Songwriters Touching Hearts and Minds.
Superstar Lady Gaga herself a teenage victim of rape, stole the show at the 2016 Academy Awards. Dressed in white, seated at a white grand piano, she introduced a group of fellow victims as she sang “Till it Happens to you!”
“You tell me it gets better, it gets better in time. You say I’ll pull myself together, put it together, you’ll be fine. Tell me what the hell do you know? How could you know? ‘til it happens to you, you don’t know how it feels, how it feels, ‘til it happens to you, you wont’ know, it won’t be real. No, it won’t be real, won’t know how it feels.”
Tears flowed down famous faces after the song. Her YouTube performance contains graphic images to accentuate the horror of her message.
When Justin Bieber (pictured below) released his US debut album in 2009 he became the first debut artist to have seven songs on the Billboard Hot 100 (USA). In 2010 the Canadian superstar wrote and recorded a contemporary Christian song, ‘Pray” His lyrics touched on events that were causing anxiety and concern for his generation.
“I just can’t sleep tonight, knowing things aint right. It’s in the papers, it’s on the TV. It’s everywhere that I go. Children are crying, soldiers are dying, some people don’t have a home but I know there’s sunshine beyond that rain. I know there’s good times beyond that pain. Hey! Can you tell me how I can make a change? I close my eyes and I can see a better day, I close my eyes and pray….”
More recently Justin Bieber wrote ‘Life is Worth Living.” This time he sings to encourage a girl who is wounded and hurt. He sings about ‘the meaning of forgiveness’ and emphasises ‘life is worth living, so live another day’.
Throughout the centuries many great songwriters have been inspiring story tellers. Bob Dylan (pictured) ranks among the greats. In 1964 he wrote: “Come senators, congressmen, Please heed the call, Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall, For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled. There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’. It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, for the times they are a-changin’.”
There is a formidable list of talented story-tellers who find melodic ways to bring faith, hope and encouragement to all of us. It is an interesting exercise to think through the songs that have lifted your spirits just when it was needed. In 1965 my good friend Barry Maguire wrote ‘The Eve of Destruction.” It was prophetic then and I believe it speaks volumes even today.
“The eastern world it is exploding, violence flarin’, bullets loadin’. You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’. You don’t believe in war but what’s that gun you’re totin’? And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’. But you tell me over and over and over again my friend. Ah, you don’t believe, we’re on the eve of destruction”
I regard these troubadours as carrying the story telling techniques found in the Bible. Jesus was a most impressive teacher because he used stories in true rabbinic tradition. The disciples asked Jesus when the end might come. He told them about the fig tree.
“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24: 32,33)
Earlier he said to them: “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” (Matthew 24: 5-8)
Maybe today He would pick up a guitar and sing words of wisdom. How many hits would He get on You Tube? Come to think about it, in 1973 Johnny Cash sang about the Matthew 24 message.
“A great bear from the northland has risen from his sleep, And the Army ranks in red are near two hundred million deep. The young and old now prophesy a coming Prince of Peace And last night I dreamed of lightning in the east. Matthew twenty-four is knocking at the door, And there can’t be too much more to come to pass. Matthew twenty-four is knocking at the door, And a day or one more could be the last.”
In 1973 Cash sang about Russia (the bear) and a gigantic army from China (Army ranks in red).
“And there can’t be too much more to come to pass” seems to be much more than just a lyric.