Their Songs Wear Well
I was channel surfing when I came across a performance by James Taylor with the Utah Symphony Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It’s replaying several times this month on www.byutv.org and it’s well worth watching.
Taylor is one year younger than I am. He’s bald, now, and the wrinkles in his face bear the signs of the wear and tear of his younger life. But the guy just gets better as he gets older. His voice is as clear and strong as it ever was, but there is a calm warmth, personal depth, and something like genuine humility that comes through in both his singing and the way he relates to the audience and the other performers on the stage.
One of the best musical events Marsha and I have ever experienced was seeing Taylor and Carole King when they performed together in Tampa. Wow! What a night! Taylor told the story of how King gave him her song, “You’ve Got a Friend,” and he’s been singing it ever since. One of the things that made the concert so powerful was the energy of the long friendship they shared.
Getting Bitter or Getting Better
I had a sudden reminder that I must be getting older in spite of how I feel, when Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stokey were on Morning Joe last week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” Fifty years? You’ve got to be kidding! Mary died several years ago. Like Taylor, both Yarrow and Stokey are bald. (At least I still have some hair!) But like Taylor, they and their songs have aged very well. The convictions behind the songs are just as strong today as they were when we were all young.
Watching these aging singers reminded me of a poster that hung on the wall of my college dorm room with the words of Dag Hammarskjold: “If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.”
We might as well face it: getting older isn’t for wimps. The question is whether we get bitter or get better. We get to choose whether we will continue singing our songs or stop singing along the way. We can continue to hold onto the biblical vision of the Kingdom of God, coming on earth as it is in heaven, or we can give in to the brokenness of the culture around us.
A Song of Ascents
I’ve been re-reading the spiritual autobiography of E. Stanley Jones. The title, “A Song of Ascents,” comes from the Psalms 120-134. They are called the “songs of ascent” because they are the songs pilgrims sang on their way up to the Temple. Read through them, you will see that they are not all cheerful little ditties to whistle in the dark. Some are painful songs that cry out for mercy, strength, and peace. But they are always moving forward; always looking toward the fulfillment of their journey when they reach Mt. Zion and are (in the words of Charles Wesley) “lost in wonder, love and praise.”
Jones wrote:“My song is of the pilgrimage I am making from what I was to what God is making of me. I say ‘what God is making of me,’ for the best that I can say about myself is that I’m a Christian-in-the-making. Not yet ‘made,’ but only in the making at eighty-three.”
In worship yesterday I realized that my singing voice isn’t what it used to be, but the songs wear well.
Grace and peace,