Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, And . . . Paul Simon?

I have recently posted on my fondness for Paul Simon’s music.

So my eyebrows got raised when I saw this in Saturday’s Charlotte Observer:

Paul Simon’s meandering spiritual journey
By Kim Lawton
Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly
By Kim Lawton
Posted: Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012

Paul Simon’s new album, “So Beautiful or So What,” is winning attention from evangelical Christians and other religious people. 2006 AP FILE PHOTO

Paul Simon says there has always been a spiritual dimension to his music. But the overt religious references in his most recent album, “So Beautiful or So What,” surprised even him.
There are songs about God, angels, creation, pilgrimage, prayer and the afterlife.
Simon says the religious themes were not intentional – he does not describe himself as religious. But in an interview with the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly,” he said the spiritual realm fascinates him.
“I think it’s a part of my thoughts on a fairly regular basis,” he said. “I think of it more as spiritual feeling. It’s something that I recognize in myself and that I enjoy, and I don’t quite understand it.”
Simon may not understand it, but he’s been writing and singing a lot about it, and that has generated attention. One Irish blogger suggested “So Beautiful or So What” could be the best Christian album of 2011. Sojourners’ Cathleen Falsani, an evangelical who writes frequently about religion and pop culture, called it “one of the most memorable collections of spiritual musical musings” in recent memory.
“It’s a stunningly beautiful … album, and he’s a great surprise to me and frankly a huge blessing,” Falsani said.
During a career that has spanned half a century, Simon has received numerous awards, including 12 Grammys. His first Grammy came in 1968 for best contemporary vocal duo, along with his musical partner Art Garfunkel. Their 1970 Grammy-winning song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was influenced by gospel music.
Simon comes from a Jewish background. “I had no interest. None,” he said. Now at 70, he said he has many questions about God.
In his song “The Afterlife,” he speculates about what happens after death. He imagines waiting in line, like at the Department of Motor Vehicles. As the chorus goes: “You got to fill out a form first and then you wait in the line.”
But there’s a serious aspect as well, as the song continues:
Face-to-face in the vastness of space
Your words disappear
And you feel like you’re swimming in an ocean of love
And the current is strong.
“By the time you get up to speak to God, and you actually get there, there’s no question that you could possibly have that could have any relevance,” Simon explained.
One of the most unusual songs on the album, “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” includes excerpts of a sermon preached in 1941 by prominent African-American pastor J.M. Gates. Simon heard the sermon on old recordings and said he was drawn to the rhythms of Gates’ “call and response” style of preaching.
The song “Love and Hard Times” begins with the line:
“God and his only son paid a courtesy call on Earth one Sunday morning.”
Simon said, “To begin with a sentence that is the foundation of Christianity, I said: This is going to be interesting. Now what am I going to say about a subject that I certainly didn’t study?”
He’s a vessel
The song ends with a love story, which he says is really about his wife, and a repetition of the line, “Thank God I found you.”
“When you’re looking to be thankful at the highest level, you need a specific, and that specific is God. And that’s what that song is about,” he said.
Simon said he’s gratified – and somewhat mystified – that some people have told him they believe God has spoken to them through his music.
“Is it a profound truth? I don’t know,” he said. “I feel I’m like a vessel, and it passed through me, and I was the editor, and I’m glad.”
Read more here: