I’ve never thought about how Flannery O’Connor’s fiction may have influenced musicians, especially in the punk and industrial music genres. I have a pretty interesting music history, starting with mostly early rock and roll like The Beatles and arena rock like Journey. My music journey includes ska, new wave, heavy metal, classic rock, reggae, death rock, and industrial. However, one genre that I usually go back to is early punk, primarily British bands like The Clash and the Sex Pistols. Post punk bands like Joy Division and early stuff by The Cure are also on my go to list for music that revs me up on a bad day.
But as I was taking a reprieve from writing this evening, I was interested to read an article from The Flannery O’Connor Review that focuses on the influence that Wise Blood has had in several bands like Ministry, Corrosion of Conformity, and Gang of Four. The primary argument is that Wise Blood highlights the early hot rod culture of the 1940s and 1950s that influenced early rock and roll and even later music like industrial and punk. The author posits that industrial reflects the nihilism that is central to Hazel Motes’ sense of theology and evangelism in Wise Blood. This nihilism is seen throughout rock and roll, especially Southern rock, punk, and industrial due to the fact that all three highlight the chaos that often ensues in life. Industrial and punk, however, include no apologies while Southern rock, like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” often does.
So what does this mean for me as I’m on this thesis journey? Not a whole lot. However, anytime I can see how music and literature intersect, I’m happy. And anytime Flannery is written about in relation to bands like Ministry and Gang of Four, I can’t help but smile with satisfaction. Music and literature can be wonderful partners in this messy world, and I’m so pleased to see the marriage of Flannery and punk rock, two of my favorite things.