All posts by Brad

Were you there?

We are now well into Lent and I think about the gift of music God has given us. Kurt Vonnegut, author of Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five once said “If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC” 

We owe a great deal to the African slaves of our country’s early existence. Before there was gospel music they gave us Negro Spirituals.  From the website Black history: the origins of the spirituals we get a little understanding into the significance of this music in their lives.

For a time, the slaves simply by-passed the New Testament, especially since their white taskmasters used it to justify slavery. But there was something about the man Jesus, hanging there upon the hard, wooden cross. Here was a man who was beaten like they were. He was spit upon. He was falsely accused. He was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Finally, he was hung on a tree, a method of execution familiar to the slaves. Through all of these indignities, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“How was he able to forgive?” they questioned. “What was it that enabled him to love those who were unlovable?” Was he in pain? They were in pain. Did he have to drink the cup of suffering? They had to drink theirs, too. Yes, their cross was one with his cross. Jesus died for the sins of all men, of every color. He had to be who he said he was. How else could he have done what he did? In time, they embraced Jesus as their Savior, and they experienced His peace, His grace and forgiveness, and His hope for the future.”
From this relationship they were able to sing:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, to tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

This Negro spiritual became a staple in the hymnals of white congregations in the 1940s and is traditionally sung this time of year. Here is a version I particularly enjoy. I hope you will too.


Listen Like it’s 1973

I grew up in the  ‘60s and ‘70s and believe this is one of the greatest periods in the history of music. These were the decades of classic rock, folk music and singer/songwriters. As I write this post I hear Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a Changin’ in the background. Who could have known in 1965 it would prove to be so prophetic. I grew up listening to bands like the Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash, and the Eagles; and singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Jackson Browne.

The music during this time was incredible, but I am most grateful for how we listened to it.  Music was a shared experience that required active participation. When we were not home listening to music we were at the record store. This was a great place to hang out, listen to new releases and talk with employees and other customers. We had to listen to a song multiple times to really get to know it in intimate detail. One time we would focus on the lyrics, the next time we would listen to the bass line, percussion, lead guitar, etc..  We researched the biographies of our beloved artists and the meaning behind our favorite songs. Perhaps most importantly, we found great joy sharing our findings with each other. That’s why I’m starting this blog. I have no experience with blogs and don’t know where we will go, but I am excited to embark on this journey. I hope you will join me. Comments are encouraged.