everybody knows elvis


    One of the things I love about Kate Campbell is she has Elvis songs: not covers, but songs in which he makes an appearance of some sort. She’s not the first to do it, but he does seem to enjoy showing up in her songs. One of her songs Friday night took me back to an old Don Henley tune, “If Dirt Were Dollars,” that holds these lines in the first verse:

    I was flying back from Lubbock
    and saw Jesus on the plane
    or maybe it was Elvis
    you know the kind of look the same

    Henley was mostly looking for a laugh, even if it was sardonic, but Kate is aiming for something different. And she hits her target. Here are the lyrics to “Everybody Knows Elvis,” written with Mark Narmore on her CD, Save the Day:

    Everybody knows Elvis
    Everybody knows Jesus
    Everybody knows you look both ways
    Before you cross that road

    And there’s nothing new
    Under that old sun
    Everybody knows Elvis
    But you know nobody really does

    Did you know him down in Tupelo
    Did you know him on that Vegas show
    Did you know him when he couldn’t sleep unstoned
    Did you know him when he died all alone

    Everybody knows Elvis
    Everybody knows Jesus
    Everybody knows beauty lies
    In the eyes that behold

    And two things that won’t die
    True love and rock and roll
    Everybody knows Jesus
    But you know nobody really does

    Did you know him in that upstairs room
    Did you know him when that rooster sang his tune
    Did you know him on that hill of doom
    Did you know him when they laid him in that tomb

    Cause everybody knows Elvis
    Everybody knows Jesus
    But you know nobody ever really does

    As this Transfiguration Sunday draws to a close, I find myself humming along in anticipation for the turn coming in our liturgical calendar, Epiphany moving into Lent and our picture of Jesus moving from the One Who Came to the One Who is Going to the Cross. The baby in the manger is a far cry from the Jesus standing between Moses and Elijah as the Elvis on Ed Sullivan is from the 1968 Comeback Special. Both the later versions get more dangerous.

    I love Advent and Christmastide and Epiphany, when the “glorious impossible” of the Incarnation is born again in our time; moving into Lent moves us from rejoicing in the compassion of God in human form to the somber reality of Jesus’ example of what it means to be human calling us to our own more authentic and dangerous existence. Long after Magi and mangers, we are left with a Messiah who is a freaking radical. Our three-year liturgical cycle has codified and ordered the stories, sometimes skipping over troubling verses, and, perhaps unwittingly, created a sense that we know the stories and their consequences.

    Everybody knows Jesus.

    For Valentine’s Day, Ginger gave me a new subscription to Harper’s Magazine. I let it expire a couple of years ago, as a cost cutting measure; I’m grateful for its return. In the “Findings” section, which is a random compilation of facts and statements juxtaposed in no particular order, the next to the last sentence reads, “People tend to think that God believes what they believe.

    But you know no one ever really does.

    I know I’ve still got a couple of days before Lent begins, along with my practice of a daily Lenten Journal, but I’m going to start early praying for disquietude. I’m ready for a comeback special of my own, which is to say I’m ready for some gospel changes in my own life, ready to see what kind of glorious damage an untamed God can do.

    Stay tuned.



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