The early days of music video produced some pretty spectacular so-good-because-it’s-so-bad stuff. I offer here two specimens that are different takes on the same song, “Caravan of Love.” The song was released in 1985 by Isley-Jasper-Isley, a splinter group of the r&b/funk superstars The Isley Brothers (randomly chosen famous track that you’ve all heard: “It’s Your Thing
,” covered and popularized by the Jackson 5).
The image of a “caravan of love” was meant to be a powerful evocation of Jesus’ message in non-religious jargon. It fit perfectly with the big-in-the-1980s utopian vision of a world free of poverty, war, and suffering (e.g.: the 80’s pop star extravaganzas [which you MUST watch today] “Do They Know It’s Christmas (Feed the World
)” with a young Sting, Bono, Boy George (!) and others, and with Phil Collins on drums; and “We Are the World
” featuring Cyndie, Stevie, Lionel, Ray, MJ, and Bob Dylan–all Mockingbird worthy folks). Call it cheesy if you must, but there’s a reason this stuff is powerful: people deeply want reconciliation, redemption, and rest.
So here’s the original version, from 1985. Apparently, the director said: “I know, let’s raid George Clinton’s closet, get some colored flags, go to a park, and make a video.” Key moments: African dictator watching TV in his limo, Suzanne Somers lookalike at roughly the 3 min mark, and the caucasian guy-in-a-suit saying “You’re my brother” to the African dude at the end. Watch it here
The second version was an a cappella
one recorded by the influential but little-known UK band The Housemartins
. Lead singer Paul Heaton combined his Christianity with a little Marxism (Sure, Marx was wrong, but who doesn’t want a world where we all get along?) and produced some classics. Their version of “Caravan of Love” was a hit in the UK, and featured this unbelievable video, filmed in a church (and check out the cover of the single, left–how much more explicitly Christian could it be? And it features a bonus track, “When I First Met Jesus”).
The video begins with an opening shot of a stained glass window that reads “God is Love.” I mean, this video is a precursor of Mockingbird! Notice the amazing opening sequence. It demonstrates how we come to God: on our knees (i.e., brokenness and repentance). And don’t get me started on the fact that they take off their hoods to reveal…wait for it…crosses carved into the hair on their temples! Finally, the horrible-yet-zany white-guy choreography at the end, where the guys are clearly having a great time, is a perfect illustration of Christian joy. Where Jesus Christ is, there is a sense of humor. This is one of the main things Mockingbird is about, and these guys get it too.
PPS–This is just my personal theory, but it seems that before the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) industry took off, it was OK to be explicitly Christian and a rocker. I mean, look at Elvis, Johnny Cash, U2, and the Housemartins above. But then CCM created an alternative universe which defined “acceptable” music for Christian artists and Christian listeners. The result: mainstream rock became totally secular. Agree or disagree?