John Thornley takes delight in digging deep into the meaning and spiritual side of music.

His passion launched him into publishing and radio shows where he analysed music and artists for many years.

Between 1996 and 2015 John edited and published 40 issues of the journal, Music in the Air.

On local Access radio, John was a presenter for Wesley Broadway's half hour and was a regular quest on Bryan Crump's RNZ night programme, Songs of the Spirit.


John Thornley writes:

"The death of Little Richard gave the media cause to pay tribute to a founding voice of rock'n'roll.

After the passing of Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and now Little Richard, only one celebrity remains from the 50s, Jerry Lee Lewis.

I listened to all the tributes, hoping they might dig a little deeper than the cliches on the exhibitionism of his wild performances, the macho sexuality, and white and black youth together on the dance floor – all very true, and rightly celebrated.

But I want to go deeper, and share a 1970s song, Freedom Blues, found on the Little Richard vinyl release The Rill Thing.

Very true, the 'real' thing.

The song is in the soul style, with Ray Charles, James Brown and Aretha Franklin as the Holy Trinity.

The song tells us that 15 years after his explosive tracks from the mid-50s, the singer really understands, and here expresses, what rock music is all about: love and peace for all people, freedom and justice for those missing out.


It's music for the individual and community, it's both personal and social, and in its depths, it is able to address both the spiritual and political in our lives.

The words 'that old man' refer to President Nixon, whose continuing support for the Vietnam War had made him increasingly unpopular.

But I missed this song in the tributes.

Freedom Blues - Little Richard 1970

I hope that I should live to see,
when every man can know he's free.
Sufferin' from the past
I make I ought to be sad.
I got my duty rock'n'roll,
now everybody, everybody, everyone's gotta be free!
Mmmm, let's get rid of that old man, hey-ey-ey,
And bring our government up to date.
It may be very hard to do,
just open your mind, let love come through.
You hear me callin' you
Everybody, everybody, everyone's gotta be free!
Oh, yes!
We did our thing, every thing, and we paid our dues,
now let's get rid of these freedom blues.
It may seem very hard to do,
just open your mind, let love come through.
I got my duty rock and roll,
now everybody, everybody, everyone's gotta be free!