Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Three Chords and the Truth

I have awesome parents.  While other kids might have lived in a house with a piano, we lived in a house where banging on the piano was encouraged.  My dad played, and we were allowed to sit down at any time and try our hand at it.  I learned to pick out the melody of songs at an early age.  Eventually, I learned how to add chords with my left hand, and I could play identifiable songs.  I learned that if you play in C, you will also be playing in F and G and maybe Am and Dm.  G came with C and D.  Three chords.  Easy stuff.  I listened to records to try to replicate what I heard.  Those hours of banging on the family piano paid off.  I am by no means a great musician, but I can play the piano and I have my parents to thank.

My dad always wrote songs.  He would take classic country songs and change the words to tell Bible stories or to tell of church life.  "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" became the story of Goliath and Eutychus.  "The Battle of New Orleans" became a song about Jonah.  "King of the Road" was renamed "King of the Church" and tells about the man found in most every church that feels like he owns it.    I grew up thinking that it was normal for people to write their own songs.  So when I was 8, I did it.

We were on deputation somewhere in Texas.  My sister Kari and I sat down at the piano at a little church, and we began to make up words and a tune.  We used Christian lines and cliches and pieced together a masterpiece of a song.  "Why Did You Die?".  It was a song about Jesus, not a morbid song about an unexpected death. We took it to our dad, and we sang it for him.  Apparently, he liked it enough to allow us to sing it in church.  We only sang it once, but it was a proud moment.  We had written our first song.

For whatever reason, song writing didn't stick with me then.  It's a good thing because in retrospect, that first song was terrible.  I am sure we would have just created embarrassing memories.  But when I was 23, I got my heart broken.  Really broken.  I had just lost my job, and I consoled myself by dating someone who was all wrong for me.  And eventually, he figured it out and took off to Florida (giving me no notice) to live with an ex-girlfriend.  It was a sad day.  But I lived in Nashville.  And when you live in Nashville, you learn very quickly that a sad experience can easily be turned into a sad song.  So I did it.  I bought a guitar, learned to play it, and I wrote my first sad country song.  

That was ten years ago, and I have added to my collection of songs.  They are not all sad, and thankfully, they are not all country.  I have grown and changed and so has the music that I write.  It's been a while now since I have written anything.  I was beginning to think that the shallow well of mediocre songs had run dry.  But alas, it has not.  A week ago, my dad read something from Isaiah 30, and it got stuck in my head.  I came home, took out my guitar, and I quickly finished two verses of a song that I could be proud of.  Two nights ago, I took out my Bible and my guitar, and I wrote a bridge.  Done and done.  Song is finished.  What will I do now?  I don't know.  Sing it at home.  Play it after I do my Bible study for the day.  Play it at an open mic night.  I don't write songs to be famous.  I write songs because they are there in my head, and they have to get out.  I write songs because I had great parents that told me I could.  And I occasionally write songs to get back at ex-boyfriends who leave me for a sleazy girl that lives in Florida (and eventually gets dumped by the girl and gets exactly what he deserves).  

1 comment:

  1. if I come to your church, will you and Kari sing me your song? Also, I know the feeling of writing to get stuff out of your head. Isn't that weird how God wired us to create from our emotions? I have created some pretty ugly stuff, though. Just ask my 8th grade English teacher.

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