4 Songs (from Eminem to 'Amazing Grace') Celebrating St. Valentine's Real Ability: Bringing Sight to Blind
Need some Valentine's Day music? Sure, we could bore you to death with the typical array of Marvin Gaye and Paul McCartney...or we could try to actually teach you something about St. Valentine in the process.
Don't know much about the real St. Valentine? Don't worry: Neither does anybody. Part of the reason he became the patron saint of a corporate holiday promoting love is because nobody could affiliate him with anything else. You see, the best we know is that Valentine lived in the Third Century, which was a bad time to be a Christian if you didn't want to be killed by the Romans, still in command. So Catholic Church historians are pretty sure that he was a martyr, but multiple hagiographies point to as many as three martyred Valentines, all of who became saints. Ultimately, Pope Gelasius I included St. Valentine on a lengthy list of men "whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God." Which is a nice way of saying "we have no idea why he's a saint."
There are legends however, and one in particular catches the eye. Valentine was reportedly imprisoned by a Roman judge, who taunted him by presenting his blind daughter, telling the Christian that if he could restore her sight, he would be freed. Otherwise, he would die. Valentine placed his hands on the girl's eyes and repaired her vision. The judge immediately converted.
He later tried to convince Emperor Claudius, but would be beheaded.
Still, healing the blind is pretty excellent. Here are four tracks that explore the theme.
"Amazing Grace" by John Newton
If you read the aforementioned tale as an example of St. Valentine bringing a sinner to the light by way of divine miracles, no song can match this theme better than the immortal "Amazing Grace." it's author, John Newton—according to lore—was a captain on a slaving ship when his boat ran afoul of nasty weather. He deemed the escape miraculous and wrote "Grace" as an ode to mercy shown by God in allowing him to survive the encounter: "I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see." Of course, the real Newton would continue slaving for a few years after that incident but would later truly see the light and become an Anglican cleric, eventually becoming a strong voice in support of abolition as well, dying soon after Britain formally banned the slave trade during 1807.
"Open Mine Eyes" by Fanny Crosby
Hymns make for one of the best sources of inspiration for songwriters because the Bible is just overflowing with verses waiting to be converted into a song of praise. Fanny Crosby was one of the most prolific of songwriters in history, having more than 8,000 gospel songs to her name. She was bound to reference sight being restored to the blind based on probability alone. It was more than appropriate when she did however, in "Open Mine Eyes"—"Open my eyes, Dear Saviour, now open mine eyes to see/the well of Thy full salvation, that sparkles and flows for me"—because Crosby herself had been blind since childhood.
"Eyesight To The Blind" by The Who (feat. Eric Clapton)
The actual plot of Tommy, The Who's rock opera, is hardly strung together. But the incredible nature of the songs that take place within means that this hardly matters. All you need to know is the title character is blind and abused throughout his youth. The song "Eyesight To The Blind" is hidden under the title "The Hawker" during the album, but gets its true title during the film version, where its performed along with Eric Clapton. There are so many layers to this decision, we'll break them down by numbers: 01) Obviously the song deals with a mystical power restoring vision. 02) Clapton is noted for his love of the blues (whereas The Who rarely stuck to the 12-bar formula) so he was ideal for performing this Sonny Boy Williamson cover. 03) "Clapton is God" was a popular slogan during his '60s heyday. In the film, he plays a preacher for a cult based around Marilyn Monroe, offering healing for Tommy's eyes. It doesn't work of course, shooting down the idea that religion can cure all (and that Clapton is a vestige of God, more subtly).
"Mosh" by Eminem
"Mosh" was somewhat what "I Am A God" was for Kanye West. There was a moment, marked most prominently by the Taylor Swift/VMAs incident, where Kanye humbled himself before the music community. 808s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy showed a West who, although still an egomaniac, was at least wrestling with his humanity for the world to see. Yeezus shifted gears and showed a West willing to deal with the criticism, proudly declaring that he was a god. Eminem was also dealing with his humanity around the time The Eminem Show emerged: He had become bigger than music, and his life had become a TV show as indicated by the album's title. "White America" was one of his most political commentaries up to that point, where he pieced together how some kid in a white T-shirt had become a movement. "Mosh," the realistic sequel to that song, found him accepting the role more aggressively, declaring "I give sight to the blind, my insight through the mind." He accepted a role as more than a tastemaker, but capable of shifting entire world views as he attempted to do with his attacks on George W. Bush and the government during the track.