Saturday, April 9, 2011
He is going on 70 and still changing the world - one song at a time.
The sepia-toned photo on the front page of yesterday's paper with Paul Simon caressing a Gibson acoustic stopped me in my tracks. Peerless folk poet, they call him. Contemporary musician without equal, I think. Paul Simon has been my favorite since Bridge Over Troubled Water 42 years ago. We've grown up together, so to speak. Through this tapestry of life, his music has been weaving in and out, creating the soundtrack of living and loving life. Whether played on vinyl, cassette, cd, ipod or laptop, he is still writing the music of our times.
"So Beautiful or So What" is his 12th solo album which debuts next week. I can't wait. We are tipped off that this collection explores the relationship between humankind and God and the nature of love and immortality. With characteristic intricate melodies, we can listen for gospel-flavored harmonies, African night sounds he captured from a family stay in Kenya (faint tones of a wildebeest?), and his pure tonality mingled with blues and nimble guitar work.
When he came to the end of the project, he said, when confronted with "the enormity of God and infinity...beyond the grasp of human capability, there's nothing to say. It's too much."
Indeed. We are left speechless. Maybe the best thing we can do is to make music.
In "So Beautiful", he responded to the scene in Heaven in one song with the lyrics of an old rockabilly tune from 1956. I do not take it as sacrilegious, but as a reminder that our own responses daily when confronted with the enormity of God can be alternately humorous, honorable and oddly out of place. That is part of learning how to live in the present with the awareness of the Presence of God. We fumble our way through life, making mistakes, making amends, and sometimes making them all over again.
The joy and miracle of it is: there is Grace. God's grace and love does cover a multitude of sins. We do not enter in the Presence of our creator God having to stand on our own merits as 'good enough'. Thanks be to God for that unspeakable gift.
Paul Simon's "Graceland" from the 80's still rings in my heart for its sonorous melodies, rhythms and landscape-changing music that accompanied our growing family through the years. But more than than, I love the title. All of this life is Grace Land to me. Not Elvis's home place, but that place each of us can know as home -- a place where somebody knows our name and has set a table before us with a cup overflowing with blessings.
God of Grace and God of glory, inspire us in our response to You. If there are streets of gold, may we walk them with diamonds on the soles of our shoes!
1964 Gibson guitar courtesy of http://www.guitarphotographer.com/index.htm. My dad bought a 1964 gorgeous tenor guitar at Johnson Music Store in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which reminds me of this one.