Not Just For Some

But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.  1 John 2:11

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

Some songs resonate because of the beautiful simplicity of their message. Some concepts in life are so simple, it’s hard to understand why some folks just don’t seem to understand them. It’s like that poster/meme you’ve probably seen on social media. You know, the one about “All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten”? Some of the most important things in life are really basic; even a child understands.

Lord, we don’t need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross,
Enough to last till the end of time.

Somehow I sat, blissfully unaware last night, as to the horrible happenings in Las Vegas. I can’t believe it. I didn’t turn on the TV until about 11:00 last night (to catch the tail end of Sunday Night Football, but you would have thought there would have been some news breaks during the game. But I never saw anything. And, because of my schedule today, I didn’t hear or see any news at all until about 3:00 this afternoon. When I did, it felt like an “out of body” experience. Is this really true? Did this really happen? Does this much hate really exist in our world?

Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, Lord, if you want to know.

As a young boy  growing up in the turbulent 1960’s, I saw firsthand, on the nightly news, just how much hatred can exist in the hearts of man. But it wasn’t real to me…it just happened on TV.  Then I started to get closer exposure to some of those things that Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley were talking about. My best friend’s older brother didn’t make it back from Vietnam. A girl in my 4th grade class had a cousin who was severely beaten during a civil rights demonstration in college. The school I went to was desegregated and the fights got bloody. Looking back, it was a rough time and a lot of bad things happened, but a lot of good things eventually came out of it.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.

In 1965, in the midst of all of the turmoil, came a sweet, simple song that seemed out of place with all the bad news. Jackie DeShannon, burst onto the airwaves with a message that we all needed to hear. “What The World Needs Now Is Love”, co-written by the lyric and melody masters dream team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was like a giant bowl of soothing salve for the American psyche. It was just what we needed to hear, just when we needed to hear it most. And, best of all,  it was wrapped up in a tune and words that even a child could understand.

In an interview with Bacharach for Record Collector magazine, Burt had this recollection: “Dionne (Warwick) rejected that song. She might have thought it was too preachy and I thought Dionne was probably right. Hal pushed me to play it for Jackie De Shannon who we were gonna record. Otherwise, I would have let it be and it would still be in the drawer.” What an awful shame that would have been!

I can’t imagine what it would have sounded like if Dionne had recorded it (I’m sure it would have been great), but Jackie’s voice just seemed like a perfect match to me. It seems like a lot of folks must have been ready to hear the message; as the song, featured on Jackie’s debut album, wound up going all the way to #7 on the Billboard Top 100.

In times like these, it seems we all need to be reminded of where our priorities should be. When He was asked which of God’s commandments was the most important,  Jesus responded in this way: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is: Love your neighbor as yourself.

And, by the way, I’m pretty sure that he meant that to be:

No, not just for some, oh, but for everyone.

Peace and love, everyone.

Listen to Jackie sing it here:

And, just in case we forgot, here’s her follow up hit from 1969:

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To Build A Wall

A day for the building of your walls! On that day, the boundary will be distant. ~ Micah 7:11

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re traveling with me

With all the recent talk of “building a wall” and political discord in our country, this song just jumped out at me when it popped up on my Spotify feed a few days ago. As I have explained to some of the folks (thank you very much, both of you) who read this blog regularly, I don’t really pick the songs that are featured; they come to me, begging to be reviewed and remarked upon. This is certainly the case for this song.

Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won’t win

When I first considered writing about it, it was for the more obvious reasons – those of a political nature – and immediate thoughts came to mind. But, as I continued to mull it over and began to formulate the story, other directions began to take shape. And I began to wonder how many people out there are feeling the same way I am right now, especially when it comes to the state of our country and some of the crazy things that seem to be happening.

Now I’m towing my car, there’s a hole in the roof
My possessions are causing me suspicion but there’s no proof
In the paper today tales of war and of waste
But you turn right over to the TV page

Now, I’m not here to launch into a political rant…this is surely not the forum for that. But something I think we ALL can agree on right now is a growing feeling of being a little lost, a bit unsettled. This world – and our lives in it – have never seem to be more divided or polarized. It’s no wonder that so many of us reach for the distractions of TV, routines, or other busy work to keep our heads clear of it. It sure seems it’s much easier to do those things than to address the myriad issues at hand.

Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won’t win

Oftentimes, the result of these distractions is the erosion of our most important blessings in life – our relationships with others. And that erosion can further extend into disillusionment with our relationship with God, as well. So, sometimes we need to simply shut out all of the noise and remind ourselves of what is most important. When He was asked what are the most important of His commandments, Jesus said they were these two: to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love the Lord with all our heart and soul.

Now I’m walking again to the beat of a drum
And I’m counting the steps to the door of your heart
Only shadows ahead barely clearing the roof
Get to know the feeling of liberation and release

Auckland, New Zealand’s Neil Finn founded Crowded House in 1985, along with his older brother Tim and drummer Paul Hester, after the breakup of their former band, Split Enz (“I Got You”, “History Never Repeats”, “One Step Ahead”).  The band name was inspired by the tiny rental house in Los Angeles the guys were living in at the time. Released in 1986, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” was the only major hit for the band, reaching #2 on the U.S. charts, as well as #1 in Canada and New Zealand. Neil explained his meaning in the song as one of feeling kind of hopeless and lost, yet still wanting to urge himself on.

Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won’t win

Urging himself onward is exactly what Neil – and the rest of the band – continued to do. The band went on to record four more albums, but only secured one more minor hit: 1992’s “Weather With You” which reached #7 on the U.K. pop chart. Even so, Neil and Tim soldiered on after Crowded House broke up in 1996, collaborating on a fantastic lp, Finn by the Finn Brothers. The brothers were subsequently rewarded by the Queen as inducted Officers of the Order of the British Empire for their contributions to New Zealand’s musical heritage.

This song, with it’s dreamlike chorus and simple, melodic guitar riff, has always been uplifting to me and stands to remind all of us that are feeling a little lost to persevere. They may indeed come to build a wall between us, but they’ll never, ever win.

Listen to the original here:

To Gaze Awhile

Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S; it is holy to the LORD. ~ Leviticus 27:30

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold

What is it about the look of flowing fields of grain that make us feel so calm, so serene and peaceful…so content? Is it the fullness of the land or the warmth of the sun flowing down upon it? The way the sun and the wind seem to play over them, creating the illusion of fields alive in motion, pulling us in? Or, something so much deeper within us?

So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Is there ever a more romantic feeling than watching the elements of earth and sky interact and move together in rhythm? It’s the same way many of us feel when gazing at the ocean. All of God’s splendor is revealed in front of us. So much power and beauty, so much more than we are, or could ever hope to be. We feel inspired and yet, somehow insignificant, as it stirs our souls.

Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley
We’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in fields of gold

In the midst of it, here is the key question: will you stay with me? And for how long? In the same world where so many vows are taken and broken and so many relationships are temporary, these great fields and oceans seem forever. How we hope that our loves could be the same. Why is commitment is so hard for us?

See the west wind move like a lover so
Upon the fields of barley
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth
Among the fields of gold
I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I’ve broken
But I swear in the days still left
We’ll walk in fields of gold

This was a subject much discussed in a recent conversation I had, and I wondered aloud if perhaps we have to go through a certain number of broken commitments, promises and failed relationships to begin to truly value the meaning of forever. Maybe it’s only once we’ve suffered enough, that we can truly give totally of ourselves, with no promise in return. And, speaking of no promise in return, I once heard a very wise man say that if you were thinking of lending money to a friend or family member, you should only do so if you were fine with never getting it back.  Maybe our heart’s commitments to one another should be given in that same spirit. Like our Father in Heaven’s love for us, unconditional and for all time.

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold
You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold

This song has long been one of my favorites by Sting and it seems that it’s one of his – and his wife, Trudy Styler’s – as well. It was actually inspired by the view of the fields of barley that surround his home in Salisbury, Wiltshire in the U.K.. The simplicity of the song just seems to add to it’s rich and lustrous tone, and the lyrics read like something out of a sixteenth century novel. The song takes you on a chronological journey, slowly meandering through the man’s courtship, marriage, life, love and eventually even death.  But through it all, it shows his strong desire to hold on to the commitments he’s made…no matter what.

If only we could all do the same.

Listen to the original here:

 

Like Something From A Dream

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! ~Psalms 27:14

Oh baby don’t it feel like heaven right now
Don’t it feel like something from a dream
Yeah I’ve never known nothing quite like this
Don’t it feel like tonight might never be again
We know better than to try and pretend
Baby no one could’a ever told me ’bout this
I said yeah yeah

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “good things come to those who wait”. And, I guess old sayings become old sayings because…well, because they pretty much hold true over time. But that sure doesn’t make it easier for us. We want what we want, when we want it. Meaning, in most cases, right now. Patience is just not a virtue that many of us possess.

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

And, it doesn’t get any easier as we get older. It’s true that most of us exhibit more patience as we grow up, but deep inside, we’re still just like a bunch of five year olds. It doesn’t matter what the subject or object of our desires is: money, fame, success, material things or even love. Once we’ve caught the bug, we’re done for. We simply can’t stop thinking and fidgeting and obsessing over it.

Well yeah i might have chased a couple women around
All it ever got me was down
Then there were those that made me feel good
But never as good as I’m feeling right now
Baby you’re the only one that’s ever known how
To make me wanna live like I wanna live now
I said yeah yeah

And, our walk with God is no different. I pray every day for the wisdom to know His will for my life and for the strength to live it. But I sure do wish He would hurry along with it and clue me in. Lord knows I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, blindly stumbling towards what I supposed might be the right choices. But do we ever stop and think that maybe there’s a reason the right course is not set before us all along. Maybe there’s a reason we need to learn to be patient? Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned here. Especially when it come to matters of the heart.

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Many of us feel like we’ll never find that special someone. That perfect match that complements us, that completes us, that fulfills and loves us unconditionally. Or, as it’s commonly referred to in today’s vernacular, our soulmate. I think the lesson is sort of like one many parents impart to their children: the lesson being that the reason you aren’t given a certain thing at a certain time – that time being right now – is because you are not truly ready to appreciate it.  You’re not ready to truly value and cherish and take care of it the way you should.  Maybe, it’s only when we are ready to fully give our love, that we are ready to fully receive it from someone else.

Oh don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you
Don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you
I’ll be your bleedin’ heart, I’ll be your cryin’ fool
Don’t let this go too far
Don’t let it get to you

Tom Petty knows a little bit about waiting. He got to meet Elvis Presley in 1961 on the film set for the movie Follow That Dream and knew right away that he wanted to be a musician and singer. A few years later, when he saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, that just solidified it in his mind. As Tom said in an interview on NPR, “I really saw in The Beatles that here’s something I could do. I knew I could do it.”

But, it wasn’t until he had paid his dues in the garage bands around Gainesville, Florida for many years, including stints in the Epics and Mudcrutch, that Petty finally found his way into the band that ultimately became Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. In 1976, the band released their eponymous debut with minor success, but their first hit single, “Breakdown” came only after it was re-released in 1977 and finally reached #40 on the hit charts after the band finished a tour opening for Nils Lofgren in 1978.

“The Waiting” was the lead single from Petty’s 1981 album, Hard Promises. According to a Songfacts interview with Tom, he said: “That was a song that took a long time to write.  Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) swears he told me the line – about the waiting being the hardest part – but I think I got the idea from something Janis Joplin said on television. I had the chorus very quickly, but I had a very difficult time piecing together the rest of the song. It’s about waiting for your dreams and not knowing if they will come true. I’ve always felt it was an optimistic song.”

I’ve always loved this song and it has long been one of my favorites, coming out at a time in my life when I was just starting to learn what yearning for love really was – and how truly hard waiting for it can be.

And now, even at this point in my life, I still find a lot of joy and hope in the message. Not that I’ve gotten any more patient. I still don’t like it.  The waiting, that is.

Enjoy the original video from Tom and the Heartbreakers here:

And check out Linda Ronstadt’s beautifully sung version here:

A Moment of Truth

sunrise-couple

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. ~ Psalm 13:5

Some love is just a lie of the heart
The cold remains of what began with a passionate start
And they may not want it to end
But it will it’s just a question of when
I’ve lived long enough to have learned
The closer you get to the fire the more you get burned
But that won’t happen to us
Because it’s always been a matter of trust

Trust you say? Everybody wants it, but few actually have it. Who can you trust? Friends? Family? Lovers? When you’ve lived as long as I have, you can get a bit jaundiced when it comes to matters of the heart. And, despite the reference to getting burned, we know that it’s a cold, hard world out there. And, in times like these, it feels like it’s only getting colder. But we have to try…what would life be if we didn’t even try?

I know you’re an emotional girl
It took a lot for you to not lose your faith in this world
I can’t offer you proof
But you’re going to face a moment of truth
It’s hard when you’re always afraid
You just recover when another belief is betrayed
So break my heart if you must
It’s a matter of trust

So, how do we go on? How do we pick up the pieces and try again? It’s not easy, but we have to have faith and trust. We can start with our faith and trust in our Lord and Savior and build from that. I have often heard faith described as “choosing to believe in something despite the absence of proof”. No one can offer us proof that we can fully trust them, until we take that first leap of faith. We have to have the courage to take that first step forward. Only then can they begin to earn that trust.

You can’t go the distance
With too much resistance
I know you have doubts
But for God’s sake don’t shut me out

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be prudent. I’m not saying we should be careless with our hearts. I’m not saying we should be totally open books with the pages flapping in the wind. But, at some point, you have to hold out your hand (and your heart). Because the bottom line is; we can choose to be open and trusting, or we can choose to be closed and unbelieving. And that, my friends, is no way to live this life.

This time you’ve got nothing to lose
You can take it, you can leave it
Whatever you choose
I won’t hold back anything
And I’ll walk a way a fool or a king
Some love is just a lie of the mind
It’s make believe until its only a matter of time
And some might have learned to adjust
But then it never was a matter of trust

A friend of mine recently wrote something on this subject that really touched me (I’ll paraphrase it here) and it inspired a lot of what is in this post.  She said that you can’t just stop loving, or wanting to love, because when it’s right, it’s the best thing in the world. Words have never rung more true to me. To try to deny the most human, most personal of our basic needs is an exercise in futility. You just can’t hold it back, no matter how hard you try.

I’m sure you’re aware love
We’ve both had our share of
Believing too long
When the whole situation was wrong

billy-joel-pic

Billy Joel has written a lot of songs that follow this theme (“Keeping The Faith”, “Honesty” and “The Longest Time” are a few that come to mind), so we know that he has experienced these same feelings, very deeply and often. This song, long one of my “80’s Billy Joel” favorites came off his tenth studio album, The Bridge. “A Matter of Trust” went all the way up to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 shortly after it’s release on July 28, 1986. The Bridge was Billy’s follow up to his 1983 lp, An Innocent Man, which was widely recognized as his doo-wop laced “celebration of love” to Christie Brinkley, and it’s clear that he was still basking in the glow from his burgeoning relationship with her.

Some love is just a lie of the soul
A constant battle for the ultimate state of control
After you’ve heard lie upon lie
There can hardly be a question of why
Some love is just a lie of the heart
The cold remains of what began with a passionate start
But that can’t happen to us
Because it’s always been a matter of trust

Now, of course, we know that it can happen to us.  Billy and Christie’s relationship didn’t last forever and, sadly, it’s clear that this happens more often than not.  But, I’ve always felt that the spirit and essence of this song totally captured the hopes and dreams that we all have of finding, and keeping, that perfect relationship.

And, it’s out there…trust me. You just have to take that first step.

Enjoy the original video here;

When The Leading Man Appears

man-walking-away-pic

And Mizpah, for he said, “The Lord watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight. ~ Genesis 31:49

Hey, if we can solve any problem
Then why do we lose so many tears
Oh, and so you go again
When the leading man appears
Always the same thing
Can’t you see, we’ve got everything goin’ on and on and on

Why do these cycles of life continue? Must we be doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past? Maybe, as the boys from 38 Special sang; we just need to “hold on loosely, but don’t let go”.

Every time you go away you take a piece of me with you
Every time you go away you take a piece of me with you

Yes, partings can be hard, whether those be with family, friends or lovers, and they can literally feel like a piece of our heart has been ripped away. But, the good news is that we can sustain, we can get by, we can recover. Sometimes it just takes a little help from someone else.

Go on and go free, yeah
Maybe you’re too close to see
I can feel your body move
It doesn’t mean that much to me
I can’t go on sayin’ the same thing
Just can’t you see, we’ve got everything do you even know we know

And, sometimes we just need to let go. It may seem like the hardest thing to do at the time, but as the days go by, we gain fresh perspective. But still…we can’t help but feel that nagging doubt in the back of our mind. This all seemed so right for such a long time, didn’t it? And, you wonder, do they feel this way too? This uncertainty? Parting certainly is, as Willie S. reminds us, “such sweet sorrow”.

I can’t go on sayin’ the same thing
‘Cause baby, can’tcha see, we’ve got everything goin’ on and on and on

Every time you go away you take a piece of me with you
Every time you go away you take a piece of me with you

This song always seemed to perfectly capture the “sweet sorrow” of the empty achiness we feel when these situations in life occur. It was originally written and released by Daryl Hall and John Oates on their 1980 album, Voices. They never released it as a single, however, so it never gained much notice until Paul Young covered it in 1985.

The Hall & Oates version was a slower, more gospel-like sounding arrangement and both Daryl and John were amazed by the difference created by Paul and his producer, Laurie Lathem. According to an interview with Daryl Hall in 2014, he counts this as his favorite cover of one of his (and John’s) songs.  Paul’s version went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot Singles chart and became a gold record in 1985.

Paul went on to have several other “blue-eyed soul” type hits with “Love Of The Common People”, the Marvin Gaye classic “Wherever I Lay My Hat” and “Everything Must Change”, along with several others.  This song, however, was always my favorite and the one I think he will always be most easily recognized by and remembered for.

So, if you had a “sweet sorrow” parting with a loved one after the holidays and are feeling a bit down, take heart in the comfort provided by our Lord, and reach back in time to listen to the soulful sound of Paul giving his best.

Check out the video here:

And check out the original from Hall & Oates here:

 

Eyes Full Of Tinsel And Fire

heart-eyes-pic

He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him: Hebrews 11:6

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin birth

Regular UTRS readers know that I always feature a (classic rock) Christmas song each December. And this year, it seems, I’ve been dedicating far too many of my posts to our rock icons that have passed away. I guess it is inevitable, given the fact that most of our idols that rocked the 1960’s and ’70’s are coming to a certain age.

This year saw David Bowie, Leon Russell, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Paul Kantner, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard (he’s not rock, but he’s a bona fide classic), Keith Emerson, and now Keith’s bandmate, Greg Lake, (among many others) leaving this world and going on to their reward with our Father in Heaven.

And, as the Righteous Brothers sang back in ’74, now more than ever; “If there’s a rock n roll Heaven, you know they got a hell of a band.”.

I remember one Christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas Tree smell
And eyes full of tinsel and fire

But it also reminds me of what we all should be seeking in this world. Especially at this time of year, with all the craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping and the rush to fill our lives with material things. It’s that which I pray for every day and should be the most important gift we all can share; our relationships with one another. And God granted us the greatest gift of all that first Christmas morning; our relationship with our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a Silent Night
And they told me a fairy story
‘Till I believed in the Israelite

greg-lake-pic

Greg Lake met Robert Fripp at guitar lessons back in the early ’60’s and when Fripp decided to form King Crimson, he invited Greg to join the band. The band’s lyricist was a fellow named Peter Sinfield and this turned out to be a very fortuitous mixture of players and personalities. King Crimson had a few hits, most notably “In The Court Of The Crimson King” which peaked at #80 on the U.S. charts, and helped to usher in the sounds of what was being called “progressive rock”.

And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
‘Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

But Greg’s real success began when he left King Crimson to form a new band that included keyboardist Keith Emerson (whom he met when Emerson’s band, The Nice, was the opening act for King Crimson’s tour supporting Court Of The Crimson King) along with drummer, Carl Palmer (Atomic Rooster).

ELP was widely known for it’s deeply progressive sound and elaborate and lengthy stage shows. ELP scored seven gold albums and singles like “Lucky Man”. “In The Beginning”, “Jerusalem” and “Fanfare For The Common Man”.

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear

In 1975, Greg took time off from ELP to record a solo single “I Believe In Father Christmas”. Many people misinterpreted the song, calling it atheist and anti-Christmas and religion. That was far from the truth. As Greg himself noted in a 2011 interview with Uncut magazine: “For me as a child, it was the visual image of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. It was the symbol of generosity and feeling good and all those things. And that’s what I think Christmas is all about.”

A few fun facts about the song include:

  • ELP rarely released singles but this solo effort from Greg Lake went to #2 on both the U.S. and U.K. charts.
  • Greg collaborated with (guess who) Pete Sinfield on the lyrics for the song. Pete said that “Some of it was based on an actual thing in my life when I was eight-years-old, and came downstairs to see this wonderful Christmas tree that my mother had done. I was that little boy.”.
  • In 2008 a cover by U2 was made available exclusively to subscribers of an online Aids charity magazine Red(Wire).
  • The music video was filmed in Israel, on the deserts of the Sinai Peninsula and actual Bedouins were the audience. They were scheduled to begin taping at 11:00 am and at 10:45 there were still no Bedouins were in sight. Greg was getting nervous, but the security guards assured him they would arrive. As Greg remembered: “Eventually they turned up. Most beautiful looking people: pearl white teeth, these dark oak suntans, incredible looking people. We sat round and they filmed them, I played the guitar and they listened happily. It was an amazing thing.”

Somehow I just can’t help thinking about the symbolism of the Bedouins, walking the hot sands, seeking a meeting with their “Father Christmas”, just as the shepherds and wise men before them had done.

This has always been one of my favorite classic rock Christmas songs and I hope you’ll enjoy this vintage, MTV era video.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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Morning Will Come

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As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. ~ Proverbs 27:19

Turn down the lights;
Turn down the bed.
Turn down these voices
Inside my head.

Yes, it’s often at night, when the lights are out and we’re all alone. That’s when all sorts of things will find our hearts and fill our heads. The pool of anxieties from the day become the deep harbors of night.  And, we all wish we could simply make them go away. But they won’t, they just won’t.

Lay down with me;
Tell me no lies.
Just hold me close;
Don’t patronize.

Don’t patronize me

And, wasn’t it Billy Joel who sang about honesty? Is that really all we want? I guess it’s a start and, most of all, we have to be honest with ourselves. But it sure helps to have someone else to turn to, someone to talk to, someone with whom to lay bare these burdens.  And to lay theirs bare with us, as well.  It’s funny how sharing the common insecurities of life can comfort you and make you feel that much closer to someone else.

Cuz I can’t make you love me
If you don’t.
You can’t make your heart feel
Something it won’t.
Here in the dark
In these final hours,
I will lay down my heart
And I’ll feel the power;
But you won’t.
No, you won’t.
‘Cuz I can’t make you love me
If you don’t.

And, it seems the more you want something – or someone – the harder it is to come by. You just can’t force it, no matter what. Be it something material, or a matter of the heart, it’s still the same.  How many times have you heard that you just have to let it come to you? And, how many times do we lose, or drive away, the very thing we are pursuing, the thing that we long most to have?

I’ll close my eyes,
Then I won’t see
The love you don’t feel
When you’re holding me.

So, we go ahead and close our eyes and try to wipe away these thoughts and fears, wants and needs. To go to sleep and perhaps awaken to a new day, where things will be different. We’re hopeful…so we drift off. But, the truth is still with us.

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Morning will come,
And I’ll do what’s right;
Just give me till then
To give up this fight.

And I will give up this fight.

Yes, morning will surely come and what a difference a day can make. Or, in Bonnie Raitt’s case, a decade. I first fell in love with Bonnie’s raspy vocal style and sizzling, blues-infused guitar work in the early 70’s, with her covers of songs like “Angel From Montgomery” (John Prine) and “Runaway” (Del Shannon). Bonnie could best be characterized as a blues lover’s Linda Ronstadt. She didn’t write much,  but her covers were always sure to please and done in her own, inimitable style.

She released nine lps throughout the 70’s, producing hit after hit. Then, suddenly, she seemed to disappear from the charts. She was still out there, churning away, but it just seemed like there was no room for her in the midst of the punk and funk and new wave of the 80’s. And then…just as the 80’s were coming to a close, ironically, she released a new album entitled Nick Of Time.  Nick of Time sold five million copies and won three Grammy awards including Album of the Year. It was, by far, the biggest success of her career.

Bonnie didn’t give up the fight there, though. Unbelievably, her follow up lp in 1991, Luck of the Draw,  actually surpassed the success of Nick of Time, selling over seven million copies.

The first single, “Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About” was the big hit, but the album’s third single, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, was always my favorite. Written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin, the song was originally intended to be an upbeat bluegrass number.  There’s absolutely no way I can fathom it being done that way now.

There’s a couple of funny stories about how Mike and Allen came up with the idea for the song, both along the same lines. It stemmed from a newspaper article they read about a guy shooting up his woman’s car. Each one remembered it differently.

In Mike’s remembrance, it was a local politician’s black sheep brother who got drunk and shot up his ex-wife’s car. When hauled before the judge to answer for it, the man said: “I’ve learned that if a woman don’t love ya, you can’t make her…you just can’t make her love ya.”.

In, Allen’s version, it was about a wino living under a bridge. When his estranged wife came to pick him up, instead of taking him home, she drove him to the courthouse to get a divorce. He said “We hugged and we cried, and then we went through with the divorce.” And then he said, “You know, you just can’t make a woman love you.”

Either way, the sentiment is the same. You just can’t make it so.

So, take time now and listen to a great version of Bonnie’s smash hit (and a couple more) here:

I’ve Been Out Walking

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The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.               ~ Psalms 34:18

Well I’ve been out walking
I don’t do that much talking these days
These days…

I guess you could say I really have been out walking. I surely have not found time to write any new posts over the past few months, nor have I had much of a desire to do so. Like so many things, it was in the back of my mind, calling me, but I just couldn’t seem to get my head, or my hands, to do it.

These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
For you
And all the times I had the chance to

And I can’t really say I forgot. I wanted to, I really did. There was just so much coming down, crashing all around me. So much change, so much ending. So much starting, too. I can say I have a lot of regrets.  And maybe not so much about things done, but things left undone. Not things said, but things left unsaid. And, yes, I surely had the chances to do and say them.

And I had a lover
It’s so hard to risk another these days
These days…

crossroads

We all come to crossroads in our lives. It’s just a matter of when and where. So, how do we know which way to go? Who do we turn to for counsel? Even then, will the road we’ve chosen be for better or worse? Or just different? As I write this, a hoot owl sounds outside my open window. I wonder what that means, or if it means anything at all? Life to me seems, more than ever, like a random series of circumstances.

Now if I seem to be afraid
To live the life I have made in song
Well it’s just that I’ve been losing so long

As Joe Walsh said (and I paraphrase here): When it’s happening, life can seem like a crazy mess of random acts. But when you look back on it, in time, it reveals itself to be a perfectly scripted song. I’m hoping you are right, Joe. But I guess I’m still in the middle, ’cause looking back, it still makes no sense to me.

I’ll keep on moving
Things are bound to be improving these days
These days…

So, I’ll keep on walking. We all will.  And even if we can’t see it now, things are surely improving. When we look back, after some time has passed, we’ll see that it was getting better. That our walks were taking us exactly where we were meant to go.

These days I sit on corner stones
And count the time in quarter tones to ten, my friend
Don’t confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them

My failures are definitely not forgotten. They are there, always with me, under the surface. I will take some time to measure them. But then I will let them go. We all have to focus on the future and what lies ahead of us. We need not dwell too long in the past. I am saddened by some things  I’ve seen and done, but I’m encouraged and made hopeful by others.

As it says in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good for those that love the Lord”.  Those are words we can all take comfort in. And a little bit of consolation from Jackson Browne can’t hurt either.

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“These Days” was one of my favorites from his 1973 release For Everyman. Jackson had actually written the song back in 1964 when he was only 16 years old, under the original title “I’ve Been Out Walking”. The song was first recorded in 1967 by the German artist Nico, on her debut album, Chelsea Girl.  It has been covered since by artists as diverse as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tom Rush, Jennifer Warnes, 10,000 Maniacs, Fountains of Wayne and Glen Campbell, among many others.

But it was Greg Allman’s version from his 1973 solo debut, Laid Back, that really brought the song to prominence and prompted Jackson to include it on For Everyman. If you happen to have a copy of the old vinyl LP, check out the liner notes. You’ll see that JB thanks Gregg for the arrangement there. For many listeners and critics at the time (including American Songwriter magazine) , Gregg’s version overshadowed Jackson’s. But I’ve always favored JB’s.

So, lets all take a time out from our walking and enjoy this live version from him here:

And check out Gregg’s version here:

The Key To Love And Fear

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A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. ~ John 13:34

Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

Make the angels cry, indeed. What in the world is happening to us? To our country? This blog’s intent is not to get political, but to rejoice in the goodness and richness of God’s talent coming from man in the form of music. But as with so many other things, I don’t hear this kind of music coming out today.

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

I recently asked my daughter (who just graduated from college and is home for the summer) to sit down with me to watch the Tom Hanks produced mini-series, The Sixties, on Netflix.  As someone who lived through it as a boy, I wanted to share with her my own first-hand experiences and memories of those turbulent years. I wanted her to see how things radically changed during that decade and to gain a greater understanding and perspective on our society.

Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

I explained to her that there was a culture and way life in America post WWI and II that lasted for several decades. The country prospered, the middle class grew and there was a general feeling of harmony among us. But there were real issues and problems that rippled just under the surface. Wrongs that needed righting; changes that long needed to come. The peace and harmony on the surface was just a mask for the ugliness of man beneath. And the 60’s was a dividing line. It’s when it all broke loose and the change, as Sam Cooke sang, was finally gonna come. And along with those changes, some beautiful people would come and some would definitely go. Forever.

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

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And the artists and songs of the time reflected those changes. Artists like Neil Young, Jackie DeShannon, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan…the list is endless, they all used the power of the music in their hearts to make people see what was right in front of their faces, all along. Good and bad, right and wrong. Yes, there was life in America before the 60’s and there was life after them, but our hearts and minds had been touched and changed forever.

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

And when I look at all of the events going on today, not only in our country, but around the world, I can’t help but think of the 60’s, some fifty years gone now, that perhaps we are living in similar times. Once again, we are faced with the harsh realities of where our society is and where we need to go.  Great changes still need to be made. I only wish there were artists out there, in great numbers, as there were back then, to speak loudly and strongly with an appeal to our country’s moral conscience.

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand (listen!)
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

The Youngbloods, fronted by the gifted folk singer, Jesse Colin Young, were nowhere near as famous as some of the artists leading us down the road to social change back then, but this song has always been one of my favorites from that time. It was their only hit (truly one hit wonders), but it took a while to catch on. Originally released in 1967, it never really got traction on radio.  But two years later, after the National Council of Christians and Jews began using it in as the theme song for their nationally promoted TV and radio ads, the song began to take off, cracking the Top 5 on the charts and eventually selling over a million copies and earning a gold record.

TheYoungbloods

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now
Right now

In the wake of the tragedies of the last few days, one can only wonder where we are heading and what the future holds. I wonder, as Rodney King once asked, “Can’t we all just get along?”.  When Jesus was asked what were the greatest of all God’s commandments, he said that we were to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. ALL lives matter. Come on people now, please. It’s way past time. Let’s try to love one another.

Right now.

Listen to the Jesse and the Youngbloods beautiful sound and message here: