Monday, August 11, 2008

Meditation on Psalm 136(137)

A new feature has been added to the sidebar of mwbh.

"Rivers of Babylon" was a popular song written by the late Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of The Melodians, which was recorded by the German disco band Boney M in 1978. No, they don't look German, do they? That's because they hail from either Aruba, Jamaica, or Montserrat.

But, back to the tune already. It is based on Psalm 137, or Psalm 136 in the Greek Septuagint numerology, as used by traditional Catholics in the Latin Vulgate. The psalm expresses the longing of the exiled Jewish people, following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC. "The rivers of Babylon" refer the Euphrates River, its tributaries, and the Chebar (Khabour) River. The recording in question was released as a single and was #1 in the UK for 5 weeks in 1978. It was also the group's only significant USA chart entry, peaking at #30 in the Pop charts.

I remember another recording back then, by some German guy who was apparently from Germany, and who sang it in German. I believe this was an appeal to the polka market. Don't ask me why.


Sue said...

While we're on the subject...

Does anybody know where I can get a recording of "Missa Luba" circa 1960? I've been searchin for years and all I've been able to come up with was a versin from the 80's, which lacked inspiration...

Missa Luba. From the Belgian Congo. Think soundtrack of "The Singing Nun," last sequence. Come on, amateurs, it's gotta be out there!


Brian Saint-Paul said...

Hi David,

I come clean here with hesitation: When I was 10-11, I sang with Bony M, did a video, and toured Europe. If you look at their album, Boonoonoonoos, I'm the kid singing the solo on We Kill the World/Don't Kill the World.

It was a great time, and I liked them a lot. They were Jamaican.

David L Alexander said...

Yeah, Brian, I just checked the liner notes. This was before you added the "Saint-" to your last name, right?

(At the time of "Rivers of Babylon," two of the members were from Jamaica, with one each from Aruba and Montserrat. I think the lineup changed after that.)

Brian Saint-Paul said...

Yes, I returned to my traditional family name about 10 years ago.

I recall all four being from Jamaica, but I could easily be confused. Long time ago!