MWM: Manilow & Jingles . . . KISS & God?

This is another rather unusual entry in the Monday (Worship) Music quasi-series, which can be accessed by following this link.

As I considered this blogpost after writing most of it, I realized that it dates me.  Oh, well . . . I don’t often care much about pop culture or about fitting in (or seeming to fit in) with the times.

I remember when Barry Manilow’s songs were popular.  It must’ve been his creative songwriting and his voice, because it surely wasn’t his looks.  His songs were often sexually suggestive, and I don’t think the Christian housewives even noticed it, because Barry just charmed the women so much.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I own a Manilow vinyl album, but I’m not as reluctant to admit I have 3-4 of his songs in sheet music form (collected and played/sang, surely, during a time of life in which I, too, wanted to charm the ladies).  I also had the pleasure of playing piano in a slightly-souped-up arrangement (enriched for jazz combo, courtesy of my high school band director, Mr. Byerly) of one of Manilow’s top-notch songs, “This One’s for You.”

Some Manilow fans—and I do think some are still living!—may remember that he got his start by writing TV and radio “jingles” (a genre that has just about disappeared, I believe).  Some aging Christians like me who spent considerable time with young people at retreats and camps may also remember that at least one of Manilow’s  jingles, written for a Dr. Pepper commercial, was transmuted into a Christian song.  Fortunately, the horrible, Christian-parody lyrics must’ve fallen out of use.  (I can’t find them on the WWW.)  I doubt I have a copy saved in my “camp song” archives, and all I can remember is this:

Be a Pepper . . . drink Dr. Pepper. . . .

became something like

Be a Christian . . . yeah, be a Christian. . . .

Anyhoo . . . tonight on the radio, I had the interesting experience of hearing a song by KISS.  Incidentally, I can actually name all four KISS members (and once wrote an ill-advised essay that sought to justify their existence!), but I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the fourth Beatle.  I hadn’t heard the KISS song in more than 30 years, but it was a memorable one:  “Calling Dr. Love.”  The lyrics for this song are beneath questionable, but I must admit that it contains both the melodic “hook” and the catchy lyrics that led to its being a “top 40” hit.

Tainted by my own memories, my creative side, and my oddball humor, I instantly started to attach Christian lyrics to “Dr. Love,” wondering if it would ever pass muster:

“They call me ‘Dr. Love’”   became   “We call Him ‘God of Grace’”

“I’ve got the cure you’re thinkin’ of”   became    “And through His mercy, sin’s erased”

Does this work?

Nah.  Forget it.  The rhyme is good enough for poppish music, but some songs just won’t permit forced adoption of Christian thoughts and words.  We can sing the German drinking song tune that became “A Mighty Fortress” without negative association.   And the jury’s still out on Manilow’s “Dr. Pepper.”  But as long as KISS fans can still recall the original, we’d better forego singing about God to the tune of “Dr. Love.”

B. Casey, 8/28/2015


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