I was a child in the sixties
dreams could be held through TV
With Disney, and Cronkite, and Martin Luther
Oh, I believed, I believed . . I BELIEVED
Thanks to Nanci Griffith
Like many of my generation “I believed, I believed …I BELIEVED”. Or at least I tried to believe. Believe in progress, believe in the future, believe in an unnamed hope. But I ultimately believed in the ability of modern man to “fix” everything. Science, education, culture, rock and roll would save the human race. The great potential of our generation was “us”. But as time went on the “belief” seemed to be misplaced and misspent. So around 1971 or 72 after being “pestered” by my best friend’s roommate I placed my belief in someone else. An intenerate Jewish rabbi who lived 2000 years ago and claimed to be God Almighty.
During the time of my wandering I found a lot of comfort and insight in the songs of the Birds. I can still remember seeing Easy Rider for the first time, not knowing the ending, and basking in the songs of Roger McGuinn and the Byrds. Well turns out that along the road Roger found Jesus also, or better said, Jesus found him. It is a bold thing to say that an itinerant Jewish rabbi, who lived 2000 year ago was actually God and man in one person and that he was the most important person in your life. It is sometimes comforting to come to understand that someone else from your generation, also believed this impossible, glorious story. Roger McGuinn is one of those persons for me.
Roger McGuinn in the early days
This is how he expressed it one time in an interview:
Roger McGuinn said: Here’s an excerpt from my autobiography, a work in progress:In 1977, I found a young man sitting in my front yard one day. He said Jesus wanted him to give me some songs he’d written. I thought he was crazy, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with him or his songs. I went into the house and locked all the doors. Finally the man went away. But something strange had started happening to me.Another Christian appeared at a show in Oklahoma City. This fellow was grinning at me from the bottom of a flight of stairs. Normally, I would have ignored him, but I was high on cocaine, and I found his grin rather irritating. I asked him what he was grinning about and he said, “The Lord just told me that you’re going to come to him.” I thought he was crazy. Soon after that, I ran into a friend and we ended up talking about religion. I told her I believed Jesus was just one of the prophets, and that all spiritual roads spiraled to the same peak at the top of the mountain. She told me that Jesus was the only way to get to God. I’d never heard anyone whom I respected tell me that before. Her words left a strong impression on me.Elvis Presley had just died, and that really shook me up. He was a victim of prescription drugs. I had been taking prescription drugs for years—speed and Quaaludes, both of which apparently Elvis had depended upon heavily. I was doing illegal drugs as well, and Elvis was only seven years older than I was when he died. I thought, “Man, I’ve only got seven years left,” and I panicked. The functioning lobes of my brain began demanding that I investigate what was going on spiritually in the world. Some self-preservation instincts were kicking in. Suddenly a horrible new feeling began to plague me. It felt as though an elephant was standing on my chest and my arms were as heavy as lead.Right after I began to experience this sensation, I met a jazz piano player named Billy. He was a Christian, and when I told him about the “heavy” feeling, he thought it was spiritual oppression. He prayed with me, asking God to take the feeling away, but nothing happened. The crushing feeling came and went. One day I prayed, “Oh, Lord, how can I keep from feeling like this?” An answer came to my spirit: “Well, you could accept Jesus.” I said silently, “All right, I accept Jesus.” The “heavy” feeling left me and I could feel the Holy Spirit moving in me physically. It felt good to have Jesus in my heart. That was over twenty years ago.
More recent pic
One of the things about Roger that I find interesting is that he does not record “Christian music” (the older I get the less and less I think that “Christian” should be used as any kind of modifier). In an interview once when an interviewer asked him about “being born again” and sort of asking him if he was still a Christian and if so why didn’t he do ‘Christian music’. He replied this way: “Yes I’m still a believer, but don’t do ‘Christian’ music, I’m a folk singer. His passion from the time he started recording until now has been the what he calls traditional music. He has spent the last 15-20 years preserving this great heritage. You can find more of this by Googling “The Folk Den Project”. You can even sign up for a monthly recording by McGuinn as I Podcast on ITunes.
I remember seeing Bono interviewed one time and as the subject of faith come up he said he really got put out at some award presentations when a person would stand up and begin by saying “First of all I want to thank God …” Bono said sometimes this was said about songs, movies, plays or whatever that were absolutely horrible in their content and he knew that God was up in heaven waving his arms back and forth and saying “No, no don’t listen to him (or her) I had absolutely nothing to do with that project”.
McGuinn in his own quiet way is going what he believes God has called him to do, helping preserve the wonderful heritage of folk or traditional music. And I think that this is one project God is involved wiht. I for one am glad that he does. Last month (he releases a new song on the 1st of each month) the song was “The Bears Went Over the Mountain”. It thrills my heart to know that someone out there trying to make sure that children in the future will know the songs that I grew up singing with my family. In case you were wondering what the song is for this month it is before Christmas comes around.
I find it also encouraging to know that his wife of over 30 years, Camilla, is also a believer and they still travel together for his shows.
Roger and Camilla McGuinn