"We live in an age of language pollution. Words like 'values' and 'freedom' have been used with great cynicism and stripped of their meaning. . . . Today, you can say anything you want and you can do anything you want. Then, you can say you didn't say it or didn't do it and no one will remember or know the difference or believe anything other than what he or she wants to believe." (T-Bone Burnett)
T-Bone Burnett has done a lot of things. He toured with Bob Dylan in the mid-70s. He released several acclaimed solo recordings. He produced the soundtrack for "O Brother Where Art Thou" and "Walk the Line." And he's an articulate Christian, though not a member of the Religious Right (more about his faith here).
I recently picked up the just-released Twenty Twenty, a two-cd career retrospective of Burnett's 30-years in the music business . Since it's been a while since I have listened to him, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I got is a bit like much of Bruce Cockburn's work -- lyrical depth and artful music that it takes some time to absorb. I'm a sucker for the pop tune with the hooky guitar riffs and choruses. That is not, by and large, what you get here. The songs require repeated listening and some patience to absorb, but it's well worth it.
The quote I reference is just one of Burnett's many provocative comments. I think he's right. He's really speaking of the devaluation of language, something which has happened because we live in a culture without an absolute referwence point for truth, where we want to be self-defined, autonomous individuals. You can believe what you want and do what you want, so why can't you say what you want? In fact, you can just define words in the way you like, or revise history like the Dan Browns of the world to fit your own view of the world. He's talking about relativism. He's been around the block. He's well aware of how little words can mean.
Burnett says "You can sing about the Light, or you can sing about what you see because of the Light. I prefer the latter." As Twenty Twenty demonstrates, that's pretty much what he has done for 30 years, and done well. I commend his words to you.