David Anderson

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Feisty Civil Rights Activist Will Campbell Dies at 88

by David Anderson 06-06-2013
RNS file photo

Will Campbell died Monday at the age of 88.

The Rev. Will D. Campbell, a Baptist minister and early white civil rights activist, as well as best-selling writer and folksy raconteur, died Monday in Nashville, Tenn. He was 88.

With a fiercely independent streak and sometimes prickly personality, Campbell used his powerful way with words to explore American racism, especially the contradiction inherent in Christian support for segregation across the South.

And he had his own contradictions, as well. A Southern Baptist who drank moonshine with the Catholic nuns he counted as his friends, Campbell was an equal-opportunity critic, castigating liberals as well as conservatives in his writing and preaching and storytelling.

The Sacred Ran Through Jazz Legend Dave Brubeck’s Music

by David Anderson 12-07-2012
Dave Brubeck, 1972, by Heinrich Klaffs

Dave Brubeck, 1972, by Heinrich Klaffs

"I approached the composition as a prayer," jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck said of his "To Hope! A Celebration," a contemporary setting for the Roman Catholic Mass, "concentrating upon the phrases, trying to probe beneath the surface, hoping to translate into music the powerful words which have grown through the centuries."

Probing beneath the surface marked all of Brubeck’s music, from the revolutionary 1959 polyrhythmic album "Time Out," to his oratorio, "A Light in the Wilderness," and his setting of Thomas Aquinas’ hymn, "Pange Lingua."

Brubeck died on Wednesday of heart failure, a day before his 92nd birthday.

Brubeck is best known in the secular jazz world for his startling compositions using different time signatures, such as 5/4 time in the classic "Take Five," or the mixture of 9/8 time and the more traditional 4/4 rhythm of "Blue Rondo a la Turk." Both pieces are on the "Time Out" album, the first jazz album to sell 1 million copies and still one of the best-selling.

Religious faith, however, was never far from Brubeck’s creative mind.

Provocative Art Put Catholic Nun in the Middle of 1960s Maelstrom

by David Anderson 07-12-2012
RNS photo by Patti Jette Hanley

Print about John F. Kennedy and Pope John XXIII incorporates the Sunkist company logo. RNS photo by Patti Jette Hanley

Combining images and words from advertising, pop culture, and religion, the bold graphic art of Sister Mary Corita was as deeply representative of the spirit of the 1960s as it was ubiquitous in church basements, dorm rooms. and urban communes of people involved in the struggle for civil rights and the campaign to end the Vietnam War.

In today's visual and graphically dominant popular culture, Corita's work — her bold typography, vivid colors, the use of ad logos and slogans — resonates with a new generation, attracted by what has been called "her festive involvement in the world'' and her interest in "blurring the lines between art and life.''

"Corita's art from the 1960s, which is based in advertising, has this great pop appeal to us today in our media-saturated culture,'' said Kathryn Wat of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. 

Keep Asking Questions

by David Anderson 02-01-2008

Your magazine just brought me to tears. I was standing in front of the magazine display in the library of Montrose, Colorado, when I happened to see your latest issue.

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