Songs of friendship...

My friend, Hal, who does a GREAT radio show on Robin Hood Radio - the smallest NPR station in the USA (check it out at: is currently doing a show about friendship. And as I have been thinking about friendships over the years, I am struck by the following truths:

+ Most of my deepest friendships are grounded in a love of music. It seems that the songs help us communicate at a level deeper than words, time and place. And the people I resonate with - and often ache to be with - are musicians

+ My friendship and love of my wife, Dianne, is also rooted in music: we literally make music together in a little band, share ideas about songs that help us pray and live more fully and LOVE to go dancing to rock and soul music!

+ What's more, my oldest friendships go all the way back to guys I listened to play in garage bands and eventually played in my garage band, too. I learned to play guitar from a guy I befriended in our Confirmation Class. We started a band a few months later playing songs like "Steppin' Stone" and "Hang on Sloopy" and from time to time we're still in touch (mostly through Facebook.)

When I think about the folks I have became closest to in the various churches I have served, it seems that a band was always involved to express what was most true in my heart - and to just have fun, too. In Michigan, there was the Saginaw Rounders - singing folk music and political tunes like "Unemployment Blues" or "Titabawasee Jane" (about chemical pollution in the river) - in Cleveland there was Jubilee - a more traditional church group doing songs of justice and compassion.

In Tucson, we put together the mother of all bands - Stranger - an 11 member rock and soul group that did gospel, blues, jazz and lots of rock and roll - everything from David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans" and Springsteen's "The Rising" to Carole King, Bessie Smith and the Judds. And now in the Berkshires, we're making sweet music with Between the Banks - a quartet that is just too much fun and very close to my heart - with GREAT harmonies and tunes like "One Voice" and Yvonne Lyons' "Come" and some of the best people I have ever known.

Even my daughters and I find that we still love to hear bands together - or sit in a little jazz club and take in the groove - or share tunes over the Internet as a way of exploring the deepest parts of our lives. Jesse was 2 when we first went to see Tom Paxton and Pete Seeger. And Michal and I celebrated her 13th birthday with a Springsteen concert. Just last week we all hung out to see the Wailin' Jennys and are planning a Rosanne Cash concert for Di's upcoming birthday. I have even made some new friendships over the internet by blogging about spirit and music (and some new friends from Canada are coming to stay for a bit this summer... and we'll go hear Yoyo Ma do the silk road tour music!)

So, I just wanted to acknowledge my love and affection for all my beautiful, musical friends: you have touched my heart deeply and fed my soul.


Black Pete said…
I am deeply grateful for your friendship in our lives here, too, RJ. And Between the Banks is plenteous rockin' mon.

I will say that, unlike you, I have never found "the band" like the ones you have mentioned. All near-misses, even now. My journey is one of continual search for such a group, and/or for those who might want to make that music. Especially in a liturgical setting. Hmm, maybe that's what God wants me to do: search...
RJ said…
So as the Grateful Dead say, "What a long, strange trip its been," yes? And so the search deepens and who knows what happens next. I am blessed by our connection. Hope all is well in your part of the woods. We're going to do some gardening today - or planning - and then soon to act.

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