TOP-Hipper-CoverI recently re-discovered a band that loomed over my childhood. Tower of Power, a brass-based soul-funk big band explosion used to make an annual headline performance each summer at the San Mateo County Fair when I was growing up. The band was local, from Oakland, which is across the Bay. As is often the case, lyrics of songs that washed over me when I was too young to understand often blow me away when I hear them again for the first time as a grown man.

Take for instance “What Is Hip” from Power’s Hipper Than Hip (Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow) LP. The song could almost be a riff on the collect for the fifth Sunday in Lent (or the Fourth Sunday after Easter, depending on which Prayer Book you’re looking at): “Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found.”

Power is tapping into the same idea on Hipper Than Hip, asking what actually is hip anyway (I wanna know). It’s really a perennial question, observation, and reality check. During a time when it seems everyone is an indie hipster creative, we ought to allow “What Is Hip” to live a second life. Watch this amazing recording of Lenny Williams leading the band in a live(ly) performance of the song on Don Cornelius’s Soul Train—hey, people all over the world, remember Soul Train!? Watch, listen, pay attention to the lyrics, and be convicted of your need for Jesus because “sometimes hipness is, what it ain’t.”

What is hip
Tell me, tell me, if you think you know
What is hip
If you’re really hip
The passing years will show
You’re into a hip trip
Maybe hipper than hip
What is hip