On this day in 1950, the musician Michael Been was born. He is best known as the lead singer and bass player of the bad The Call. I always thought that Been was a big time Christian, but there’s not a lot of mention of it online. It is certainly the case that he wrote songs with a whole lot of Christian imagery and theology. In fact, this tended to ruin most of The Call’s albums for me. But one got the mix perfect: Reconciled.
The song “Blood Red (America)” particularly appealed to me. The refrain is: “He says, ‘We’ll walk in the front door and proudly raise our heads.’ I say, ‘Man you must be joking, our hands are covered in blood red.” I thought that it was a comment about the very common belief that all a Christian has to do is to believe in Jesus and he will enter the kingdom of heaven. So I thought Been was saying that if we neglected the injustice in the world and thought we would go to heaven, we are crazy. Sadly, I don’t think he’s saying that at all.
In the song, “he” is Jesus Christ. The singer is saying, “How can we get into heaven with all this suffering that we are responsible for?” And Jesus says, “It’s easy!” And by the end of the song, he has accepted this easy salvation. So Michael Been is pushing the same “salvation on the cheap” claptrap that is so common among Born Again Christians the world over.
I shouldn’t be surprised. This is very much in keeping with another song from that album, “I Still Believe.” But that one isn’t about how all one need do is accept God’s love and everything will be fixed. It takes it as a given that belief is not easy. All of life is a struggle, the singer says, and despite that he still believes that God loves him. That’s a much more compelling message that even an atheist like me can appreciate. So Here’s the song performed live:
I saw The Call once live. It was at a small club. They were very good. But Been spent the entire concert bitching at the sound engineer in the balcony about problems with the monitors. I think he was used to playing in better and bigger venues. But he still came off as a dick.
Happy birthday Michael Been!