November 19, 2013

The Sufi Choir, “23rd Psalm” (1973)

Born of privilege (a Rothschild pedigree and a father who was a vice president of Levi Strauss manufacturing), Samuel L. Lewis was one of the more colorful American mystics, who, at the end of his life, shifted from preparing himself for enlightenment to ushering in a new age of enlightenment. Recovering from a heart attack in 1967, Lewis had a vision that would determine his remaining years. God came to Lewis and said: “I make you the spiritual leader of the hippies.” And so he did. Lewis then developed and taught the Dances of Universal Peace throughout California. In 1969, followers of Lewis formed the Sufi Choir in San Francisco and became part of his mission.  The original director of the Sufi Choir, William Allaudin Mathieu, had worked previously with Duke Ellington in arrangement and composition.

In this rendition of the 23rd Psalm, the universalism is thick. For here is a tambourine-laden, psychedelic campfire mash-up that seeks to distill the universal message from a text heretofore recognized for its sacred particularity.

November 19, 2013

Sisters and Brothers, “Spirit in the Sky” (1974)

In this cover version of Norman Greenbaum’s 1969 original, salvation becomes a social occasion, perhaps even a bureaucratic process. “Spirit in the Sky” is performed, here, by the hastily assembled Sisters and Brothers, who sing it as part of a “rock mass”—a concept made popular by the Australian nun Sister Janet Mead, in the early 1970s. Borrowing much from Mead’s production, the Sisters and Brothers offer a simple lesson to the children of the children of the Age of Aquarius. You must have a friend in Jesus. You must cultivate that friendship. You must secure his trust. If done properly, when you die Jesus will recommend you to the spirit in the sky. One enters heaven through the logic of the network. Jesus cannot guarantee. He can only recommend. The buck does not stop. Pray accordingly.

November 19, 2013

Westinghouse Sixth Future Power Forum Players, “Power Flower” (1969)

“Power Flower” was performed in 1969 at the Westinghouse Sixth Future Power Forum.

The show, and the conference in which it was embedded, were prayerful in that they harnessed the themes of transgression and transcendence. “Utility Men Get Powerful Message” was the Business Week headline from January 1969. The conference brought together electrical utility executives for strategy sessions about maximizing electrical consumption in the coming decade, with the goal of creating a ‘total electric supermarket.’ This dream included “closed-circuit television in homes, to monitor indoor and outdoor areas; intercom systems; electrically heated sauna baths; and electric sewage units.”