Ivor Moody is an author, the Vice Dean of Chelmsford Cathedral and, importantly, he’s a music lover. Songs for the Soul is a look at classic pop songs from the likes of The Beatles, Nina Simone and Bob Dylan from a Christian perspective. Guiding this faith-based lens onto aspects of truth, strength, and reconciliation, amongst other things, Songs for The Soul tells an incredible story, gives brilliant insight, and is also an incredibly useful educational resource.
Complex and layered, Songs for the Soul reflects the man who wrote it. Ivor Moody is a man of God but is also very much a music fan whose love for these songs can be found on every page of this book. We sent Ivor some questions to allow him to reflect on his work, his life and the music he loves.
Songs for the Soul was released back in February and has received a lot of praise. Looking back, how does it feel knowing that your work is finally out there?
I still have a sense of disbelief! It’s always a shock to see the first book in print, but thrilling as well!
Obviously, the book is based on your love of music. What is your first musical memory?
The first record I remember my parents buying for me was a 45- The Beatles ‘She Loves You’.
What was the first single or first album you ever bought?
Other early childhood memories are listening to ‘Downtown’ sung by Petula Clark and ‘Telstar’ by The Tornados, and Richard Strauss’ ‘Also Sprach Zarathrustra’ the theme to the film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. When I had my first record player the first record I bought to play on it was Beethoven’s Moonlight and Pathetique Sonatas played by Walter Gieseking.
Some of the artists featured in the book, at one time or another, have been demonised for certain themes within their music or even aspects of the artists’ personal lives – The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel spring to mind initially – is that something you had to battle with?
Not at all. I took the songs on their merits, and actually good music is often shaped by the traumas and experiences –good and bad- of the artists who created them, and songs are often ‘worked through’ products of that experience.
What first made you draw the connection between pop music and faith? A particular song or lyric, perhaps?
Partly because, as I said in the book, with each of these songs I have a long association- they are part of my growing up and learning about life, and also because, as a Christian minister, it is important now as ever it was to look for ‘signs of the sacred’ in so much that surrounds us and is part of our human experience.
How did that idea then grow into you wanting to write a book?
The book began as a series of meditations for Good Friday I wrote for the congregation at Chelmsford Cathedral, trying to throw light on the story of Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion using modern, secular resources.
The finished product was both a fantastic academic study of music and faith as well as a personal journey. Is that what you set out to write in the beginning? If not, then how did the book change during your time writing it?
Not really, although the very choice to initially use the songs in this way inevitably meant that in the mediations I delivered on those Good Fridays there was a fair degree of personal experience, reminiscence and reflection.
What was the most challenging aspect of the whole process?
The most challenging part of the progress was changing- effectively re-writing- six meditations for a specific Christian congregation so that they would look natural in book form and appeal to a commercial audience.
The six songs in the book are wide-ranging, both in terms of style and of era. How did you pick the six songs featured in the book?
Well, they reflect many years of my life, which is why they range widely both in musical style and genre. There are many songs and pieces of music that have affected me deeply, but I guess these first six were the chief among them!
Of those six, which is your favourite?
If you were to force me off the fence (!) I’d have to say the last two- The Sounds of Silence and Let It Be.
Is there a song or artist that you wanted to include, but couldn’t?
The subject of the book is very wide reaching. Have you thought about looking into more songs, perhaps for a second volume?
See above, and watch this space!
Finally, let’s do a little Desert Island Discs. Which five albums would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island and why? (One or two sentences per album is fine)
Well, in the book I refer to the fact that I am a classically trained pianist, so I would have to include some classical music as well….
- Fleetwood Mac- ‘Rumours’. In my humble opinion one of the finest albums ever produced- not a weak song there. An album that serenaded me through my University days and beyond, and I’d have to mention a particular song ‘Go Your Own Way’.
- S.Bach, ‘Concerti for Three and Four Harpsichords’. When I was a teenager at home I borrowed this record from the local library- and wore it out! It gave me a love for the instrument, and for early music generally.
- Dire Straits, ‘Private Investigations’. The song ‘Romeo and Juliet’ played a big part in bringing my future wife and I together!
- Ludovico Einaudi, ‘Le Onde’. The title track was one of those occasions when you hear something on the radio, and just have to stop the car and listen to it! I introduced his music to my teenage children, and they still have his stuff on their playlists years later!
- Frank Turner, ‘Love, Ire and Song’, because, in reverse, this was an album introduced to me by my youngest son, and it’s still on my playlist! One of the most intelligent lyricists around at the moment I think, who puts important things which affect all of us to music.
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