In !Hero, The Rock Opera, the Jesus of the Gospels is transformed into a dreadlock-wearing street preacher for the hip-hop generation.
I've blogged about this before [e.g. here]. I've now listened to the CD frequently and I'm a fan. If you like Jesus Christ Superstar, you'll probably like this. The article features some interesting quotations from Eddie DeGarmo who co-wrote the piece:
"They were a people that had come out of bondage," DeGarmo said of the Jews. "They were a people that were downtrodden in their own society, and I feel like the African-American folks have come through some of those things that parallel that. It's just like God to reach down and pick the person that would be the least likely to rise up . . . and I just thought it was very appropriate to depict Christ as an African-American in !Hero."Michael Tait plays Jesus and in says,
"As a little boy growing up in the inner city of Washington, D.C., being the son of a pastor, at my dad's church and other churches around the city, I'd always see these pictures of this blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus," he said.Sounds like he might have seen Son of God (Jesus the Complete Story in the U.S.) -- a couple of people said to me at the time that that face looked a bit like something from Crimewatch.
As he got older, Tait studied the Bible and realized that Jesus likely was not white, and he probably wasn't black, either.
"The truth is, he probably looked more like a terrorist, if you really break it down," Tait said. "I mean Jewish, Middle Eastern, dark, woolly hair. But the fact is, it's provocative."
The article also says that "Grammy winner Rebecca St. James is Maggie (Mary Magdalene)". I've not read the novels, but there are no signs that Maggie is Mary Magdalene from the CD; the only clear identification is with the woman from Samaria in John 4; that story has its own song called "Secrets of the Heart" -- only time I've heard a song based on this story. You can see a bootleg of this being performed on the Hero! web site here:
Secrets of the Heart (starts just under a minute into this clip)
Inevitably, Mel Gibson's film gets mentioned,
DeGarmo has stayed away from the controversy that surrounds Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of Christ. In !Hero, the savior's opponents are not depicted as people of a specific culture. They are pegged as government officials and "street urchins" who don't believe what Hero preaches and think he and his followers are a danger to life as they know it.What the article doesn't point out, though, is that the one clearly identified Jewish character, the chief rabbi Kai (loosely based on Caiaphas, but also a composite of Gospel scribes and Pharisees), is a stereotype baddy.