Sunday, October 07, 2007

Dad's Gonna Kill Me

As a sometime folkie, I've spent my time with Richard Thompson (and with Richard and Linda, when they were together). But I admit I did not know that he was a Muslim.
Like many young counterculture Westerners, Thompson was initially drawn to Islam through Sufism, with its emphasis on love and transformative spiritual experiences. He became a dedicated adherent, and now describes himself as a "liberal Muslim" rather than a Sufi. "I suppose you could call me a 'lapsed Sufi,'" he says, "but I still embrace the Sufic interpretation of Islam."

When it comes to famous British converts, there's Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam - and then there's Thompson. But he and his sometime bassist and fellow Muslim Danny Thompson (no relation) don't look like exotic specimens. They seem more like guys you could have a beer with down at the pub. Does he feel his visibility as a performer and a Western convert carries any responsibility?

"I hate to be a spokesman for anything as broad as Islam," says Thompson. "You can easily be misinterpreted. A lot of what is seen as Islam in the West comes from the loudest shouting voices, the neo-Islamic fundamentalists."

"The willingness to fight, the violent side, is a misinterpretation and a misapplication of the teachings of the Prophet," adds Thompson. "It ignores the heart of Islam: peace, generosity, and compassion. Islam is about winning hearts and minds."

Thompson's a thoughtful guy, and has some good things to say about writing and music and guitars. And George Bush.

When asked if he has any political comments for the blogosphere crowd he says:

"Impeach now."

And here's a link to the guy I knew at school who was a Thompson fanatic--you can really hear the influence.

1 comment:

steve simels said...

My admiration for Thompson is pretty much boundless.

Now if somebody can burn me a copy of "Beat the Retreat," the Thompson tribute album from the early 90s that I seem to have mislaid, I'd could die happy.

If only to hear Bob Mould punk blowtorch his way through "Turning of the Tide," the original version of which is sort of cute and rockabillyish (Mould truly gets the end of your rope desperation that haunts a lot of Thompson's songs). And there's all sorts of goodies on the album, including the Los Lobos version of "Down Where the Drunkards Roll."