Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When hero's and mentor's die . . . what next?

This has been one of those years.  If I was any kind of songwriter, I would have written a lot of songs this year.  It's been a year of personal growth.  It has also been a year of personal loss.

My very first music hero, Pete Seeger, passed away in January.  I first became a fan of his music back in my teenage years, when folk music was all that we pretty much sang in our youth group down in McAllen at the St. Mark United Methodist Church.  We sang the same songs at district church camp in Weslaco, or at Mount Wesley, our annual conference church camp in Kerrville.  How I remember those grand music circles composed of guitar, banjo and harmonica players, with everyone singing. And this was back in the days when we did not have good mics or sound systems.  Sometimes we gathered together in assembly or fellowship halls.  Sometimes we would gather and sing around a campfire at church camp or at the beach.  Often we sang in people's living rooms.  We sang outside in area parks.  We sang way more than we watched television.  We only had 2 English channels back then! 

I've pretty much been a folkie at heart every since.  Later as I learned more about Pete's life, I discovered that I disagreed with some of his political stances in the past.  But despite that, I grew up singing his songs that he helped write or arrange in new ways: If I Had A Hammer; Turn, Turn, Turn; We Shall Overcome; You Got to Walk That Lonesone Valley,;Kisses Sweeter Than Wine; Waste Deep in the Big Muddie;  and his famous rendition of Guantanamera, a song he sang in over 100+ countries.

They were all such good songs, at least to me and to those I sang with.

Pete's legacy, in my humble opinion, was that he could get people to sing together.  That's why I admired him so much.  For years he toured with Arlo Guthrie's band, and when Pete came up to sing, it was always a song that everyone could join in on.  You had to join in, because Pete would tell you the words!  He was a folk singer, singing the songs of the people. 

Musically, Pete was a great influence on my singing and playing. I have a passion for helping people sing together.  Always have. Always will.

Another dear music hero died in September.  Joe Laughlin was my adopted big brother, guitar and vocal teacher and best friend.  But, Joe was much more than a music hero.  He was my guitar and vocal mentor.  I've shared already in several blogs how much he meant to me.  I put the guitar down once, to never play again.  He made me pick it back up.

I admire a lot of other singers and musicians.  Very much so.  I get to sing and play with several excellent singers and musicians here in the DFW area on occasion every now and then.  They are all good friends.  But none of them are a music hero or mentor in the way that Pete and Joe were.

So, what do you do when your music hero and music mentor both die so close together?  

What do you do when the grief grabs at you suddenly and unexpectedly.  

What do you do when playing the guitar and singing reminds you even more of your loss?

First . . . I have to have faith.  My experience is that faith is one of the things in life that helps heal grief.  My gut and heart tell me to keep the faith.

And second, even in grief, I have to keep on singing and playing.  If I don't, I risk denying who I am and what I am called to do in my life.

One of the old songs Pete Seeger used to sing was "How Can I Keep From Singing."  It was written by Robert Lowry and Ira Stankey in 1860.  The words below are Pete's arrangement.   They ring very true at this moment of my life and I handle my grief and loss through faith and continuing to sing.

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real, though far off hymn
That hails the new creation
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging.
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest round me roars
I know the truth it liveth
What though the darkness round me close
Songs in the night it giveth
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of Heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

God's grace, and singing . . . still amazes me . . . ><>

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