“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Analyzed

My regular day-to-day, 9-to-5 job is data analysis. This skill has helped me immensely especially when it comes to writing these blogs. Therefore, I thought I would pull on that skill once again to do a real world analysis of one of our most beloved Santa Clause-based songs, “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”. If you don’t know the song, check it out here (as sung by one of my favorite groups “The Temptations”):

So now let’s analyze this stanza by stanza.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glow

If I ever saw this phenomenon, I probably would say that it glows… but I’m sure I wouldn’t JUST say that it glows, I’d probably be yelling to everyone and anyone who would listen that I saw a mutant reindeer with a red glowing radioactive nose.

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games

So basically, the other reindeer were jerks to poor Rudolph with the red glowing radioactive nose. I would almost ask the question “What grade are we in?” but then again we are talking about reindeer… who aren’t human… and don’t go to school…

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
“Rudolph with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

It’s funny how Santa was never mentioned as keeping order when the other reindeer were laughing and calling young Rudolph names… but I digress. It seems that, at this point, there was an impossible situation happening that could only be solved by making the most hated of the reindeer group the leader of those who hated him.

Additionally, being that Santa asked a question, shouldn’t that line be “Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to ASK”???

Then all the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You’ll go down in history

First and foremost, reindeer are not only jerks, but they’re superficial jerks. They hated Rudolph for his disability, then all of a sudden they loved him when they figured that he could provide a service to them. Moral of the story, fake friends have no problem using YOUR talents for their benefit. Get some REAL friends.

Also notice that Santa asked the question “Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”, but it never mentions whether or not Rudolph answered “Yes”. We automatically assume that Rudolph said “yes”, because of the gleeful reaction of the other reindeer… but I theoretically submit to you that:

  1. Perhaps Rudolph didn’t say “yes” and the other reindeer were happy that Rudolph wasn’t leading them ANYWHERE with that radioactive bio-hazard snout of his.
  2. Perhaps Rudolph didn’t say “yes” and the other reindeer were happy that Rudolph stood up to Santa Claus… who could have been the tyrant of the North Pole region (and we just didn’t know it).
  3. Perhaps Rudolph didn’t say “yes” because REINDEER DON’T TALK. Ergo, Rudolph wouldn’t have answered Santa in the first place.

Either way, those three reasons are a pretty good reason to go down in history.

(after all… we still sing this song to this day… pretty historical to me)

DISCLAIMER: As a Christian, I don’t believe in Santa Claus as the figure that shows up magically and does magical things once a year. I DO, however, believe in Nikolaos of Myra, who actually did live in what is now modern day Turkey and had a reputation for secret gift giving.

Want to learn more, check out the full story here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas


Tastes Like Musical Chicken

I don’t know if I’m getting older or what, but the more and more I hear Christmas music (which is only one month out of the year), it seems to be homogenizing into this Hip-Hop/R&B/Pop musical fruitcake. With the exception of those Christmas classics from decades past (think Burl Ives, Jose Feliciano, Nat King Cole, and the like), it seems that Christmas music is not quite Christmas-y enough.

For example, I heard “Oh Holy Night” this week. I know this song from the hymn book and have played it numerous times. This version, however, was the Kelly Clarkson/American Idol version and I was like “WHY ARE THEY MAKING THE BIRTH OF JESUS ALL SULTRY???” Singing a Jesus-related Christmas song with the phone-sex operator voice is NOT a good match.

Therefore, I am putting my foot down and making an official statement:

(It just ain’t right)

Unless you’re Isaac Hayes singing “Mistletoe and Me”. THAT is the only exception.

Time to L.E.A.R.N.!

TODAY’S CLIP: In keeping with this weeks “three generations” theory, I wanted today’s musical post to encourage you to continue to work. The scripture in Philippians 4:13 says that you can do ALL things through Christ that strengthens you. Therein lies today’s song title, “I Can Do All Things Through Christ”. As far as I can tell, the original was done by Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. If someone out there in Blogland knows of an earlier version, let me know in the comments section. I love this video because it’s a big, old school choir led by Dr. Clark with “Twinkie” Clark on the organ… and then Bishop G.E. Patterson gets up at the end. What a combination. This version tickles my Baptist ear. Check it out and be encouraged… old school style!


I was originally introduced to this song through the remix by Earnest Pugh featuring Bishop Rance Allen. It’s lyrically the same repackaged in a neo-soul-ish music style. This version tickles my musical ear. Check it out and enjoy… new school style!

(Just so you know where I stand, I don’t agree with the “D’Angelo anointing” line in the beginning JUST because it stylistically follows a similar “D’Angelo” style. It’s God’s music and the message of the song is powerful enough. Does it really need a label beyond that??? I’m just sayin’. Anyway… enjoy…)

As a musician, 90% of what you do is listening. Music is too much of a universal language to get stuck on one dialect. Therefore, today’s blog is dedicated specifically for you to LISTEN (to the clip provided), EXPAND (your thinking on music in a way that you may not have considered before), AND ROCK NOW (with more musical knowledge added to your repertoire)!

DISCLAIMER: I do not own the rights to this song. The videos included in this blog are only intended to bring musical awareness to the reader.

Splicing the SACRED with the SECULAR [Part 6/6]: Conclusion

If nothing else, I hope that this blog series has caused you to think about what you do and why you do it. Of course, this is geared towards my fellow church musicians (pianists, organists, keyboardists, etc), but as a little bit of a conclusion, I want to submit this thought:

If you sold vaccuum cleaners, would anybody care about any of this stuff?

The short answer: Probably not.

Fortunately, we’re not talking about vaccuum cleaner sales, we’re talking about soul business through the medium of music. In the first blog of this series, I mentioned that I was guilty of splicing the sacred with the secular. As a musician, it comes with the territory IN THE SENSE THAT you want to put your best foot forward and display your best abilities in any and all musical situations. Sometimes when you’re digging for musical things to do in the middle of a performance, you revert to what’s comfortable (and comfort levels vary from musician to musician).

The turning point for me was when I started really studying my Bible (not to be a preacher or a minister of music or any kind of church official… just to be a better Christian). One thing that I’m continuing to learn is that we are all interconnected on this planet. One person has the ability to affect many, many others either directly or indirectly. Even if you just affect one person, that one person can affect others in what is commonly referred to as “The Butterfly Effect” (where small changes can have astronomical effects; aka Chaos Theory).

I suggest that when it comes to sacred music that you just be conscious of what you’re doing. This is NOT to negate any musical knowledge that you have outside of the church (because real musicians listen to a lot of different styles of music). Sure, you can splice a secular song in and nobody would even know what it is. In fact, in today’s church you would probably get a commendation from the older crowd and a head nod of agreement from your counterparts, but WHAT IF one person was thrown off? WHAT IF one person stumbled because of the music you played? WHAT IF one person turned away from Christ because they heard “the club” in the church? Would that be enough for you to remember the words in 1 Corinthians 8:11?

So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. (NLT)

Is it really THAT serious?

Could you live with yourself if it was THAT serious?

(just a thought)

Splicing the SACRED with the SECULAR [Part 5/6]: Superior “Musical” Knowledge vs. Creativity

While playing secular music might be fun for the flesh and splicing that music into sacred music might seem like a good idea, it treads on dangerous territory of causing your brother or sister to fall. Read the words of Paul to the church at Corinth below:

(8) It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do. (9) But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. (10) For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? (11) So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed.

-1 Corinthians 8:8-11

So at what point does a superior “musical” knowledge take a back seat to having a heart for the very people Jesus Christ died for? Although it may seem insignificant, splicing secular music into sacred music could, at most, cause your brother or sister to stumble OR, at least, cause your brother or sister to see the church no differently than they see the world (a stumbling block in and of itself). As Christians, we should not do that. In fact, in the same chapter of Corinthians, Paul goes on to write:

So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.

-1 Corinthians 8:13 (NLT)

If Paul took it that seriously about eating meat, then shouldn’t we, as Christian musicians, take it that seriously with the music we play for God? Moreso than that, I submit to you that God has given us too much creativity to have to copy and paste a secular song onto a sacred song. I honestly believe that the more you seek God, the more He reveals new and fresh music to you. Music so new and fresh that it’s never been heard on Earth before. Want to know how I know?

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

-Psalms 40:3 (NLT)

Splicing the SACRED with the SECULAR [Part 4/6]: Little Foxes

When it comes to the splicing of the sacred with the secular, there is one particular Biblical scripture that comes to my mind.

 “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

-Song of Solomon 2:15 (KJV)

So what in the world could this verse in the Bible be talking about. Song of Solomon (aka Song of Songs) is not a book you hear quoted everyday, but I’ve heard this verse explained before and I think it applies to what we’re talking about here in music. Check this out and follow me on how it’s connected with our subject at hand:

A fox, at it’s tallest, is no more than 2 feet from the ground up.

A grapevine can grow up to, and beyond, 115 feet in it’s native environment.

So how can a little fox spoil something that’s a little over 57 times its height?

Easy. The little fox is closer to the root. No matter how tall a thing becomes, if you attack the root, it cannot stand very long. This brings up a third school of thought that I would like to submit for your review.

 The Third School of Thought: The condition of your heart for God affects the condition of your music for God.

When we’re talking about SACRED music in the church, adding SECULAR bits and pieces to it attacks the root. Just like dark and light cannot be in the same room, sacred music and secular music cannot be in the same song.

…but wait… let’s substitute the definitions in and read that last sentence again…

Just like dark and light cannot be in the same room, [connected with God] music and [no religious or spiritual basis] music cannot be in the same song.

Now this gets down to the condition of your heart for God FIRST then the music you play for God.

Splicing the SACRED with the SECULAR [Part 3/6]: Opposing Ends of the Spectrum

Let’s get some definitions out of the way before we continue (special thanks to Bing.com for providing these definitions… these FREE definitions):

SPLICE (v) – join or connect (a rope or ropes) by interweaving the strands

SACRED (adj) – connected with God or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration (respect)

SECULAR (adj) – denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis: contrasted with sacred

So now we can get into the nitty gritty. We can read from the definitions above that SACRED and SECULAR are on two opposing ends of the spectrum. One is connected with God and the other is separated from God. That in itself should be enough to make a decisive decision as to why the two shouldn’t be mixed, but for church musicians that play secular music OR secular musicians that play church music, there is that grey area of “It’s not that simple”.

As a church musician for virtually all my life AND a holder of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jazz Studies with a focus in Jazz Piano, I see on a regular basis how Jazz/R&B chords and song structures are quite present in Gospel music. In fact, I use a lot of what I have learned/still learning in what I do in church. So does that mean that I’m splicing the sacred with the secular? If I include Jazzy or Neo-Soul chords into a hymn, does that dilute the actual message of the hymn?

The issue is not necessarily the music itself since music without words is simply music. It’s really the words that can either bless or corrupt a song turning it into something sacred or something secular.

But then when we consider secular songs that have turned into Gospel songs, I believe it gets down to the Psychoacoustics question of “Which one did you hear first?” For example, Kirk Franklin’s “Looking For You” is a remake of Patrice Rushen’s “Haven’t You Heard”. While I’m not picking on Kirk Franklin, that’s just a great example of “Which one did you hear first?”

For the old heads that heard Patrice Rushen first, Gospel may not be on your mind because that’s probably not what you associate the song with.

However, for the young heads who ONLY know the Kirk Franklin remake, it’s more Gospel (or, at least, “churchy”) than anything else.

So, in this case, the secular has been spliced with the sacred, but is THAT a right thing to do?