I used to be in a choir and remember our Director bringing up “The Preacher’s Wife” one day in practice. I just watched it for the first time with Whitney Houston’s other movies. One of the songs on the soundtrack was a regular part of our setlist and it brought back a lot of memories. The same year Joan Osborne had a song on radio and MTV asking the question what if God was just an ordinary man? When this track was brought up in conversation one of the pastor’s kids was adamant that she shouldn’t ask questions like that.
I thought how weird that there are questions you are not supposed to ask. Osborne was twice our age and almost certainly knew more than what our high school education could cover. I knew that questioning is one of the main ways we learn about the world. Much later I discovered Street Epistemology which uses the Socratic method. A person well trained in one on one interactions in this approach can lead to incredible insights! There was just a new course started on learning how to practice SE called Navigating Beliefs.
The choir song that really changed its meaning to me these days is “The Basics of Life” by the group 4Him. It was about the need for society to return to “the virtues that once gave us light” and how “we’ve drifted so far from the truth.” It tries to convince listeners that there was some other time when when morality was much better than current day. It is this generation, according them, which is so far off base to the point that they just can’t even understand the most basic of ethics anymore. The lyrics don’t get into detail for specifics on when this time was so it comes with all the vagueness of a slogan like “Make America Great Again.”
When was this “again” the political slogan refers to? Your guess is as good as mine. What era was the songwriter of “Basics of Life” talking about when of these “morals that governed our lives” and when did they erode? The vagueness actually works as a feature since you can fill in your own answer into the blank. If they listed an exact time it might contradict what the audience wants to believe but when the line is structured this way it now coincides with what was already thought to be correct. I think there should be a detailed explanation to this supposed era. It seems to be rooted in our preconceived collective imaginations and nowhere else.
Joan Osborne is known by just about everybody as a one hit wonder. Like many alternative rock artists from this time who only had one or two songs with regular radio rotation she also had a number of good tracks that just wouldn’t get played. Other bands in a similar position; Blind Melon, Seven Mary Three, Fastball, Veruca Salt. If you didn’t listen to the albums of these bands or particular records from them you could skip over some real gems.
I’ll Be Around
How Sweet It Is
Till I Get It Right
When The Blue Hour Comes
Sweeter Then The Rest
Little Wild One
Can’t Say No
Light Of This World
I Don’t Need No Dr.
I Want to Be Loved
The Same Love That Made Me Laugh
Work On Me
Thirsty For My Tears
Kitten's Got Claws
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Buckets of Rain
Tryin’ to Get to Heaven
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Ring Them Bells
Take It Any Way I Can Get It
What's That You Say
Never Get Tired of Loving You
Trouble and Strife
Meat & Potatoes
Dreamin' About The Day
What You Gonna Do
His Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles
(A group she sang lead in. She was only on their first album so far.)
Christmas Means Love
Christmas in New Orleans
Angels We Have Heard on High
What Do Bad Girls Get?
Great Day in December
Joan still does not have a best of collection that reaches across her full discography. Her first compilation “One of Us” (2005) only covers the first decade and the next one “20th Century Masters” also doesn’t go beyond the same era. Half of these years (1995-2005) were spent working on her second album. Right after this she would put out records every year.
Her best is 2021’s Radio Waves that reworks previously released songs. Since it contains interesting alternative cuts it makes a good choice for both fans which have her full discography as well as those who are unfamiliar with her. It’s much later 2021 release date means that it covers a much wider part of her career yet it still skips over albums such as her excellent from top to bottom 2020 release “Trouble and Strife.”
Here is how I think she should approach a career retrospective. Given that much of what she does is reinterpret the songs of others why not put out a two disc collection that has a full disc of covers while the other focuses on originals? It would accomplish the objective of giving listeners a clear understanding of what she is about while also comulating enough tracks to get at least one or two songs from each album in the mix. What could undo her one hit wonder status better then experiencing two full albums of great material?
From her website about Radio Waves:
The extended break in touring brought on by the Covid pandemic gave me the opportunity to stay home and finally clean out some closets. As I cleaned I found dusty boxes filled with old cassette demos, rough recordings of long – ago rehearsals, and a bunch of CDs given to me by engineers at the many radio stations I’ve visited over the years.
These visits usually included a performance of whatever new material my band and I were promoting, and as I combed through the CDs I realized I had a decent collection of high quality live – in – studio versions of these songs.
Here is the rest of the article on her site.