Rock and roll rhetoric: Jesus He Knows Me

‘Cause Jesus he knows me
And he knows I’m right
I’ve been talking to Jesus all my life
Oh yes he knows me
And he knows I’m right
And he’s been telling me
Everything is alright

Jesus He Knows Me (Banks, Collins, Rutherford), Genesis

To say one thing and mean the opposite. Irony is a stock-in-trade of both rock lyrics and political rhetoric. It can be subtle or, as in this case, it can slap you in the face.

Combined with verse lyrics that elaborate the TV preacher’s reality…

I believe in the family
with my ever loving wife beside me
but she don’t know about my girlfriend
or the man I met last night

…and the spot-on satire of the video, the irony of “Jesus he knows me and he knows I’m right” is inescapable.

In rhetorical terms, irony (deriving from the Greek eironeia meaning dissimulation, or feigned ignorance) comes in different forms:

  • Socratic irony – feigning ignorance or innocence; think of Mark Antony – “I am no orator…” or TV detective Colombo.
  • Verbal irony – changing the meaning of a word or words to mean or imply the opposite, as in Antony’s “Brutus is an honourable man”.
  • Dramatic irony – is unintentional: the dreamer who relates his story in a song, while we see the opposite reality of his situation. The media loves an image of dramatic irony; recall George W Bush’s address on the aircraft carrier with the “Mission Accomplished” banner behind.

On the topic of rock and roll irony, of course, Alanis Morissette’s 1996 hit Ironic was ridiculed for not containing examples of irony: a free ride when you’ve already paid is unfortunate rather than ironic. However, for an argument on the song’s situational irony, see Wikipedia

Also, because this blog is largely about writing and content creation, it’s worth noting that SEO doesn’t handle irony very well. If you say or write “Brutus is an honourable man”, Google will tend to believe you.

Here’s the official video:

From the 1991 album, We Can’t Dance.

Irony: We Can't Dance by Genesis

You can find the rest of this rather ragged and occasional series on Rock and Roll Rhetoric, here.


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