Within the next year I did little but sit on my plastic chair, getting up to put logs in the chunk stove 20 feet away. I wrote song after song to capture what I read in the gospels. I had a book of gospel parallels. Mark, Matthew and Luke opened my eyes. Joseph more than likely WAS the father. Jesus more than likely WAS a healer. The figure of Satan was merely the summary of the ways human beings have of avoiding the truth and beauty that is there before all eyes. Jesus condoned law-breaking and practiced forgiveness. He was branded a criminal. His circle was conspicuously co-educational.
I began with John, the hoary prophet.
See the crowds
See how they love to be told
That the end is at hand
See how they look at us
Looking for what is in no one’s hand
See then as they rush to the river
To wash themselves clean
See them as they rush to the river
Not knowing what it means
I did not bypass Mary or the Magnificat.
I can hear you speaking to Elizabeth out loud
About scattering the wicked and bringing down the proud
Were you dreaming
Misty beginning and a sorrowful end
You tried to dream up an angel for a friend
It took shape. I went and saw “Jesus Christ Superstar”. It was a travesty. It took the orthodox notion of Jesus and made him no more than what the church had already made him. I went and saw “Godspell”. It was pleasant pap, without real bite or serious truth. The answer lay in these canonical pages. Including the explanation of why Jesus would become the precise opposite of what he intended as he roamed with his followers. I wrote with no thought of what would become of it. But clearly I meant it to be performed.
I did not think I could sing. I did not fancy my guitar playing. I called a flamboyant Jonathan’s Wake associate Baxton Bryant and told him I needed help. I should have called Will Campbell. I should have known Baxton would have come up with a solution to end all solutions. Hiram and Betty made it from Nashville to Cherry Street in a week flat. Life was crazed for two months. We were in the vortex of a cyclone. Beware a walking musical aspiration with ego to match. Hiram was twenty-something and full of himself. His detritus pushed everything within reach to the wall. Betty was blonde, buxom, pleasant. She deferred to Hiram. There was no sense that she possessed an independent existence. It took two months to determine to go it alone.Hiram and Betty went home. I went back to the drawing board.