The original soundtrack of the film Jesus Christ Superstar (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice, film directed by Norman Jewison) was probably one of the most influential records in my life. Until I heard this, I didn't conceive that any man could sing like Ted Neeley (Jesus) and, above all, like Carl Anderson (Judas).
The soundtrack begins with Judas wondering what's wrong with Jesus, expressing his full loyalty, but having severe concerns about His role, the (then) new situation about His congregation, the beginning of Him being considered a divinity... Judas appears as a fully involved friend, who wants to help the poor, but does not quite understand what's God got to do with it, and foresees big problems when the Romans or the Jews begin to worry about His growing importance, or when His followers realize that He is not divine:
You've begun to matter more than the things you say [...]
They think they've found the new Messiah
And they'll hurt you when they find they're wrong [...]
I remember when this whole thing began
No talk of God then - we called you a man [...]
I am frightened by the crowd
For we are getting much too loud
And they'll crush us if we go too far [...]
All your followers are blind
Too much heaven on their minds
The doubts and the shouts of Judas really shocked me. And then I heard Ted Neeley playing Jesus (the only image of Jesus I can think of), and Yvonne Elliman (I had heard her singing chorus with Marcy Levy for Eric Clapton) playing Mary Magdalene and singing I don't know how to love him... I know, much of the merit goes to Webber and Rice, but since then, I see Anderson as one of the best male singers I've ever heard. He made me change my mind about Judas. His fierce arguments with Jesus, his desperate appeals to his master's discretion, his confusion about his purpose in life, his strong human condition (for the best and the worse) and his unfortunate end, all under the form of a wonderful music, are really a masterpiece.
Carl Anderson died a couple of years ago. Most people don't know him. Today it's not the anniversary of his death (he died Februrary the 24th, 2004), but I just wanted to state this modest, actually tiny tribute to his memory. The best tribute would be to just sit down, and listen to what Judas has to say. His struggle and his pain reveal a terrible, dark beauty.
And Judas, after all, got a point: it's just not good to think too much about heaven. That attitude cost many, many lives in the past. Nobody could sing that better than Carl Anderson.
Rest in peace.