The Year In A Song (or Two)

In keeping with last year, I thought I’d go through the list of songs Spotify thought I listened to the most from my 2020 playlist to try to tease out some themes and recollections behind them. Here goes:

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Fighting For Us – Anthony Evans: I popped into a church end of year event in Croydon at the behest of my friend O, where Anthony Evans did this song amongst others. It turned out that he’d just lost his Mother to cancer which put his turning up at all into perspective. I came back to this song quite a few times over the course of the year.

You won’t hold back when it comes to Your children
You fiercely defend us ’til we stand delivered
You’re fighting for us, always fighting for us
You won’t back down facing armies of thousands
You speak one word and they scatter around us
You’re fighting for us, always fighting for us

Breakthrough – Red Rocks Worship: Although I stumbled on this during my London lock down, the enduring memories of this song for me are having it on repeat during my evening walks in the heat of the Arabian summer in first few weeks out here. My favorite bits are the bridge:

Shake the mountains, break the walls apart
Open the Heavens, Almighty God, You are
Over comer, Defender of my heart, oh-oh, yeah
And by Your power, the oceans open wide
Your fire falls down, Heaven and Earth collide
King Jesus, forever by my side, yeah

Land of The Living – Church of The City: Stumbled on this song during a period of uncertainty which is perhaps why it stuck with me. Something about the reassurance of the lyrics, taken from Psalm 27:13, provided an anchor, and I ended up coming back to it again and again over the course of the year.

You’ve never made a promise you couldn’t keep
You don’t lie to me, You don’t lie to me
You’ve never made a promise you couldn’t keep
You don’t lie to me, You don’t lie to me

The Blessing – Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes and Elevation Worship: Spawning loads of covers from across the globe (my favorite ones were from the UK and Nigeria for obvious reasons) it is fair to say this song was a global phenomenon. I suppose a prayer that reaches back like a thread to the past and speaks over the future generations is especially powerful.

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

So Will I + Do It Again- Osby Berry:This was another one that I returned to again and again during lock down. The clarity of the voice held me, and I ended up devouring everything he’d done I could find on the internet.

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I

On Life, and A Song…

For the WordPress Discover Challenge Prompt: Song

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as-for-my-house_

1995 was an interesting time to be young and Christian. DC Talk, The Newsboys and Audio Adrenaline were at various stages in their evolution from being the niche interest of church youth groups to becoming recognisable by mainstream music lovers. Seemingly out of the blue, Christian Contemporary Music was on its way to acquiring a sort of coolness that the work of the likes of Larry Norman and Rich Mullins had deserved but somehow never achieved.  In my corner of the world, Hosanna Music‘s body of work was the rave, a slew of live worship albums including a couple recorded in post apartheid South Africa (Tom Inglis’ We Are One and Lionel Petersen’s Rejoice Africa) building on a collection that included several offerings from the likes of of Ron Kenoly, Don Moen, Bob Fitts and Randy Rothwell.

At the time we lived in a little, four bed house on the corner of 3rd and 12th streets, one of a number of identikit pre-fabricated buildings in what passed for the University Senior Staff Quarters at the time. These, meant as temporary housing at the time the University was founded, had taken on an unplanned permanence, dried up funds meaning that the grand plans for a permanent site across town for both University and staff housing were scaled down significantly.

On a personal level it was a time of great change, one that would see me take the School Leaving Certificate Exam a year early and pack in my secondary school education. That meant that as the year wrapped up I found myself with loads of time on my hands, some free cash and little to prevent me from walking into town from time to time to browse the shelves at any number of music shops in the city centre. Crucially, I was at an age where my on-off friendship with Di began to take on an element of seriousness, at least in my mind.

DC Talk and the Newsboys notwithstanding, it turns out that the defining song from that era for me is a lesser known song, One Love, from the Rick and Cathy Riso album As For My House. My memories – and I recognise that memory can be a fickle thing  – are of playing the song over and over on my Walkman until sleep took me away. I was sure at the time – and I told anyone who cared to listen – that like Rick and Cathy I would sing my wedding vows to whoever had the fortune (or misfortune some would say) of agreeing to marry me.

Years later, with the prospect of actually marrying someone a lot realer than it was back in those days, the song remains a favourite of mine, albeit one that serves as a reminder of The-One-Who-Got-Away. As for singing my wedding vows, common sense – and the biology of a cracked voice – suggest that that is now a non-starter.

On Life, and a Song

The end of the day
Remember the days
When we were close to the edge
And we’ll wonder
How we made it through the night
The end of the day
Remember the way
We stayed so close till the end
We’ll remember it was me and you

I have been listening a lot to the Lighthouse Family again, not for any particular reason beyond the fact that scrolling through my music collection a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on ‘High’ their song from 1998 and got sucked down the proverbial rabbit hole that is YouTube. A few hours later, I was left with a slew of memories from two seasons of my life, and memory lanes I hadn’t been down in a while.

I first ‘met’ High in the days before I went away to University, when mindless TV was anathema, and TV watching – if huddled around our old Black & White National Panasonic TV with my parents and siblings could be termed ‘watching’ – was restricted to the news; Sunday evenings and Frank Olize’s Newsline being the most memorable of those times. Two adverts from that season of life seem engrained in my memory – the St Moritz one with High as the sound track and that seminal Joy soap one where blokes spilled papers from their briefcases, tripped themselves up and swooned under the influence of the inner beauty unleashed by that soap (didn’t work for me by the way, thanks false advertising!).

Given my restricted TV time, my contact with High was limited to the snippets I picked up from that commercial. It would be a few years later, that I would ‘meet’ the rest of the song. One infernal Benin afternoon, whilst hitching a ride from the University gate to our Faculty in a friend’s beat up Corolla and sandwiched between four other people in the back seat, High came up on his cassette player. My initial reaction was one of disbelief then elation, as though I’d just met a long lost relative. I ended up borrowing the tape that evening, and after I had held on to it for over a month, my friend offered to ‘dub’ a copy for me – that was the only way he was going to get the tape off me in a usable state. Something about the lyrics of the song succinctly captured the season of life I was in – Engineering Maths, over crowded drawing rooms and lecture theatres and the Thursday bête noire that was Engineering Drawing sure felt like a dark December I needed rescuing from.

Much later I would learn about the duo and their Newcastle connections and then go on to ingest all their material I could lay hands on – even Tunde Baiyewu‘s solo material after the split from Paul Tucker. The key ingredients which got me hooked on to their music remain things which I look out for – easy listening, engaging lyrics and the silky smooth vocals. I suspect they’re one of the duos I’d think seriously about buying tickets to go see live, if they ever got back together or went on tour.

Someday, it’ll all be over…

That’s a sentiment I could use remembering in my current season of life…