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Album: Roots to Branches
Artist: Jethro Tull
Release date: 1995
  1. Roots to Branches
  2. Rare and Precious Chain
  3. Out of the Noise
  4. This Free Will
  5. Valley
  6. Dangerous Veils
  7. Beside Myself
  8. Wounded, Old and Treacherous
  9. At Last, Forever
  10. Stuck in the August Rain
  11. Another Harry's Bar


Roots to Branches (the song)

Words get written. Words get twisted.
Old meanings move in the drift of time.
Lift the flickering torches. See gentle shadows change
the features of the faces cut in unmoving stone.
Bad mouth on a prayer day, hope no one's listening.
Roots down in the wet clay, branches glistening.

True disciples carrying that message
to colour just a little with their personal touch.
Home-spun fancy weavers and naked half-believers
Crusades and creeds descend like fiery flakes of snow.
Bad mouth on a prayer day, hope no one's listening.
Roots down in the wet clay, branches glistening.
Roots to branches. Roots to branches. Roots to branches.

In wet and windy priest-holes. Grand in vast cathedrals.
High on lofty minarets or in the temples of doom.
I hope the old man's got his face on.
He'd better be some quick change artist.
Suffer little children to make their minds up soon.
Bad mouth on a prayer day, hope no one's listening.
Roots down in the wet clay, branches glistening.
Roots to branches. Roots to branches. Roots to branches.
Roots to branches. Roots to branches. Roots to branches.


In his fourth album, Aqualung (released 1971), Ian Anderson critiques organized religion and dogma in the song My God and again in Hymn 43. Twenty four years later, he focuses on another side-effect of religion - that the original concepts of the great prophets of religion (the roots) are now deformed (branches) and used for other purposes. Sometimes these other purposes are even to the extreme of being opposed to the original ideas:

Words get written. Words get twisted.
Old meanings move in the drift of time.
To stress this concept, it is re-emphasized in the image of statues weathering over time:
See gentle shadows change the features of the faces cut in unmoving stone

The second stanza focuses on the "spokesmen" of the religions. These "spokesmen" (home-spun fancy weavers and naked half-believers) do not only pass on the original ideas, but manipulate them adding their own content and intentions to serve other purposes (often political or economical).

True disciples carrying that message
to colour just a little with their personal touch.
From this, fanatics are born and cultivated, leading to intolerance, hate, bloodshed and war:
Crusades and creeds descend like fiery flakes of snow.
The originally tolerant and mild ideals of Jesus and Mohammed lead to Crusade and Jihad. The Bad mouth on a prayer day refers to blasphemous sermons that knowingly invoke intolerance. Those who preach this hope no one's listening (referring to whatever Diety is being preached about). At the time of the writing of the song, war has been raging for over a decade in Yugoslavia, a war in which religion plays a very dubious role.

In the last stanza, Ian once again refers to the old man. This motif also exists in Another Christmas Song and he again uses it to refer to God. Ian's humor in writing once again shows in the lines:

I hope the old man's got his face on.
He'd better be some quick change artist
Be His name Jahweh, God, or Allah - He had better quickly adapt to those who call upon Him and play the part they want Him to. All of these religions claim to have Him on their side. Does Ian pity God for his role? Does this stanza plea for more unified beliefs and tolerance? Or perhaps, both?

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