A lifetime of music

It may be an exaggeration to say that Kermit the Frog saved my life, but only slightly. It was 1971. I was 17. The Beatles sang “The Long and Winding Road” and I was deep in the swamp of solipsistic angst in the way that only teenagers can be.

“Last night I was a girl dreaming I was a butterfly,” read a poster on my bedroom wall. “What if today I’m really a butterfly, dreaming I’m a girl?” 

How can I know anything, I asked myself. How can I be sure of anything? Anything at all? I can smile now, but at the time it was nothing to smile about. Suffice to say that I believe my life was at stake. Enter my hero, all green and flippered, singing in a pure amphibian tenor.

“It’s not easy being green,” he sang and suddenly my world was, if not perfect (ok, not even close), bearable.

“When green is all there is to be … ” Kermit’s nasal notes bounced off my despair. “ … it could make you wonder why, but why wonder, why wonder? I am green. And it’ll do fine. It’s beautiful. And I think it’s what I want to be.”

And that was enough.

It’s been a long time since I thought about that time in my life, or that song. But March 2019 is the month I turn 65. If that hasn’t happened to you yet, let me just say that turning 65 is a strange experience. How did this even happen? It has me thinking about many things for the first time in years.

The power of music, for one. I’d love to have a conversation with people about songs that changed their lives. I wonder what might be a good forum for that? There have been a handful for me through the years that made deep impressions, formed my faith, my outlook on life, gave me courage and sometimes simply brought me joy.

Some of mine would be:

  • “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – I’m on your side, when times get rough, and pain is all around.
  • “Forever in Blue Jeans” – Money talks, but can’t sing and dance and it don’t walk.
  • “Tell me the Old, Old Story” – Tell me the old, old story when you have cause to fear that this world’s empty glories are costing me too dear.
  • “Here I Am, Lord” – I will hold your people in my heart.
  • “Singing in the Night” – But I can laugh and I can cry, sometimes failing, still I’ll try, falling down I’ll touch the sky, my dreams can take me to the heights. There are no answers, say the wise, not much light to fill my eyes, but let the music in me rise, and I’ll go singing in the night.
  • “Sister” from the soundtrack of The Colour Purple – When my sister’s in trouble, so am I.

These have upheld me at different times in my life in ways that simple words could not. The interplay of melody, harmony and poetry is delicious, mysterious and a continual source of gratitude.

At our church recently, we hosted a viewing of the movie Selma, about Martin Luther King and the march for voting rights. Perhaps because I’d been thinking about music already, it was clear to me how much the movements for humans rights over the years have been upheld and sustained by music. “We Shall Overcome,” “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” “We Are Gentle Angry People,” “I Am Woman,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”

It’s my conviction that now is a time in our world when we need music more than ever. Anthems of resistance and hope, anger and resolve. Songs that will literally resonate with us and in us.

As I turn 65, I want to say thank you to musicians. What you do matters. It changes lives and sometimes saves them. 
And to Kermit, my old friend, thank you. I am green. And it’ll do fine. It’s beautiful. And I think it’s what I want to be.

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