10398268Caught the 46th Grammys last Monday (Sunday night in the U.S.). I was relieved that there were no wardrobe malfunctions. Was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of Earth, Wind and Fire. Middle-aged paunchy musicians can still rock. There’s hope! But there was only one song that really caught my ear— Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me In Your Heart”. Here’s part of the song:

“Shadows are fallin’ and I’m runnin’ out of breath keep me in your heart for awhile

If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less keep me in your heart for a while

When you get up in the mornin’ and you see that crazy sun keep me in your heart for awhile

There’s a train leavin’ nightly called when all is said and done keep me in your heart for awhile”

Who is Warren Zevon you ask? He was a singer-songwriter who died of lung cancer on September 7th 2003. He received limited recognition for his own albums, finding more fame in the songs he wrote for others.

In September 2002 he announced that he had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He was told that he had only a few more months to live. Asked by his friend David Letterman what he intended to do in the time he had left, Zevon replied that he intended to “enjoy every sandwich.” Maybe he was being facetious. Maybe he wasn’t. We live in a time when most of us are obsessed with being more productive, busy squeezing out more productivity per unit time. Most of us have stopped savouring the moment. There is much wisdom in learning to “enjoy every sandwich”.

In the end, Zevon had more than a few months. He had a year. He spent much of that time visiting with his two grown children and working on a final album. I thought it interesting that when confronted with his mortality, Zevon focused on the two main callings of humankind — community and vocation. When time became precious, Zevon focused on his key relationships — his relationships with his two children. And he focused on what he had been called to do — making music. His final album, “The Wind” was released two weeks before his death. “Keep Me In Your Heart” was the acoustic piece that closed the album.

Beneath all the glam and hoopla, here then was the summary of the human condition. As humankind we are all created for significant relationships and for creative work. Right from the word go, right there in the Garden of Eden, when we were called to care for the garden, when we were told that it was not good for us to be alone. Unfortunately, even if we are able to find some measure of joy in our relationships and in our work, we have to face the absurdity of death.

“There’s a train leavin’ nightly called when all is said and done”

The soundtrack for the human race is always in a minor key. But there is another side.

Warren Zevon wasn’t the only singer to die in 2003. June Carter Cash, wife of the late Johnny Cash died in May 2003. One of the songs from her last album ‘Wildflower’ was honoured at the 46th Grammy.

“Keep On The Sunny Side” won for June, Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Here too was a song that spoke about the dark side of life. But the song also spoke of the existence of a sunny side.

“Oh, the storm and its fury broke today, Crushing hopes that we cherish so dear. Clouds and storms will in time pass away. The sun again will shine bright and clear.

Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, Keep on the sunny side of life. It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way, If we’ll keep on the sunny side of life.

Let us greet with a song of hope each day. Though the moments be cloudy or fair. Let us trust in our Saviour always, To keep us, every one, in His care.”

No honest singer, no honest person, can ignore the pathos of life. Only those who know the Lord know that Jesus can give life a happy coda. And change our key from minor to major.

Country is ok but I am basically a rock fan. Warren Zevon sang about the train of death. It’s a pity that he didn’t seem to know the train of love. From U2’s “Rattle and Hum”:

“I was there when they crucified my Lord I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword I threw the dice when they pierced his side But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide

When love comes to town I’m gonna catch that train When love comes to town I’m gonna catch that flame” (When Love Comes To Town)

Sing it U2 & B.B. King. Sing it loud. Hey Ya!!!

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan