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Son Of A Preacherman

31/07/2017 16:56
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What do Kings of Leon, Lemmy, Roots Manuva, Katy Perry and Marvin Gaye all have in common? They all had father's in the clergy. If the devil has the best tunes, why have so many pop and rock musicians come from the strict confines of the vicarage? Is it an act of rebellion or were they following their father by taking to the stage, albeit a very different one?

Alice Cooper's father and grandfather were both preachers. Cooper shies away from discussing his faith, but the highly religious imagery of blood, death and hell in his music, look and shows, speak for themselves.

Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy composed the theme music for Father Ted. Was it his Irish Vicar father that helped him understand the comic complexities of the priesthood? "I felt a missionary zeal to convert people". Hannon said, "It must run in the family".

Rock and Pop originated from Gospel via Jazz, Blues and Soul. So perhaps it's little surprise that you get Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, all children of preachers, wearing their gospel influences very much on their sleeves. The church provide the vocal training, and no doubt much of the inspiration too?

Jerry Dammers of The Specials wrote lyrics that, whilst not steeped in biblical imagery, certainly had a moral and righteous tone. The dangers of teenage pregnancy in 'Too Much Too Young' or the socio-political commentary of 'Ghost Town' on Thatcher's Britain, you get the feeling a sermon is going on!

There's a long list; Grace Jones, Wyclef Jean, Tori Amos, Felix Buxton from Basement Jaxx and many more.

It's not only musicians who may have experienced a religious father. Comedy has its fair share too. Hugh Dennis's father was the Bishop of Knaresborough and then The Bishop Of Ipswich.

And that brings me to my own father, who was a naval chaplain and then a vicar in Glastonbury. My uncle was also a vicar, and the official exorcist to the Bishop of Bath and Wells! Eat your heart out Alice Cooper. Or a bat's heart, or something.

I'm actually a full paid up Atheist. I've had my fill of religion, so I have no desire to follow in my father's actual footsteps. But I've no doubt seeing my father 'gig' every Sunday was an inspiration to me. It just seems natural. And after all, isn't a musician or comedian preaching his or her own views to a willing audience, albeit in a different venue from a church? Priest, rock star, comic, are all very similar jobs. All of us get up in front of rooms full of strangers, and lie to them, in an attempt to make us look big and clever! My father gets less heckling of course, but probably more casual sex.

And just as I am an atheist, my father doesn't much like that I've become a stand up. He's always telling me to get a proper job! You get proper job Dad. I'm not the one prancing around in a dress. Well, not at work anyway.

Not that I wish to compete. I once made the mistake of proudly telling my father I had just done the world famous Comedy Store for the first time. He replied, 'Really? I just did St. Paul's Cathedral!'

I'm being unfair. In fact being a vicar is the one thing I admire my father for.

The son of a Sunderland ship builder, he went to Oxford and Cambridge, which then, even more than now, was a license to print money. But he turned his back on the comfortable, the sensible, and the safe and chose a much tougher route for what he knew to be right. I admire that romantic bloodyminded stupidity.

When my daughter was about two years old I took her to see my parents. My father was in his study saying his morning prayers, when my daughter waltzed in and asked "Grandpa, what was he doing?"

Attempting to explain to a two-year-old child, my father said. "I'm talking to God." She looked around the room and said "But there's nobody there?" And from the next room I shouted. "Precisely!" Mind you, I often feel like that at my own shows.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the song Son of a Preacherman. Ironically it's not a song I particularly like. I think I heard it too many times sung to me when I revealed my father's profession.

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