249) Parliament — “Oh Lord, Why Lord/Prayer”
This is where it all began for Parliament (well, it really all began in 1955, but this was the first album). Alongside all George Clinton’s glorious ribaldry and side-splitting antics, the Wizard of Odd drops “Oh Lord,” a stunning “gospel lament . . . [Parliament’s] most reverent and straightforward cry against racial injustice” (Grace Birnstengel in Stereogum). This is a song for the ages, one that should have been etched in the grooves of the Voyager’s golden disc to demonstrate to alien civilizations both the best and the worst of the human spirit.
Ned Raggett in All Music Guide says that “[a]midst all the nuttiness [of the album], there are some perhaps surprising depths — consider ‘Oh Lord, Why Lord/Prayer,’ which might almost be too pretty for its own good . . . .” Sorry Ned, it is pretty enough for all our good.
“I’ve searched the open sky to find the reason why. Oh Lord, why Lord. The color of my skin is said to be an awful sin. Oh Lord, why Lord. No, I cannot understand. No, I can never never understand. Oh Lord, why Lord. I’ve got to live and give and give much more than I can give. Oh Lord, why Lord. In this world it is no secret all the problems and hatred. Oh Lord, why Lord. I just can’t seem to find why my every move is so unseen. Oh Lord, why Lord. Why this lonely man must try and can have no peace of mind. Oh Lord, why Lord. I just can’t help but cry. The tears won’t stay inside. Oh Lord, why Lord. I feel the weight of everlasting hate but my strength will not grow faint. Oh Lord, why Lord. I’ll wear the chains so every man must see the change. Oh Lord, why Lord. I ask no special kindness. I ask no special deed. Oh Lord, why Lord. Only peace and justice forever more. Oh Lord, why Lord. Prayer is it so much to ask even of you. To be the same as the Majority. Why is it that I must suffer without even a cause. And no one cares. Oh Lord, why God?”