Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Another point that is closely related to the use of the symbol of Lazarus in the literary and art world is the use of Lazarus in the musical world. The Lazarus symbol is found more directly in song lyrics rather than music in it’s naked and raw form. (Although, the Lazarus symbol can be seen in songs with just music itself such as instrumental songs written about Lazarus which usually contain rising metrical notes, but these are merely subdued references to the Lazarus motif and are indirectly connected to the Lazarus narrative itself).
Some hymns may utilize elements of the Lazarus motif, but there are too many hymns which contain hints of the Lazarus theme so for sake of time and space---focusing on the more obscure references to Lazarus in song lyrics is more suitable for a brief survey of how the Lazarus theme has cropped up in non-biblical sources. The first song that comes to mind is the folk song, “Po’ Laz’us.’ Specifically the eighth stanza which says: “Laz’us’ sister run an’ tol her mother.../‘Po’ Laz’us dead, Lawd, Lawd, po’ Laz’us dead.’”# Although this song is about an outlaw named Lazarus, the lines in the eighth
# - Lomax, 309.

stanza bear a striking resemblance to Mary and Martha’s plea to Jesus. The Lomaxes state about this song: “the ballad takes up the story (of this desperado and in dramatic terms seeks in purpose the issue of)...describing the death of this tough guy with obvious sympathy and in powerfully tragic lines.”#
Another song of interest is the traditional song, ‘In My Time Of Dyin’.’ The main thought of the song is summed up in the first stanza which is as follows:
Well, in my time of dying don't want nobody to mourn
All I want for you to do is take my body home
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Well, well, well
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Jesus gonna make up, Jesus gonna make up
Jesus gonna make up my dying bed.#
The Lazarus/Jesus connection comes in full focus in this traditional song. The main purpose in this song is to convey a sense of comfort in knowing that Jesus will meet us when we die. This song reinforces the use of Lazarus as a symbol for the resurrection of believers.
A curious song by Woody Guthrie entitled ‘The Dying Doctor (aka The Company Town Doctor)’has a stanza which conveys the following scene:
I quit my job as the family doctor
I nailed up my shingle and went on my own
I carried my pillbag and waded those waters
I set by a deathbed in many a home.
I saw you catch rainwater in rusty washtubs
I saw you come home dirty up out of your pits
Watched you ride with your coffin up to your graveyard
With not a nickel to pay your burying debt.#
# - Lomax, 289.

# - My Back Pages: A Closer Look At The Music Of Bob Dylan--- “In My Time Of Dyin’”---

# - The Songs Of Woody Guthrie---

This song may suggest a messianic figure and/or possibly a Lazarus type figure. The doctor in the song seems to represent Jesus; on the other hand, the doctor may appear to be the Lazarus figure in the song. Whatever the case may be, there is more depth in the song than appears to be on the surface. It is impossible to take this song on face value alone, but perhaps Guthrie doesn’t expect one to read much into his songs or maybe he does?
Pete Seeger, one of Woody Guthrie’s contemporary, also, takes up the Lazarus theme in a few of his songs. One of which is the following song:

If I should die before I wake,
All my bone and sinew take
Put me in the compost pile
To decompose me for a while.

Worms, water, sun will have their way,
Returning me to common clay
All that I am will feed the trees
And little fishes in the seas.

When radishes and corn you munch,
You may be having me for lunch
And then excrete me with a grin,
Chortling, "There goes Lee again."

'Twill be my happiest destiny
To die and live eternally.#
This song is one that infers the resurrection of believers in a satirical joke which pokes fun at death and dying in a very dark comical way. Seeger only contributed to the
Pete Seeger’s Songs---

music of this song, but Seeger’s ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ is another song that makes an indirect connection to the Lazarus motif. This connection is seen in the lines: “Where have all the graveyards gone?/Gone to flowers, everyone.”# Here again is the presence of the recurrent theme in John and the bible as a whole of the resurrection of believers, this theme is also represented in the Lazarus figure as stated elsewhere here. The connection in this song with Lazarus and the resurrection of believers, again, is only one of indirectness and only can be seen if reflected upon hard enough.
Bob Dylan, a disciple of Woody Guthrie, utilizes the Lazarus theme in several different ways. In, the song, ‘Oh, Sister,’ Dylan expresses the theme of resurrection in the following verses: “We grew up together/From the cradle to the grave/We died and were reborn/And then mysteriously saved.”# This emphasizes the element of salvation present in Christian resurrection. Dylan’s ‘In The Garden’ conveys a different message dealing with elements of the Lazarus motif. “Nicodemus came at night so he wouldn't be seen by men/Saying, ‘Master, tell me why a man must be born again.’.../...When He (Jesus) rose from the dead, did they believe?”# These verses seem to get at the heart of Dylan’s Lazarus connection. The born again motif echoes resurrection themes and Christ’s ascension to Heaven is the way in which most Christians view the resurrection of Christians. ‘Saving Grace’ off of the same album, Saved, states: “Well, the death of life,
# - Pete Seeger’s Songs---

# - Dylan, 382.

# - Dylan, 448.

then come the resurrection/Wherever I am welcome is where I’ll be.” In this statement, Dylan reiterates the themes that he plays around with in the previously mentioned song. “Dead man, dead man/When will you arise?/Cobwebs in your mind/Dust upon your eyes.”# The chorus of the song, ‘Dead Man, Dead Man’ by Bob Dylan directly communicates a connection with the Lazarus story. The “When will you arise?” line echoes Jesus’ statement: “wake up (or) Lazarus, come forth.” The word ‘arise’ is a clever pun on resurrection and the arisen Christ. The whole of this song is a statement pointed to non-believers, especially the ones whom are politicians, which calls non-believers to wake up.
A song that Sting did a song entitled ‘Lazarus Heart, ’ which shifts the focus away from using the metaphor of Lazarus as a Christian theme. In some essence a messianic figure is present in the lyrics, but in a more secular way. The refrained chorus of the song is as follows:
Every day another miracle
Only death will keep us apart
To sacrifice a life for yours
I'd be the blood of the Lazarus heart
The blood of the Lazarus heart.#
This refrain suggests that in human love we become like Lazarus through self-sacrifice; in turn, this reiterates the messianic theme in the song. Jesus sacrificed Himself for others and so should we for others.
In a Woody Guthriesque song, Bruce Springsteen (the Boss) writes the following
# - Dylan, 459.

# - Sting Lyrics---

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Searchin' for the ghost of Tom Joad

He pulls prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waitin' for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass
Got a one-way ticket to the promised land.#
Underneath those lines, death is the main theme, as well, death is seen as the main theme for the whole of the song. The Lazarus connection is seen in the line: “The highway is alive tonight, “ because Lazarus was made alive, but this may just be wishful thinking connection wise being that highways are generally alive anyways. The other connections are eerie and reflect the Boss’s obsession with folk music, because folk songs normally display religion in darker terms than we think about.
Cat Stevens, one of the most prolific songwriters of the twentieth century and perhaps the VERY BEST, also, uses the Lazarus motif in more obscure and indirect references. The song, ‘Tuesday’s Dead’ has the following lyrics:
If I make a mark in time, I can't say the mark is mine.
I'm only the underline of the word.
Yes, I'm like him, just like you, I can't tell you what to do.
Like everybody else I'm searching thru what I've heard.

(Refrain): Whoa, Where do you go? When you don't want no one to know?
Who told tomorrow Tuesday's dead

Oh preacher won't you paint my dream, won't you show me where you've been
Show me what I haven't seen to ease my mind.
Cause I will learn to understand, if I have a helping hand.
I wouldn't make another demand all my life.
# - Bruce Springsteen Lyrics---

What's my sex, what's my name, all in all it's all the same.
Everybody plays a different game, that is all.
Now, man may live, man may die searching for the question why.
But if he tries to rule the sky he must fall.

Now every second on the nose, the humdrum of the city grows.
Reaching out beyond the throes of our time.
We must try to shake it down. Do our best to break the ground.
Try to turn the world around one more time.
Yeah, we must try to shake it down do our best to break the ground
Try to turn the world around one more time.#
This song uses the Lazarus metaphor in a more uncontrolled manner, possibly in order to show the spiritual confusion that Cat Stevens was experiencing at the time when he wrote this song. The verse: “Reaching out beyond the throes of our time” possibly suggests what is to come in the next life and ‘break the ground’ lyric conveys a sense of spiritual angst towards sin and how to break free from it. The answer to this of course is faith in Jesus, in which we receive the gift of resurrection. (However, Cat Stevens looks at this song in retrospect and sees it as one of the many cobblestones that was laid in his journey to his conversion to Islam and changing his name to Yusuf Islam thereafter).
Another song of his, ‘Sitting’ was written at an even more spiritually confusing time in his life. He knows he is bound to die someday and he needs to know the answer to what lies beyond death and the answer to the key to the universe and the purpose of life, etc. The same old questions that plague all of our minds at some point in our lives. Lazarus as a motif shows up in this song in a few of the pun-like words. (For these see the full song lyrics for ‘Sitting’ under the Presentation heading). One other example from Cat Stevens which plays with the Lazarus symbol is the song ‘King Of Trees’ off of the
# - Cat Stevens.Com---

Buddha And The Chocolate Box album. Specifically these lines relate to Lazarus’ connection with the resurrection of Christ and His people:
And if my mind breaks up
In all so many ways
I know the meaning of
The words I love you
And if my body falls inside
An early grave
The forest and the evergreens
Are coming to take me back
So slowly as I roll
Down the track.#
These lines speak specifically and very directly of a resurrection of some sort. The ‘King of Trees’ of the title on a more indirect level could be a metaphor for Jesus as He is hanging on the cross, but glancing at the rest of the song it seems to be merely conveying as sense of salvation through nature which several classic poets and authors played with. The resurrection reference is referred to in the lines: “The forests and the evergreens/Are coming to take me back.”
# - Cat Stevens.Com---

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