Nothing Left To Fear

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And he takes the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, In the middle of the night and in the darkness.  – Proverbs 7:8-9
Hold on
I’ll be back for you
It won’t be long
But for now there’s something else
That’s calling me
So take me down a lonesome road
Point me east and let me go
That suitcase weighs me down
With memories
How many songs have been – and will yet be – written about the fears, doubts and insecurities of the night? What is it about this time, this deep black void of night that causes us to feel washed over in it’s midst? Whether lying awake, or twisting in fitful dreams, it’s in the night that we feel most alone, vulnerable and most needful of someone to be beside us.
I just wanna be the one you run to
I just wanna be the one you come to
I just wanna be there for someone
When the night comes
Let’s put all the cares behind us
And go where they’ll never find us
I just wanna be there beside you
When the night comes
When the night comes
The Bible tells us to have faith and to fear not, over and over again. Yet from our early childhood and even on through our older years, the nights can often bring such trepidation. So, we turn to one another – and to God – for comfort in the dark.
Two spirits in the night
That can leave before the morning light
When there’s nothing left to lose
And nothing left to fear
So meet me on the edge of town
Won’t keep you waiting I’ll be ’round
Then you and I
We’ll just roll right out of here
John Robert Cocker was surely no stranger to the night. His trademark spasmodic hand motions and gravelly voice were forged in his soul like the steel from the mills of his home in Sheffield, England while toiling the nights away honing his skills in the bars and clubs around the South Yorkshire area. Joe, as he was later called, was a working class kid from a blue collar town and could definitely relate to the cold of the night and the fears of doing without.
I know there’ll be a time for you and I
Just take my hand and run away
Think of all the pieces of the shattered dream
We’re gonna make it out some day
We’ll be coming back
Coming back to stay
When the night comes
And, unlike many of his mates in Sheffield, Joe did finally rise up and make it out of the gritty mill town, emulating Ray Charles and classic bluesmen like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and by putting his own special stamp on songs penned by others. Probably the best example was one of his first covers, “With A Little Help From My Friends”, which reached #1 on the British charts and #68 here in the U.S.. Paul McCartney reportedly enjoyed the remake very much and had the following to say about it: ” I was especially pleased when he decided to cover it and I remember him and Denny Cordell coming round to the studio in Savile Row and playing me what they’d recorded and it was just mind-blowing; (he) totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful to him for doing that.”
I wanna be the one you run to
When the night comes

To be the one you’d come to
I wanna be the one you run to
Oooh I just wanna be the one you run to
Wanna be the one you come to
I just wanna be there for someone
When the night comes

A few interesting tidbits about Joe and his career:

  • His first group was the Cavaliers in 1959. He was the drummer and harmonica player. The group had to pay to get into their first gig together.
  • His 1969 debut album Joe Cocker! featured guest appearances from two legendary artists: Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Traffic’s Steve Winwood.
  • His version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” was later used as the theme song for the TV series The Wonder Years.
  • He had several songs that were featured on TV or movie soundtracks, including a song that resurrected his career in 1982, “Up Where We Belong”. The stirring duet (with Jennifer Warnes) was on the soundtrack for An Officer And A Gentleman.

Let’s put all the cares behind us
And go where they’ll never find us
I just wanna be there beside you
When the night comes
When the night comes

“When The Night Comes” has long been one of my favorite Cocker tunes, coming along on 1989’s One Night Of Sin. It reached #11 on the Billboard charts and was Joe’s last U.S. Top 40 hit. Like all the others, this was another great cover; the song was written by Brian Adams, Diane Warren and bandmate -and frequent writing partner – Jim Vallance, specifically for Joe to sing. Like a bookend some 20 years after his major debut, there was no drop off in Joe’s passion and performance.

In his later years, Joe moved to Crawford, Colorado and built the Mad Dog Ranch while continuing to tour right up to the end. As you may be aware, Joe passed away on December 22 after a long struggle with lung cancer. I’m happy knowing he’s at peace with the Lord – and definitely getting a little help from his friends – in Heaven’s all-star band.

Hear Joe live and at his best here:

 

Bryan Adams version here:

Sources for this post included:
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A Bag Of Beans

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Let us tear off their shackles from us, and cast off their chains. -Psalm 2:3

You’ve got me sewed up like a pillow case
But you let my love go to waste so
Unchain my heart, oh please, please set me free

Why do we hold on to things that are not good for us? Why do we languish in prisons of our own making. Why can’t we simply “walk away, Renee”?

Our strongest attractions are often riddled with contradictions. Like sweet and sour pork.

I was watching “American Hustle” the other night and it struck me that the whole movie was built around not only the “hustle” itself, but a scene where Irving Rosenfeld’s wife Rosalyn says something to Carmine’s wife about her favorite nail polish: “There’s something, the topcoat. It’s like, perfum-ey, but there’s also something…rotten. And I know that sounds crazy, but I can’t get enough of it.”

That just about sums it up.

Every time I call you on the phone
Some fella tells me that you’re not at home

We’ll even go so far sometimes as to suffer humiliation. We just take it and go back for more. We can’t help ourselves. I can’t even begin to count the number of songs written from that book.

I’m under your spell like a man in a trance
But I know darn well, that I don’t stand a chance

Sometimes those closest to us, hurt us the most.

Jesus knew before the cock crowed about Peter’s denials. And surely He knew what Judas was going to do. He stuck with them, though. And we all know where that led. Of course, in this case, it was all just a part of the plan.

Unchain my heart, let me go my way
Unchain my heart, you worry me night and day

Do we secretly savor the pain and the love mixed together? Does the occasional bad grape make the wine even better? Does the combination of heart-break and heart-race make the love even sweeter? Does the bad feeling make the good feeling that much stronger?

Why lead me through a life of misery
When you don’t care a bag of beans for me
So unchain my heart, oh please, please set me free

Though it was much later in life that Frank Sinatra gave him the label, the “genius” of Ray Charles actually began when he first started playing the piano at the age of three. It’s a good thing he got a jump on it, as Ray was totally blind from glaucoma by age seven.

The “genius” label stuck (and certainly well deserved if you ask me) but Ray himself deflected such acclaim, saying: “Art Tatum, now he’s a genius…and Einstein, not me.”

The genius of Ray Charles spanned over 6 decades of recording over 60 albums and 127 singles and bridging every musical genre available.

And certainly Ray was no stranger to holding on to things that were not good for him.

His drug addiction problems were well known. And his rehab stint in 1965 was followed by the release of the songs “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and “Let’s Go Get Stoned” on his very next LP (Crying Time) in 1966.

He was twice married and divorced, and fathered 12 children with 10 different women.

Musicologist, Henry Pleasants, once summed Ray up this way: “Sinatra and Crosby before him, had been masters of words. Ray Charles is a master of sounds. His records disclose an extraordinary assortment of slurs, glides, turns, shrieks, wails, breaks, shouts, screams and hollers, all wonderfully controlled, disciplined by inspired musicianship, and harnessed to ingenious subtleties of harmony, dynamics and rhythm… It is either the singing of a man whose vocabulary is inadequate to express what is in his heart and mind or of one whose feelings are too intense for satisfactory verbal or conventionally melodic articulation. He can’t tell it to you. He can’t even sing it to you. He has to cry out to you, or shout to you, in tones eloquent of despair — or exaltation. The voice alone, with little assistance from the text or the notated music, conveys the message.”

Once during an interview, Ray was asked if there was any particular element in his musical style that had been most essential to his long running popularity. “Yeah”, he replied, “Me.”

So let yourself off the hook and take comfort in the fact that it happens to all of us. Sometimes, even when a thing is really, really bad, it’s very, very good.

Listen to a little of the genius here: