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The Jim Jones Gospel Hour
August 7, 2008 8:36 AM   Subscribe

The music of the People's Temple. Five years before Jim Jones coerced 900 of his church members to commit suicide in Guyana, the People's Temple cut an album.

See this previous post for a link to an excellent website on the Temple.

The best tracks on He's Able are a product of the church's famously energetic service and interracial membership:

Something Got a Hold of Me (MP3)
Walking With You Father (MP3)
He's Able (MP3)

Found after watching this excellent PBS documentary.
posted by Bookhouse (24 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
WFMU is one of the great treasures of the internet.
posted by empath at 8:37 AM on August 7, 2008


Some music at, not of, the People's Temple.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:44 AM on August 7, 2008


Was also linked in the YOD THREAD a while back.
posted by The Straightener at 8:50 AM on August 7, 2008


Sorry for the derail, but I've never been able to shake the idea that Jonestown was a possible CIA mind-control experiment. I realize a lot of people think that's nuts; but WFMU is conspiracy-friendly radio, so there you go. Back to the thread now.
posted by ornate insect at 9:09 AM on August 7, 2008


Apocalyptic folk act Death in June re-recorded several of those songs with new lyrics on the album But What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?; "Something Got a Hold on Me" was retitled "The Mourner's Bench," and "He's Able" was redone as "He's Disabled."
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:27 AM on August 7, 2008


That post is over two years old. I still listen to the song Black Baby which is kind of beautiful and creepy.
posted by dgaicun at 9:37 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Charles Manson's new folk record. Charles Manson's old folk record.
posted by nasreddin at 9:43 AM on August 7, 2008


That Black baby song is wonderful.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:55 AM on August 7, 2008


The album didn't chart. It was more of a cult favorite.
posted by Optamystic at 10:15 AM on August 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


I've been part of some interesting groups of people, know a bit about what it's like to get caught up in a group identity and the excitement of feeling that group is doing something fresh and worthwhile. I've kindof wondered about the People's Temple and wondered if being a part of it was like that for a while. And it's interesting to see recent radical religious movements that embraced the elements social responsibility implicit in Christianity in a time where most of it seems mysteriously and entirely lined up on the other side.

But I watched a Jonestown documentary a year ago. The thing that really got me was when people were talking about parents having to give the suicide cocktail to their kids, and somehow, the whole thing had gone so far many of them did it, even though it went against every natural parenting instinct and they knew it was so horribly wrong that it made their own drink welcome and easy to embrace. That's not mundane, banal everyday human evil, that's the kind of evil I feel sick just thinking about, and so even though I imagine being part of the People's Temple was interesting and exciting and energizing and affirming for a while, and even though I find some of the music good, I can't help but feel anything (even anything good) that was part of that is hopelessly tainted by association.
posted by weston at 10:25 AM on August 7, 2008


I've never been able to shake the idea that Jonestown was a possible CIA mind-control experiment.

That's totally the conclusion I came to in my tenth grade history paper.
posted by Hollow at 11:03 AM on August 7, 2008


It's surprisingly competent -- I'm listening to it at work and it just kind of wanders on in the background, not good enough to be attention-grabbing or bad enough to be, well, attention-grabbing.
posted by Shepherd at 11:29 AM on August 7, 2008


Thanks for refreshing my sense of awe about the whole People's Temple episode. You know, back when that actually happened, we'd just been through the 60s and 70s and were a lot more blase about weirdness (Patty Hearst, Mai Lai, assassinations). But if the People's Temple suicides happened today, they might have had a more 9-11 or Columbine-like impact on society, triggering similar introspection. I mean, think about it, 900 people. If only half of that number killed themselves voluntarily, it's staggering.
posted by Faze at 11:44 AM on August 7, 2008


Apocalyptic folk act Death in June re-recorded several of those songs with new lyrics on the album But What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?

I'd heard that for years, until I actually heard the original People's Temple music: it sounds absolutely nothing like the music on But What Ends When the Symbols Shatter, which is pretty standard Death In June. At best, the songs are loosely based on the People's Temple originals (e.g. the line "black baby, black baby, as you grow up, I want you to drink from the plenty cup" is reused in "Little Black Angel", substituting "angel" for "baby").
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:22 PM on August 7, 2008


Five years before Jim Jones coerced 900 of his church members to commit suicide in Guyana, the People's Temple cut an album.

Ok. You win the Most Compelling Post Description award. Hands down.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:45 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's a strange one in the jungle
And he questions all that one thinks
There's a strange one in the jungle
With a new and exciting drink
Freshen up, freshen up, freshen up
Freshen up, freshen up, freshen up
Guyana Punch! Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Oh!
Guyana Punch! Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Oh!
Guyana Punch! Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Oh!
posted by ZachsMind at 5:12 PM on August 7, 2008


Deborah Layton's book Seductive Poison isn't exactly fine literature, but she does give a first-hand account of her time with the People's Temple. Layton, who was a Temple member for 7 years, left Guyana 6 months before the mass suicide.
posted by Monsters at 5:24 PM on August 7, 2008


Charles Manson's new folk record. Charles Manson's old folk record.

Manson's music is pretty interesting to listen to. On "Lie", you can tell that he had commercial aspirations (if I remember right, either the "Lie" material or a slightly earlier session was recorded as a demo for Terry Melcher in the hopes of a recording contract), and most of the stuff on that record is the free-form folk crooning stuff that Neil Young, Dennis Wilson, etc. were so impressed by. His prison recordings, however, are total stream-of-consciousness anti-commercial weirdness, with songs that have titles like "I Got Me A Tough Bastard Child Want To Become Into A Samurai". None of it is what you'd call good, and it will especially be a letdown if you expect some kind of monstrous proto-black metal or something in line with his public image, but it's interesting.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:35 PM on August 7, 2008


Speaking of the Manson/Neil Young connection, there's a funny moment in one of his interviews where he accuses "You - Neil Diamond - Buffalo Springfield" of stealing his ideas.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:37 PM on August 7, 2008


Guyana Punch! Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Oh!

Jesus, that's the first time I've seen a Judy's reference anywhere on the web. You must be from Houston.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:48 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


"You must be from Houston."

Dallas. But you're close. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 6:23 PM on August 7, 2008


Seriously, this thread is kinda messed up, and anyone who disagrees with me needs to stop drinking the Kool-Aid.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:36 PM on August 7, 2008


...and it will especially be a letdown if you expect some kind of monstrous proto-black metal or something in line with his public image

I concur.
posted by dgaicun at 7:24 PM on August 7, 2008


Seriously, this thread is kinda messed up, and anyone who disagrees with me needs to stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

Kool-Aid Man should be upset. They killed themselves with Flavor Aid.
posted by Gary at 10:40 AM on August 8, 2008


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