The Reverend Shawn Amos Reveals Who the Real “Troubled Man” Is

 “It just seems that I turn to Marvin’s music whenever we lose our way as a country. He’s like a GPS for the soul,” says The Reverend Shawn Amos, reflecting on the impact that the late Marvin Gaye had on his life.  Penning his new song “Troubled Man” from his new album Blue Sky with Gaye in mind and giving a subtle nod to Gaye’s song and soundtrack to the Blaxploitation film Trouble Man, Amos also frames his memorial of the plagued legend around the current socio-political climate of the United States.

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The divisiveness in America today is a topic that has become so provocative that it has forged a rift between nearly every sort of opposing force. Arguments and violence erupt when the two get together, be it black and white, Republican and Democrat, Christian and secular, and unfortunately these days, truth and fiction.  It’s a division that Amos knows, acknowledges well and projects in his new video for “Troubled Man.” 

With performance scenes interspersed amid footage of Black Lives Matter protests, riots and mind-numbing statistics (“Only 26% of Americans knows that the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery”), the video is a snapshot of a country in chaos.

“People believe what they wanna believe / Say the world is flat and on fire / I’m gonna preach what I know,” he sings, adding a personal thumbprint on controversy. “Songwriting is not politics but songwriting can reconnect the heart and the head when they’ve lost their way from one another,” he explains. “’Troubled Man’ is a vote in support of shared facts — the last glue holding a shared society together.”

Set upon a deep blues groove and featuring the blues/folk artist Ruthie Foster, whose vocals match Amos’ fervent passion, “Troubled Man” is a dazzling display of gospel fire and urgent preaching that mixes the deep swamp mud of Amos’ voice with the honey-coated sweetness of May’s singing, a potent combination.

“I’ve mentioned before that ‘Troubled Man’ is a nod to Mr. Gaye,” explains Amos, circling back to the lyrics. Drawing parallels between Gaye’s difficult and tragic personal life with that ever-present socio-political unrest, Amos uses a broad palette to get his point across: truth ultimately wins. ‘Troubled Man’ is “also a very thinly-veiled swipe at willful ignorance and those who bury their conscience for personal gain,” he adds.

With the news cycle filled with a constant barrage of problematic developments and a display of arrogance and petulance from the current president, Amos makes it clear that Gaye isn’t the only person he is writing about in the song. “I also see Trump as a troubled man,” he reveals, “a deeply troubled man… different from the ‘Trouble Man’ in Marvin’s song but with the same desire to win at any cost.”

The attempt to maintain sanity in this volatile world is a struggle for everyone, including Amos. Fortunately, he has an escape. “While living through the multiple crises that have come to define 2020, I’ve realized the huge role protest music continues to play in my life,” he says. “I’ve been returning to the patriotic songs of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and the Staples Singers for months now. These songs have been my lifeline.”

As we head into a darker period of time with Election Day looming ominously on the horizon, Amos remains steadfast in his convictions. “Some things are right and wrong,” he concludes. “Which side will you be on?”

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