L ady Gaga is evil.
So says the Westboro Baptist Church.
Folk singer/songwriter Cheryl Wheeler disagrees.
And, like any dedicated folk artist, she wrote a song about it.
Its title? “Lady Gaga’s Singing Program.”
“This song came about as a result of something I read on Huffington Post,” the New England-based Wheeler explained in concert Dec. 10 at the River Club in Scituate, Mass. “It was a story about the Westboro Baptist Church people … hideous creatures.”
Pastor Fred Phelps formed the Topeka, Kan.-based church in 1955, its legacy one of racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia, including the picketing of funerals of fallen homosexual soldiers.
Also among its targets? Lady Gaga.
The independent church (which is not affiliated with mainstream Baptist churches) protested her last year in St. Louis with flyers arguing that “proud whore Lady Gaga teaches rebellion against God.” (Lady Gaga responded to the church’s boycott of a concert by Tweeting, “Tonight love and hate met. And love outnumbered the hate, in poetic thousands. Hate left. But love stayed. + Together, we sang.”)
Wheeler continued recalling her inspiration for the composition.
“Those people were at a Lady Gaga concert, they were there protesting, of course, and, there was a quote in the article from one of the Westboro Baptist Church people (about) ‘Lady Gaga’s less-than-beautiful singing program.’
“(It’s) just hilarious. We get the idea you haven’t been to any shows lately. We don’t really call them singing programs anymore. We haven’t since … the 1830s,” Wheeler mused.
“When I read it, I was like, ‘Now I have to write a song called ‘Lady Gaga’s Singing Program.’ I mean, how do you not do that?!
“But, I wanted to write it from the viewpoint of the Westboro Baptist Church,” Wheeler said. “Their main message is that God hates everything.
“Certainly has changed from when I was a kid.”
Wheeler’s wry lyrics disarm the church’s stance by merely stating it.
“Surely of the beast and not the lamb is Lady Gaga’s singing program,” Wheeler sings in her best Westboro Baptist Church member imitation, set to a gentle waltz.
“The lord sits and stares out over his knees, disgusted with nearly all that he sees, with the wicked and low confounding our land … and Lady Gaga’s singing program.”
Listen to Cheryl Wheeler’s trademark mix of tender ballads and sharp wit in her recent half-hour appearance on NPR’s “Mountain Stage.” Among her catalog? Dan Seals’ “Addicted,” which topped Country Songs in 1988, and “Gandhi/Buddha,” in which she sings, “I must have been Gandhi or Buddha or someone like that … I must have done something great to get to have you.” In concert, she often follows the love song, which Kenny Loggins has covered, with a self-deprecating alternate answer version in which her beloved, “… must have done something bad to have to have you.”
Wheeler has not interacted directly with the Westboro Baptist Church, almost involuntarily scoffing at the absurdity of attempting to preach positivity to the organization when asked if she has contacted any of its members.
Should she reach out, however, she may find a willing audience. Somehow, the song has made the church’s Rebekah Phelps-Roper a fan of … Cheryl Wheeler’s singing program.
Seemingly swayed by the song’s hooky chorus, “I *adore* Cheryl Wheeler’s @LadyGaga song #SoCatchy,” Phelps-Roper Tweeted Nov. 2.
The church has also added an important (and equally unlikely) prayer, via Twitter, to its gospel.
“We hope it tops @billboard!”