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One Song, Three Versions

Posted by purplemary54 on November 8, 2012

I don’t like people who lie, although I tell the occasional lie.  My lying tends to be of the “dog ate my homework” variety.  Maybe I don’t want to do something unimportant, or I’m running behind on a deadline.  That’s when the “dog at my homework.”  Usually, I don’t have to pull that kind of lie out, because 99 times out of 100, there really is something else going on that keeps me from getting things done.  I used it occasionally in college, but not so much these days.  I also tell the occasional lie to protect someone’s feelings.  You know, when your friend asks you how their new haircut looks, and you say it’s great even if it looks hideous?  I don’t even count those as lies; that’s just keeping the peace.

Real liars are the people who habitually distort facts or make things up for personal profit or gain.  People who will tell you whatever you want to hear to gain power over you, and then stab you in the back.  People who’s only goal is to terrify you into thinking the way they want you to think.  People who pretend to be good and pious, but commit sins even atheists think are sins.

The old folk tune, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” rails against these kinds of people.  (Hypocrisy is evil.  Not quite as evil an apathy, but close.)  I first heard it because of Moby.

His whole album Play was full samples and covers of old blues and folk set to his interesting brand of electronica.  It added warmth and humanity to his music, which is what I think made this album so engaging to listeners.  But this song, which he called “Run On,” would be revived in a more traditional form by Johnny Cash on some of his last recordings.  It was released posthumously, and it sounded like the Man in Black was preaching at you from Heaven itself.  The thump and rumble of the arrangement gave gravity to this version.

This is a warning.  You may be able to get away with whatever shenanigans you get up to here in this world.  But someday, somewhere, someone is gonna make you pay for everything you did wrong.  The most traditional definition is of a Christian God, and not the forgiving New Testament version, either.  This “Sinners in Hands of an Angry God” stuff.  I believe in Karma, myself.  What you put out into the universe shall come back to you tenfold.  So you might want to think about putting some good things out there.

Of course, this song can also be the moment of epiphany.  The moment you realize that what you do matters.  “He put one hand on my head, great God almighty, let me tell you what he said.”  It’s an inspiration instead of condemnation.  This is Odetta’s version.  That’s really all you need to know about it.

“What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light.”  Karma.


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