Minstrels of His Love:
Meher Baba Music in the West

"A band of celestial troubadors took birth,
played awhile, and then moved on."
                 —The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

     I was about to leave Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, after my first visit there in early 1971. In fact, I was in the parking lot, waiting for the person who was going to drive me up to New York City, when a bespectacled young man whose face reminded me a little of a beaver got out of a car and slammed the door, then opened the back door, got out a guitar, and closed that door.
     "Hi," I said as he walked in my general direction. "I'm Max." This is my first visit here. I play the guitar, too." My guitar and bags lay beside me.
     "I'm Bob," the young man said. "Bob Brown."
     "It's a great time for music," he continued. "When you turn on the radio and hear someone like Donovan, he's really singing about Baba!"

     Bob carried an uncontainable enthusiasm. Before long he had his guitar out and was playing ecstatic songs he himself had written to Beloved Baba. I listened enrapt. Bob sang "Meher Baba's Love" with its rising chorus of repeations of that phrase, and "Song To St. Francis."
     When my ride came fifteen minutes later, my heart was ringing with Bob's sweet, crisp folk-rock guitar licks and his uniquely affable, slightly nasal voice. And it's never really stopped ringing. I had entered the blessed world of music to Meher Baba.
     That same visit I had heard the "Western Arti" a devotional song by Hank Mindlin, and in fact had asked Debbie, the Gateway receptionist, if she could send me the lyrics of that Divine Fire of a song (which she did). Bob's songs though were a wholly new idiom. They were pop, or rock n' roll music, tweaked in the lyrics to celebrate the Avatar. What could make more sense?

     It couldn't have been many years later—didn't Meher Baba's poet, Francis Brabazon, say "we no longer measure time with 'so and so many years ago'? Now we say, 'so and so many cups ago'," as we imbibe Wine from the Master's Tavern of Love— that another musical event rocked my planet with the melodies and rhythms of Baba's Love in song. That was when Jim Meyer released his sublime first album, "One Real Friend." (Thank Meher it's still around on cassette—some day, I hope, on CD!)
     On that album, Jim sang "I Will Never Leave You", a memorable song that's been recorded on several new-age anthology albums, and "The Tavern," an introduction to the Divine Beloved, in the Tavern of Love, whose ecstasy has to be on par with that of any Sufi poem. Jim's sweet, mellifluous voice produced something like a miracle for me. If someone asks, "How do you bottle this Love of Meher Baba, where can I get some?" I'd just hand them the tape! Of course, Baba has said that only those with a connection with Him will "get it".
     Actually, the real miracle of Jim's songs to Meher Baba is that they could never really be bottled! I remember attending a concert Jim gave at the Friends' Meeting Hall in Berkeley in the mid-80s. At some point I realized that I was present at a spiritual event, not just a musical one, and that the true bouquet of the Divine Wine flowing that evening simply could not be fully reproduced.

     Jim's latest, produced and accompanied by Tom Dimock, is the delightful double CD, Om Namo. At this link you can see all his major albums to date.


     Back in "those days", a band of celestial troubadors who loved Meher Baba also made several group albums that got me giddy. Most of these are no longer available. I think a tape of one of them, "The Ancient One", though, is available.
     The Baba-lovers recorded one of these albums in Nashville, where Gary Edelman had connections with a music studio. Michael Shepherd, at that time the drummer for the country singer Tom Paul Glaser, had never heard of Meher Baba. He happened to walk into the studio while the musicians were recording and felt he walked into a whole, pink world of Love. He became giddy, and expressed his enthusiasm to the musicians behind the glass, who were not aware at all of the charge they carried. They felt Michael might have been an angel, appearing just to help them keep up their enthusiasm! That's the way Baba works: mysteriously, often hilariously—often getting, as one of His lovers once said, not two, but many birds with every stone.

     Bob and Jim put new stars in my skies with their music. Their outpouring of love through music surely had a great deal to do with my own bursting into song. Around 1980, Bob married Jane Vascardi. Bob and Jane Brown recorded several lovely tapes that are still available. Bob has left us now, for this lifetime, but his music and inspiration remain. Jane has done a solo album in the past few years.

     Bob and Jim were not alone, even "way back then". Ward Parks, Kathy Riley, Jeff Wolverton, Bill Cliff, and so many others I could never enumerate them, were all part of the Musical Rennaisance of Meher Baba's Love in the '60s, '70s, and and 80's. Today there are so many musicians I can't begin to keep up. I've personally felt deeply touched by the songs of Roger Robinson, and some by Gabriella Tal. I recently listened to the gritty, deeply-felt lyrics and strums of Brian Darnell. Buz Connor, Jamie, Newell, and Raine Eastman-Gannett have also been prolific. Raphael Rudd, who met Baba as a child, gave ecstatic concerts and recorded a number of albums before he passed away in 2002.
      Quite a few artists have samples of their work at "The Music Page" on the "main" Baba website. Then there's Pete Townsend, without mention of whose name a page about Western Baba-lovers and music would not be quite complete.

     Another strain of Meher Baba music developed under the leadership of the Murshids of Sufism Reoriented, the Sufi Order Meher Baba took under His wing and wrote a charter for in 1952. Directed by David Hogan, who collaborated extensively with Hank Mindlin, the Sufi chorus performed numerous original works. The most ambitious of them was a full-scale Oratorio: "The Elements: An Oratorio in Praise of Meher Baba". Terry Hogan, the current choral director, has brought many other projects to fruition in recent years.
      Sufis have recorded a number of lovely tapes setting Meher Baba's Name to music. Mischa Rutenberg of Sufism has released eight CDs in the past several years. Sufism has also put out CDs and videos of original theatrical musicals like "God Speaks: The Musical".
     Robbie Basho, a gifted Sufi guitarist and songwriter who passed away in the mid '80s, attained a measure of success with the general public, and still has a cult following.

     It's no longer possible for me to list—or even to hear—all the artists who have recorded tapes and CDs devoted to Avatar Meher Baba. And still more play or sing their hearts out without ever going into a recording studio.

     You're still likely to walk into a Meher Baba meeting, anywhere in the world, and hear something that—well, that only God could inspire.


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