Dearly Beloved, WE…

I’m originally from Columbia, Tn. It’s a small town in Middle Tennessee. I remember growing up there were a number of even smaller outlying communities but one in particular that was memorable was Summertown, Tn. The one thing I remember about Summertown is there was a group of hippies who lived on something they called “The Farm.”

Anyone who I ever met from “The Farm” were always way different from the “regular” people I encountered every day. They men all had beards, wore very simple clothes and they most of the time wreaked of pot and. B.o. I was taught at an early age that I didn’t ever wanna be like these people or live on “The Farm.” I wasn’t really given a reason but I remember it was pointed out to me that people on “The Farm” shared cars, clothes and even wives I think. I’m not so sure everything I was taught about them was wrong or right but I’ve since come to believe they could be on to something.

I’m a big Prince fan, probably one of the bigger fans you’ll ever meet! I’m not saying that to brag but I seriously love his music. I wasn’t really a fan of his during the 80’s but I really grew to appreciate him about age 15 or 16. His music gave me a sense of identity and purpose. It made me feel connected in a way no other artist I had ever encountered before or since.

I’m not sure I agreed with everything he’s sang about over the years but I admired him simply as a musician and entertainer. I will still argue to this day there has never been, there will never be anyone like Prince. I believe one day his work will be held up next to Mozart or Bach or any other great composer in the history of the world. You may disagree with me but you’d be wrong, I told you I am one of the biggest fans of Prince you will ever meet. I think my affection for Prince’s music may take a backseat only to my friend Robby or Matt.

Robby, Matt and I have seen Prince live, in concert dozens of times throughout the years. He was by far the best entertainer and musician I’d ever seen. He was a true genius. I don’t think we ever would’ve thought he would leave us so soon. I remember the day they announced on TMZ that he had passed away at the age of 57. I was working that day and I remember I was sitting at my desk, choking back the tears, hoping it was just some sort of fake news but it wasn’t.

Anyone who has ever heard the music I make would probably say something like “it sounds like Prince, are you trying to sound like Prince?” Although I would consider that the highest compliment, I don’t really feel that way about my music, (ok, maybe the earliest stuff I wrote was a little derivative lol). I think I spent so much time listening to and studying his vast catalog of music that it just became part of me. I honestly didn’t mean to sound like him on purpose I don’t think, the music just came out that way.

Even though I’d seen him in concert dozens of times and had a couple of backstage shoulder brushes with him I never really knew the man. Although, he did give me a high five over a a crowd at a small after show one night in Mississippi. I screamed like a preteen girl and I felt like I never wanted to wash that hand again…seriously I know he was just a man but I can’t talk enough about his music.

One of the things that had and still has me baffled is how he really was a one man show. He quite literally didn’t need a band. He would go into the studio and literally play every instrument and sing every part on the record. When I found this out I was floored. He was doing this from the very beginning of his career. His first few albums had the words “Produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince” on the back of the albums. My mind was blown, not only was the music stellar, he did it ALL himself. This was revolutionary at the time he did it and very few, if any artists had done this.

Early in my musical career I decided I wanted to be like this. I wanted to be able to play ALL the instruments and sing all the parts. We had one BIG problem though, I was no Prince. Oh, I tried to be a one man show early on but I couldn’t pull it off, at least not for a whole album. It made me realize even more what an immense talent he was.

My failure at trying to emulate Prince showed me something even of greater value. It showed me the power of collaboration. I had to lean on other musicians to help me pull off what I was trying to do. It was through this process I realized that in this exchange with other musicians, my own music became something different and most of the time way better than I could have come up with by myself.

This process of collaboration is the reason many of the greatest bands of all time worked so well. You’ve got greats like The Rolling Stones, who’s music is really defined by the collaborative efforts of Mick Jagger, their singer and Keith Richards, one of their guitar players. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith fame are another pairing that, without them, the bands just wouldn’t have been so great!

It’s very interesting to me that THE music Prince is most known for is still his Purple Rain album. Interestingly enough that album was one he credited as “Produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince and The Revolution.” This was a collaborative effort that really defined his career. If you are a Prince fan, you know what a profound influence that his band mates Wendy and Lisa from the Revolution had on Prince’s songwriting at the time.

I believe that that this idea of collaboration is something the Bible shows us is essential for our lives to be all that they were designed to be. Even the Bible itself, all 66 books is a collaborative effort. I don’t mean to say let’s collaborate just for creative purposes but doing so just to get the most out of life. We are not wired for isolation but for community.

If we look in the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis we will notice that God said even back then “It is not good for man to be alone.” So, God creates Eve, someone very much like Adam but at the same time very different. Eve is someone who quite literally completes Adam in every way. I believe we are all like this and I’m discovering that we need each other to bring out the best in all of us. We are, as Jack Johnson once sang, “Better Together.”

I am an alcoholic. It’s been through my recovery process that I’ve learned to move from isolation and self addiction into community for the sake of growth. This has been a slow and often painful realization but Its’s been through the relationship with my sponsor and other recovering people I’ve come to know the value of community. It’s also been through this process I’ve begun to see God’s plan more clearly for my life.

I am still In repair in this area of my life but I’m slowly moving from being someone who wants to be a one man show to being someone who is willing to be vulnerable with others. This is reshaping my life in many ways. I’m discovering as I come out of my isolation that this thing called life is best lived as a collaboration with others and it really isn’t just about me at all.

In Proverbs the Bible states that “as Iron Sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another.” That simple truth sums up what I’m learning in the new part of my journey. We are all designed with strengths and weaknesses that are completed in our relationships with one another. Even Jesus surrounded himself with community with the 12 disciples, if he did how much more do I need to?

In Romans 12 The Bible talks about the church. He makes the analogy that the body of believers is like our physical body. Just as we have arms and legs and fingers that all serve an individual function so we as believers all have a part to play in The Church body. Each person in a community brings something unique that only they can bring. So even here we can see that we are wired for connection with one another.

So, I’m learning, I haven’t arrived but I’m growing. No, I probably won’t go join a hippy commune like “The Farm” but I will be more intentional with community. I’ll fight my tendency toward isolation and selfishness and try to make myself available and vulnerable to others after all that is more of what life is about and as Prince once so beautifully said “Dearly Beloved, WE are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…”


1 Comment

  1. Thank you. You are a very gifted man..musician, writer and probably a whole lot more I don’t know about since I have only met you in person once or twice…please continue to let God speak through you. You are so right about isolation…God wants us in community…even though it is SO hard when you have been burned by others. Thank you for reminding me….and I like Prince, but not as much as you it sounds like! Have a beautiful day, my friend. -Amanda C

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