’t you? My lord did SGM ever serve that purpose? It kind of did, and abundantly so. Glad for a Grace greater than our wardrobes..ain’t you?
When Elvis Presley was asked by a female reporter what his political views were he answered “Honey, I’d just soon to keep my own personal opinions about that to myself? Cause I’m just an entertainer and I’d rather not say.” I would love if folks in the southern gospel music industry would not post their political views, and personal preferences there in. If I’m interested at all I will ask you! This has been the greatest turn-off for yours truly on some of the ‘artists‘ since stacks and tracks. Of course they are entitled to their opinion, and God bless ’em! But I don’t wanna read you stand with Phil Robertson, or you vote for candidate number 1 or number 2! I simply don’t care….some stuff you just don’t want to be ‘in the know’. I don’t want to read/hear where you stand. I wanna hear you sing like I did, carefree.Just like before I knew you were obviously experiencing a series of brain-farts at some point in your life. Or the endless Facebook pitches of your products, especially those package deals do piss me off. Why? Because a lot of times I buy a new album before anyone else does (against better judgment) and I pay the highest price for a mediocre (at best) album that usually lacks any kind of creativity and originality. And then a few months later you guys come up with some lame package deal so you can make room in the storehouse of your love.
The only real innovation in Southern Gospel music has taken place on the technology front. The sound, recordings have improved..and even that is arguable. There are few last decade that have added style to SGM. Show some style! Quit the ‘kickstarter’ projects when you are a fulltime group! This trend is quite despicable really…you entice somebody into committing to the fact that there’s obviously a lack of commitment of the record label to it’s artist(s) . You’re feeding of people’s loyalty. It’s like a car manufacturer asking you to make monthly payments in advance on a car that you never seen, has yet to be designed, and you have zero influence on the final product. You just trust that it most likely will look and drive like the car you had for years…and pray for a tiny little upgrade! But if you like it that way, having an irrational sense of safety and familiarity, let me not be the one to cramp your style! Who am I?
‘We only live once, but once is enough if we do it right. Live your life with class, dignity, and style so that an exclamation, rather than a question mark signifies it!
(G. R. Blair)