Playing new music at this stage in my life is a fascinating paradox. Part of me asks, "Why would anyone want to listen to a few geezers playing original tunes?" Performing new tunes is a young person's phenomenon - and I ain't so young! Another part of me keeps thinking of Leonard Cohen - creative and beloved by multiple generations well into his 80s - as he reinvented the work of the "wisdom keeper." In a culture constructed on shallowness and novelty, I sense there is a place for music-making elders. And I also know, to paraphrase St. Frederick Buechner, that a sacred calling is the place where my deepest joy meets the world's greatest need.
Wrestling with the anxiety and pain of this moment in time, in ways that are simultaneously creative, prophetic and beautiful, is the challenge. Carrie Newcomer consistently gets this right. Bruce Cockburn has done it well over the decades, too. Their ability to craft songs that nourish head and heart while honoring truth and compassion are legendary.
Like St. Paul before them, these artists are committed to sharing the life-changing power of beauty: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8) Others in this sacred choir would include John Hiatt, Warren Zevon, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Marc Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Namoli Brennet, Eric Bibb, Tracy Chapman, Lisa Fischer and Bob Dylan. And when this music is shared live - not just in electronic forms, but in person - hope often rises. Solidarity is experienced. And our common quest for the Beloved Community is renewed.
Last week after band practice, a few of us old guys were sitting around talking about why we are working on new songs - and why we feel empowered to share them. It has something to do with a calling (see above.) "It's all about adding beauty and balance to this crazy time." And, I thought, "Doing it live with real people in this era of digital everything!" reclaims the ties that bind.