I wish I could write like this

I’ve spent the day reading … the Sunday papers, a stray magazine or three, a new novel by Richard Ford, and then the last few hours an academic book I’ve been assigned to review for a journal. It’s week overdue and yet I’m already fleeing from it, after only a few chapters, the writing so opaque and coldblooded. These are the moments when making your way in the world with the written word feels like a protracted experience of what Dickinson called “the hour of lead.”

So I came here, to my office and the laptop hoping for a distraction somewhere. And thus did I find this glimmering jewel of an essay at songwriter Joel Lindsey’s blog about … well, everything: Christian music, songwriting, memory, longing, grief, friendship and beauty and the irrepressible writer’s id that births moments of surpassing grace in the strangest places, even among couches that smell of “body odor.” What I’ve decided to quote from the piece (the opening paragraph) is not so much representative of the rest of the essay in tone and focus, but it’s a wonderful example of cultural and artistic history seen and narrated through the prism of individual experience, the kind of thing I wish I could pull off so gracefully:

For those of us who grew up in the sometimes stodgy world of church music, in the late 70’s when Amy Grant came along it was permission to go a little crazy. I know her music and persona seem very tame now but her leopard jackets, wild hair and (gasp!) three-button shirts were quite controversial then. I was such a gospel music nut and I had no separation in my head between what was then called contemporary Christian music, inspirational and southern gospel music. Even southern gospel then was fresh and innovative and going through times of incredible growth and creativity, and all genres of Christian/gospel music were playing off of each other in very fun and challenging ways. Amy Grant came along wonderfully and scandalously challenging those in the genre and those of us wanting to be in the genre to make music that was more vulnerable and perhaps a bit more honest than what many of us were used to.

The entire thing is worth every moment it takes to read.

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  1. Jay wrote:

    I read the essay you are talking about and I must admit it is good. The sad part is that I can relate to what he is saying. I remember when Amy Grant first came out and became popular. I loved her music, but I also remember the controversy surrounding it and the fact that most older people wouldn’t listen to it or even put up with knowing anyone else listened to it. Thankfully, my children and I have pretty much the same taste in music. We are all huge fans of Ricky Atkinson & Compassion, Talley Trio, The Perry’s, and Janet Paschal, among others. We love music in general-especially sg-but these listed are our absolute favorites. We are also big fans of Gold City (most of the time!). Although this article has a definite point in the transition music went through in that era, I am pleased with the direction most of my favorite groups are going in now. Great post on a great article!!!

  2. Revpaul wrote:

    “The entire thing” is exquisite!

  3. Jim E. Davis wrote:

    Interesting history lesson. I also grew up in that era and can still hear the shocked murmur from the southern gospel audience when 16 year old Amy walked out on stage at the Maybee Center in Tulsa Oklahoma in a pair of slacks. Then watched as hundreds of disgusted fans walked out on BJ Thomas when he began his second set with “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head”. Times have changed. Now Gold City joins the Oaks on stage for a rousing rendition of “Elvira” and nobody hardly notices.

  4. CVH wrote:

    Writing ‘on assignment’ is one approach, often a necessary one, and it frequently yields satisfying, though in my own experience, more predictable results.

    Writing ‘in an open space’, whether measured in days or even uncluttered hours, usually brings a more thoughtful, honest and potent lyric, allowing all the images, ruminations, rhyme schemes and intentions that have been running around in my head and heart an opportunity to come together at their own pace, which is almost always, at least to me, more meaningful. Maybe not as commercial, but more satisfying artistically.

    I’ve always thought of writing as being similar to creating art. One has to have the vision and skill to be able to present not only what is overtly there to the naked eye, but to bring forth that hint of mystery or revelation that lies behind the subject. That’s when creativity transcends the literal and speaks to the soul.

  5. CVH wrote:

    I forgot: Amy then - HOT
    Amy now? HOTTER

  6. scope wrote:

    This is one reason Joel is my favorite song writer; he is just a great writer. Period.

  7. DM wrote:

    The crowd at NQC in Nashville walked out on the Oak Ridge Boys after they went country. J.D. and his Elvis show wasn’t received much better. This was in the 1970’s.

  8. David Mize wrote:

    I remember that epiphany as well, only for me it came in the music of Keith Green. Being a piano player and most influenced by Elton John I was amazed to find someone who played like that and yet placed that great playing under a Christian message. Back in the day Keith was giving his albums (yeah, that’s right… albums) away for a donation and I bought every one of them I could. From that point forward he became my most pronounced keyboard influence and I’m the better for it.

    It was such a conflict when he died, knowing that he did so just because of a stupid, stupid decision. Was it “his time to go?” I don’t know, but if it was I think God would’ve found a better way to take him. Afterwards there was the inevitable release of “unreleased material” and the hundreds of makeovers. I think he actually released more music after his death than before. (Take that Tupac!)

    Those were the days. It was edgy. Now it’s just plastic. I still have the albums somewhere. I just wish I had something to play them on! Oh well, thank goodness for remastered CDs…

  9. Songwriter Sue wrote:

    If you have lp’s you’d like to listen to today, try purchasing a usb turntable. You can use it to convert lp’s into cd’s using your computer and a free piece of software called Audacity. I bought one at Urban Outfitters; it was around $150.

  10. Trent wrote:

    How did Keith Green die?

  11. Jim2 wrote:

    It was a plane crash. What is driving me crazy is I just recently read a great article about Keith and now can’t recall where it was.

  12. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    I believe it was a plane crash…some similarities to the Blackwood Brothers crash, if I recall correctly.

  13. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    From Wikipedia…
    “Keith Green died on July 28, 1982, when the Cessna 414 leased by Last Days Ministries crashed barely after takeoff from the private airstrip located on LDM property. In order to give visiting friends an aerial tour of the LDM property and the surrounding area, the small plane carried eleven passengers and the pilot, Don Burmeister. Green and two of his children, three year old Josiah, and two year old Bethany, were on board the plane, along with visiting missionaries John and Dede Smalley and their six children. All on-board the seven-seat aircraft were killed.

    Among several causes, the NTSB determined that the crash was largely due to overload. The pilot, who was an experienced U.S. Marine Corps pilot, should have refused to take five more passengers than there were seats on the plane. With eleven passengers on-board, the aircraft was considerably overloaded at nearly 450 pounds (202 kg) overweight. Thunderstorm activity in the area also left suspicions of windshear as a contributing factor.”

  14. Jim E. Davis wrote:

    Keith Green was a huge influence during my college days in Oklahoma and his three night concert at Oral Roberts was a life-changing experience.

    No band. No back-up singers. No tracks.
    Just Keith and piano.

    The energy was incredible. The first night was attended by about 500. The second night crowd grew to 1500 and the final night exploded to over 3000. It was more than the music. It was a revolution and we were ready for change. What I wouldn’t give to experience it again!

  15. Claudia Ragsdale wrote:

    I want to know why Signature Sound and Gaither Vocal Band were not part of NQC? They are the two best groups around and there must be a reason they were slighted.

  16. cdguy wrote:

    Best guess about GVB & EHSS: they chose not to be there. I know they were on tour elsewhere that week. It was probably a financial decision. I’m sure they would have been invited.

  17. AD wrote:

    I don’t think GVB and EHSS were invited

  18. TLN wrote:

    Let’s just say…the invitation got “lost in the mail”……

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