Derek Webb

I'm excited that at this year's Summit at ACU we will be hosting the Christian musician Derek Webb. Many of you who follow Christian music already know Webb. He was a member of the band Caedmon's Call and in 2003 launched a successful solo career.

I don't listen to a lot of Christian music, but intrigued by the Summit announcement I went out to find out a bit more about Webb and his music. I bought his first solo album She Must and Shall Go Free. I loved it and quickly realized what many had already known about Webb: He likes to take theological risks with his lyrics. Some of that risk-taking is seen on the most popular track from She Must and Shall Go Free, the song Wedding Dress:

Wedding Dress by Derek Webb

If you could love me as a wife
and for my wedding gift, your life
Should that be all I'd ever need
or is there more I'm looking for

and should I read between the lines
and look for blessings in disguise
To make me handsome, rich, and wise
Is that really what you want

I am a whore I do confess
But I put you on just like a wedding dress
and I run down the aisle
and I run down the aisle
I'm a prodigal with no way home
but I put you on just like a ring of gold
and I run down the aisle to you

So could you love this bastard child
Though I don't trust you to provide
With one hand in a pot of gold
and with the other in your side

I am so easily satisfied
by the call of lovers so less wild
That I would take a little cash
Over your very flesh and blood

Because money cannot buy
a husband's jealous eye
When you have knowingly deceived his wife
A YouTube clip of Webb preforming the song live:

Reading about Webb I discovered that his third solo album--Mockingbird--created some controversy in Christian circles (as has his most recent album The Stockholm Syndrome). Jana knew I wanted to listen to Mockingbird so, for my birthday, she went to our local Mardel's to pick up the CD. And, wouldn't you guess, she ran right into the (still lingering) controversy.

Jana looks on the shelves and can't find Mockingbird among Derek Webb's CDs. So she goes up to the counter and asks, "Do you have Derek Webb's CD Mockingbird?"

The clerk's face goes white. He says, "You won't be able to find that album in Abilene. That CD has been pulled from all the Christian bookstores in town."

"Why?", Jana asks.

"Apparently, the CD is somewhat controversial, politically that is. But let me see if it's at the warehouse."

He checks and they have a copy. He asks Jana if he should have it sent to the store. She asks, "You aren't going to get fired when the CD shows up here are you?"

He laughs, "I don't think so." He then leans forward conspiratorially and whispers, "I went to his concert when he played this album and it was fantastic." All very hush, hush.

So, of course, I'm really intrigued by this album. Mockingbird has been banned from all the Christian bookstores in Abilene!

Suddenly, Derek Webb is my hero.

Today is my birthday and I got Mockingbird this evening along with the story of its purchase. I also got a handmade card, a Mountain Dew t-shirt (the only thing I drink besides coffee and chocolate milk), and a new wallet. The card made by Aidan, featuring, inexplicably, a raccoon, was my favorite gift. Sorry Derek...]

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

22 thoughts on “Derek Webb”

  1. Happy birthday, Richard! Many more!

    If I recall correctly, Webb released Mockingbird as a free download at the time. It was indeed theologically/politically risky (based on the constituency of the CCM scene).

    He's still causing controversy: his latest album has a song dedicated to Fred Phelps, and he's going on tour with Jennifer Knapp.

  2. i love Derek Webb's stuff despite it being folky (i'm a rock/metal guy). Love Stronger Than Our Fears is one of my favorites. Some guys at my congregation and i are playing that on Saturday for the last day of VBS. Webb's latest album got decidedly more hip hop rather thank folk.


  3. Yes, listening to the new album on iTunes it sounds very different from his earlier stuff. But I guess that is what artist do.

  4. um, i've read that beverage list several times...just saying. happy birthday you maverick. why aren't you a tea-partier?


  5. You haven't found the real controversy til you've heard the song that his record label didn't let him put on most copies of Stockholm Syndrome (thus causing him to give it away online for free)

  6. The thing I've always noticed about Webb is that he loves him some guilt. Which isn't really my thing.

  7. Yeah. Personally, I need a bit of guilt. But not too much. I use it sparingly. Rather than a staple of my diet I used it like a spiritual condiment. Kind of like ketchup. A bit is okay, but too much ruins the meal and you can't taste anything but the ketchup...

  8. Well, sure, we probably need some guilt. It's just that when I listen to Webb, I taste mostly guilt. On top of that, his guilt seems to be about how we "done God wrong", which allows us to feel bad about our bad behavior in some ephemeral sense, rather than dealing with how we "done our co-worker wrong" or "done that oily bird wrong" or whatever.

  9. I understand. Not to be too much of a fan boy here, but I've been listening to Mockingbird and it has a lot of social consciousness in it. For example, lyrics from the song My Enemies Are Men Like Me:

    I have come to give you life
    And to show you how to live it
    I have come to make things right
    To heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

    Because I would rather die
    I would rather die
    I would rather die
    Than to take your life

    How can I kill the ones I'm supposed to love
    My enemies are men like me
    I will protest the sword if it's not wielded well
    My enemies are men like me

    Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
    It's like telling someone murder is wrong
    And then showing them by way of execution

    When justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war
    The ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor

    The voice of MLK comes in toward the end song.

    Or the opening lyrics from the song King and a Kingdom:

    who's your brother, who's your sister
    you just walked passed him
    i think you missed her

  10. his latest is quite good despite being different musically. but most of his albums have been somewhat different than his past work, though his newest is a bit more of a departure. I wasn't crazy about it at first, but it grew on me pretty quickly.

  11. I'm a big fan of the House Show cd, especially the song I Repent. It's nice to hear some sincere honesty every once in a while. Also on that cd are multiple tracks where he is talking about the song before he plays it. I think it offers great insight to what the songs mean to him.


  12. I'm not surprised in the least that you're digging Webb, Dr. Beck - he does in music what I think you often do in writing (and you both do what you do well, I must add). I got Mockingbird free way back when it was offered, and like you, I was amazed at the social commentary in the music. Perhaps my favorite song off that album is actually A New Law, especially the lines "Don't tell me about truth and beauty/Just label my music". He is very intelligent and very gifted.

    By the way, if you want to buy his latest, buy it off his website. You'll get What Matters Most, which has been posted already (that's the song inspired by the late Jerry Falwell that includes the "S" word), and you can get also get Democracy Vol.1, which is a subscription-based service where Webb records demo-quality covers. So far, he's covered Dylan, Coldplay, and Sufjan Stevens, some in the techno-folk style from the most recent album and some in his more standard folk/acoustic style from previous albums.

    Oh, and Webb is still with Caedmon's Call, as far as I know. He took a hiatus from the band for a while doing his solo stuff, but I think he does both now. I could be wrong on that, though.

  13. "What Matters More" may be the best Christian song since Pedro the Lion's "Secret of the Easy Yoke."

    Considering how subversive Jesus's message was, we ought to expect his followers to produce more controversial material than what is popular today. His message aimed at the masses was hope-filled, and his message aimed at the faithful was scathing and critical.

    Our most challenging mainstream Christian art is quite soft and comfortable, allowing Christians to pretend that they are tackling deep subjects. In reality we only handle challenges in a safe and sterile environment where we know that we can still feel warm and fuzzy afterwards.
    (See my related rant on the movie "Fireproof".)

  14. Great post about Derek. I also got the cd back when it was offered for free and I was totally new to his music. It came at a good time. I was just starting to think about some of these issues in new ways (or maybe just think about them more--I hadn't really been thinking about them). But I wanted to say that music has a way of getting past our "first line of defense" (normal objections that we might have to a message without even really thinking about the issue) so that we can hear the message in a fresh way. I think "Mockingbird" definitely did that for me.

    In line with the song "My Enemies Are Men Like Me" can I recommend a series that I'm currently listening to from "The Meeting House" in Toronto... The series is called Inglorious Pastors and it's a look at the importance of taking a peace position by looking at history (the early church Fathers, Constantine) , the radical reformers, teachings of Jesus, Just War Theory, "But what about" Questions (Hitler, someone has broken into your house and is about to hurt your family), and finally the last message is on Jehovah vs. Jesus (where Dr. Greg Boyd comes in as the guest speaker and talks about the apparent contradictions between the OT and NT on love, war, and peace).

    I'm enjoying the messages and many others might find them helpful as well. It's great to hear these things being openly processed in love.

  15. Richard, if you are interested there is a website NOISETRADE.COM that has Derek's new album on it for free download. Noisetrade is a brain-child of Derek and others as a venue for artists to be able to promote themselves to the masses.

  16. I appologize, I was mistaken that Derek's entire new album is on NOISETRADE.COM. It has been and if you keep an eye out it may be again. But there is an EP by Derek promoting his new album on the site.

  17. I agree and disagree. Yes, I think Webb has too much guilt, but I see it as "white guilt". He has the guilt of most white guys that grew up in late 80's, 90's, and coming to maturity kinda-sorta post "Christian Coalition". He feels that it is his duty to atone for whatever guilt he perceives in their doings and trying to right the ship. This is not all too dissimilar to Franky Schaeffer in his "Crazy For God". Sin is, at root, against God, even the "horizontal sins", so I have no real problem with him addressing sin and guilt, but I find that much of it is a guilt stricken whitey's take on Jesus, making Jesus some pseudo-lefty (again, atoning for the crimes of Pat Robertson) and not (necessarily) the one spoken of in the Law and the Prophets.

    Not saying Webb isn't a Christian, but I find his schtick predictable. In the end, most of it doesn't really point to Jesus, which is the only hope for a guilt stricken conscience.

  18. Richard, my favourite Christian band 'The Brilliance' will be at your university tomorrow night. You should check them out. Their music is a wonderful blend of acoustic, folk and classical sensibilities. Their lyrics are very strong and very psalmic. her is a link to their tour dates

Leave a Reply