Those who do not know Nick Cave may have in mind the song “Red Right Hand” from the theme song of the series “Peaky Blinders”, performed by the group “Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds”. The singer, whose life was crossed by the brutal deaths of members of his family, presents himself as an avid reader of the Bible on his journey after a tumultuous life.
An image: that of Nick Cave with the Reverend Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury at the head of an interview between the two men published by the Sunday Times Magazine on March 4, and which Premier Christianity gave an overview. The meeting, in the sacristy of a church in central London, is that of the re-emergence of a man with a tormented past and who lost two of his sons in seven years, the first in 2015 and the second in September 2022.
The interview is that granted by a man in search and who therefore sees no interest in hiding his questions. The versatile artist who grew up and sang as an altar boy in the Anglican Holy Trinity Cathedral of Wangaratta in Australia had a path marked by violence and addictions after losing his father in a road accident at the age of 21. The rebellion took root where the foundations on which to rely were lacking. The sacred chants were followed by concerts making headlines for brawls with the public to the point that he and his musicians were called 'Britain's most violent band'.
From attraction to the Old Testament to interest in Christ
However, the songs he wrote contained allusions to the Bible, speaking of debauchery and damnation. This Bible reader was then drawn to the violence in the stories of the Old Testament:
“I had a growing interest in violent literature coupled with an anonymous sense of divinity in things, and in my early twenties the Old Testament spoke to that part of me that railed and jeered and spat at the world. »
In 1988, his song "The Mercy Seat" takes the pretext of a history of condemnation to capital punishment to articulate the question of the law in the Old Testament and that of the grace incarnated by Christ.
As he became increasingly interested in the New Testament in the 1990s, he was called upon to contribute an introduction to the Gospel according to Mark. Cave read this book after a vicar advised him to take a break from reading the Old Testament. It was a revelation, he explains:
“The Christ who emerges from Mark, going through the hazardous events of his life, had a resounding intensity about him that I could not resist. »
In this presentation of this gospel, he states:
“I believed in God, but I also believed that God was evil. »
The accidental death of his son Arthur at the age of 15 eight years ago leads him to sing of his sadness at the feeling of abandonment. The lyrics of 2019's "Sun Forest" are about a "man called Jesus" who promised to light up the night. Cave is saddened by thinking of his loneliness under the stars which "blink one by one". But it is in the midst of these lamentations that a more developed faith appears during the writing of the book "Faith, Hope & Carnage". This book "allowed me to bring together the scattered fragments of my thoughts on religion," he explained to Williams. It was after reading this book that he decided to return to the church.
While he does not call himself a Christian because of his distrust of the connotations that the term can have, he says, he finds in the Church a place of refuge where he can feel and express his pain and his doubts, when well even his grief is growing stronger with the loss of other loved ones, like his mother in 2020 and his eldest son last year at the age of 31.
Caring for others, Cave responds personally to those who write to him on his site theredhandfiles.com asking for advice or sharing their struggles. Thus he writes to Claire that he, like her, is embarrassed by organized religion, but that he thinks that the church he attends "offers him a lasting structure that can contain [his] disbelief and [ his] faith at the same time. »
Credit Image: Creative Commons / Wikimedia