Song Of The Week: “Jesus Is A Soul Man” by Lawrence Reynolds

Lawrence Reynolds jesus is a soul man italianWe’re gonna go super obscure this week.

Here’s what the internet has to say about Lawrence Reynolds: born in Alabama, wrote some country songs, passed away in 2000 in Alabama. That’s it. Which strikes me as kind of surprising in this day and age when every piece of information both big and small from time immemorial resides only a click away. Reynolds had this one hit song in 1969 and never even grazed the lower reaches of the pop or country charts again.

After that, he may have become a youth minister. Or a dentist. Who knows? Apparently he kept on recording in his spare time because a posthumous album can be heard online with a number of tracks that sound like they originate from the 80s and 90s.

Lawrence Reynolds jesus is a soul man 45Aside from being a medium-sized hit, “Jesus Is A Soul Man” also holds a small bit of significance. Allow me to elucidate, so that you may pontificate.

More than anything else, the younger generation in the late 60s were seekers — seeking answers, alternatives, escape, peace. (Hence the rise in mind-expanding drug use, questionable fashion choices, and philosophy majors.) Leaving no stone unturned, it was only natural to investigate non-secular choices. Exploring Far Eastern religions became de rigueur with the hippest of hippies, and the first cults began to appear, blossoming in the next decade into groups both wacky or dangerous or both.

Christianity, too, saw a major boost as kids gravitated toward something a little more familiar and grounded after the hazy, crazy sensory explosion of psychedelia. They also strongly identified with Jesus, who managed to successfully represent both rebelliousness and peace at the same time (he wore sandals and rocked long hair while he was at it). This movement even spawned its own music, known colloquially as ‘Jesus rock’ (although it encompassed a number of styles) — it served as the forerunner of Christian rock and what’s now known as CCM (Contemporary Christian Music).

1970 brought Norman Greenbaum a #1 with “Spirit In The Sky” and the following year saw the debut of blockbuster musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Others hit the Top 40 during these years and a gentleman named Larry Norman became the unheralded godfather of the genre, but after 1975 everything on earth was replaced by disco and songs with a spiritual bent were pushed out of the mainstream.

And what song kicked off the whole shebang? Lawrence Reynolds and his modest country crossover hit in 1969.

Lawrence Reynolds – “Jesus Is A Soul Man”

Now, lest you be wondering, I’m not exactly religious. Nor am I anti-religious. I’m not much of anything. Working in a people-intensive industry which necessitates small talk, you learn never to bring up two topics: politics and religion. But I make an exception here for a few reasons: I love the punning title which first made me play the track, also the warmth and calm assurance of Reynolds’ voice, and I really enjoy the fact that this is now the third song I know which mentions Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (the other being “Shadrach” by Beastie Boys which itself samples the names from Sly & The Family Stone’s “Loose Booty”).

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