Nobody could accuse singer-songwriter Richard Thompson of being a pawn of the religious right. Thompson expressed standard-issue contempt for fundamentalism in an October 2003 interview with writer Greg Kahill of metroactive.com. Discussing Thompson's album Old Kit Bag, Kahill wrote:
"Outside of the Inside" finds Thompson, a Sufi, discussing the way faith blinded the former rulers of Afghanistan to all things modern. "Generally speaking, it's about fundamentalism -- Muslim, Christian, whatever -- and they're not people I'm fond of. I think they are bigots and stupid people, who use a little bit of power to lord over others."
Some writers have expressed surprise that Thompson, a longtime Muslim, would criticize others of his faith. "Well, I don't know if I can be considered 'a devout Muslim' -- that's a comparative term," he says. "I'd probably be at the liberal end of any religion, whichever one I chose. But I see the Taliban as medieval and ignorant, offering a very narrow interpretation of a religion."
In recent months Thompson has been performing "Dear Janet Jackson," a hilarious song that avoids both the hell-in-a-handbasket protests of the Right and the equally shrill it's-all-about-Bush-administration-censorship murmurings of the Left.
Thompson's song proposes a startling idea: that the female breast is designed to nourish a baby. It's the closest thing I've ever heard to a bawdy rock & roll song built on a Natural Law assumption.
Here's a portion of the opening stanza:
Now I couldn't help but notice there that you've got a pair of beauties and if your other duties as a diva give you time there's lots of hungry babes out there that need something to chew a new role as a wet nurse might be just the thing for you
And a portion of the bridge:
That's what they're there for That's what they're there for Who are we to ask the why or wherefore?
The song is a crowd-pleaser, as is clear in this MP3 recorded in late March at Tarrytown, N.Y.
If this is typical liberal Sufi humor, let's have far more of it, please.