Archives for posts with tag: blues

“Without music, life is a journey through a desert.” I don’t know if I fully agree with that statement by Pat Conroy but I do believe music is one of God’s greatest gifts.

I enjoy music. Many different kinds. Secular and sacred. Instrumental and vocal. Although I like music I do not know enough to really appreciate it. My understanding is limited regarding the gifts and efforts of songwriters, composers, arrangers, musicians, and vocalists.

Next to the Bible the hymns of the Church have fed my soul more than anything else.  I cannot imagine a life of faith without sacred music. The solid theology and the strong words of hymn  writers like Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, John Newton, Fanny Crosby, Philip Bliss, and countless others are invaluable. Hymns like Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah, How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, Rock of Ages, and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing have helped to lay sound foundations for Christians of many generations.

Much of more modern Christian music has also inspired me and lifted my spirits. Larry Norman, Andrae Crouch, Third Day, Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin, Michael W. Smith, James Cleveland, Keith Green and countless others have made valuable contributions through contemporary Christian music.

I listen to Christian music on the outward bound leg of my morning walks and Bible readings on my return home. My morning routine helps get me started on the right track with a more spiritual emphasis. It is secular music in the afternoon walk.

God uses music of all kinds to speak to me. To encourage and inspire me. To challenge and guide me.

Beyond my love for sacred music, blues and jazz are my favorite genres. The list of great blues and jazz musicians from the past and the present includes B.B. King, Etta James, Nina Simone, Billie Holliday, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Jellyroll Morton, Diana Krall, Bill Withers, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Harry Connick, Jr., Duke Ellington, and Bonnie Raitt.

For a good number of years when I was home on Saturday night I listened to the music of the Ben Tucker Trio on the radio as they performed from Hard Hearted Hannah’s in Savannah. Following them was the Jim Collum Jazz Band and Riverwalk Jazz Live from the Landing in San Antonio.

It has been said that every bad situation is a blues song waiting to be written. B.B. King said, “Blues is a tonic for whatever ails you. I could play the blues and then not be blue anymore.” Wynton Marsalis adds, “Everything comes out in blues music: joy, pain, struggle. Blues is affirmation with absolute elegance.”

Dixieland Jazz is different from the blues. This music is often associated with New Orleans where it originated in the early 20th century and later flourished in Chicago after World War I. When Joe “Fingers” Webster and his River City Jazzmen play the Muskrat Ramble Medley, try as you will but you cannot keep your feet from tapping and a smile breaking out on your face.

Like Dixieland Jazz, Bluegrass music gets your toes tapping and your hands clapping. This form of music is named after the Blue Grass Boys, a band led by Bill Monroe, a Kentucky mandolin player and songwriter, who is considered “the father of bluegrass.” My father thought that Bill Monroe, banjo playing Earl Scruggs and guitarist Lester Flatt were the greatest.

I am convinced that you cannot be unhappy when you are listening to Bluegrass or Dixieland Jazz.

Aaron Copland said, “To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable.” Thank God for music that entertains, educates, and inspires.

Jamie Jenkins

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States and I have much for which to be thankful. I am thankful for (not necessarily in this order):

– comfortable shoes that fit

– one shoulder that does not hurt

– the Atlanta Braves baseball team (but I am not happy with the front office for recent rules violations).

-my wife of 49 years (in 35 Days)

– my three children and their spouses

– my church where my faith is nurtured by excellent preaching, exceptional music, and friends that are invaluable

– good health (for a man my age)

– the rhythmic sound of ocean waves crashing onto the shore

– civil discourse where mutual respect is practiced

– the privilege of living in the United States

– the Bible and the guidance it gives

– opportunities to travel and experience the wonderful world and it’s diverse peoples and cultures

– my bed and pillow when I return from traveling

– opportunities to serve others

-blues singers like Etta James, B.B. King, Diana Krall, Muddy Waters

– my extraordinary grandchildren (a biased opinion but true nonetheless)

– ice cream

– the laughter of children

– people who are smarter than me who don’t make me feel like an idiot

– Skype webcam

– air conditioning (I live in the Deep South)

– people who love me in spite of myself

– the Comics- especially Peanuts, Pearls Before Swine, Get Fuzzy, Baby Blues, Zits, and Garfield

– preachers, politicians, and other public servants who know it is not about them

– the Church (with all it faults)

– teachers

– the diverse community in which I live

– good food and good friends

– quiet time

– coffee in the morning

– Alex Trebeck and Jeopardy

– hats that protect my bald head from the cold and sun

– neighbors who look out for each other

– soul (southern) food and cornbread

– growing older without getting “old”

– folks who are not like me who like me

– God who loves and forgives me

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

Recent events in the United States and across the globe could easily plunge one into depression.Suicide bombings, killing of police, military unrest, continued threat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations, violence of all sorts seem to be everywhere. It is not hard to see how discouragement and despair could easily reign.

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In the face of current conditions we must be diligent to guard our minds and spirits. The dark days of inhumanity compete with the light of everyday. If we give into the darkness, then evil wins.

This is not a time for a Pollyanna attitude. An unreasonably or illogically optimistic attitude is not the solution. However, as we face what seems to be our new reality we maintain a positive and hopeful perspective. The glass may be half-empty but at the same time it is also half-full.

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Optimism does not require one to deny reality no matter how harsh it may be. Unless one recognizes things as they are, at least momentarily, one cannot contribute effectively to finding the solutions to problems. Realistic optimism sees things as they really are and hopes, believes, and works to make them better.

Trouble in Mind is a blues song written by jazz pianist Richard M. Jones. The first known recording of the song was in 1924 by singer Thelma La Vizzo with Jones providing the piano accompaniment. Since then it has become a blues standard and has been recorded by many artists including Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Hot Tuna, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Texas Playboys, Dinah Washington, and Hank Williams, Jr.

There have been numerous renditions by a variety of musicians. In many versions, new lyrics are added. However, most usually include the opening verse:

Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always
‘Cause I know the sun’s gonna shine in my back door someday

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In spite of the positive expression of hope in the original first verse, Janis Joplin’s version in 1963 and Nina Simone’s 1965 rendition sounded a note of desperation and hopelessness. Recently I was listening to Atlanta resident Francine Reed singing and her version communicated hope in spite of the obvious troubles of life.

If you follow the news reports you can honestly conclude that the world is a dangerous place and fear can overcome you. There are too many stories to ignore the serious implications of the climate of culture in many places. However, all forms evil and violence cannot be allowed to triumph. There is something we can do about the harshness of hatred.

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In a world where unrest and turmoil are prevalent people of faith are called to be peacemakers. In an environment of hatred and prejudice we are called to love our neighbor and even our enemies. Even as darkness hangs over us much of the time we are called to be the light in the midst of darkness. When others look for and point out the worst in others we are called to see the best in everyone and to stand against the worst that is also present.

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I am not suggesting that we ignore or deny the difficulties that are all around but our attitude and action can and will make a difference. There is no doubt that trouble is all around but we can proclaim with certainty, “I’m blue but I won’t be blue always ‘cause the sun’s gonna shine in my back door someday.”

Jamie Jenkins