Archive for September, 2012

Henry Spaulding – Cairo Blues

In a post yesterday I mentioned Henry Spaulding, a blues man who sang in St. Louis in the 1920s. Spaulding only recorded two songs in his life, and this is one of them. It remains one of my favorite recordings of all time.

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What is this Blog?

The creek of life goes winding on
Wandering by
And bears forever its course upon
A song and the sigh

– Henry Lawson

I’ve always loved Henry Lawson’s poem.  Somehow it brings together song and spirit, art and ordinary life. That’s what I try to do as a musician, and it’s part of what I try to do in ministry.

Spirit, after all, is far more broad than religion. Listen to a 1929 blues recording of Henry Spaulding or a Fred Cockerham banjo solo, and you’ll know what I mean. Open a book of poetry, or the sacred writings of just about any religion, and you will find unique and precious revelations of humanity.

These musings are my small attempt to bring these things together, honoring life, song, justice and the human experience.  Some posts may be writings I’ve used elsewhere, others will be wholly new.  It’s all a grand experiment, and I don’t know how things will evolve, but I’m excited by the possibilities.  I invite you into conversation and community.



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A Song of Life

We live and breathe a sacred song of life.

Sometimes the song is an art form, a melody played on steel strings and wooden sound boxes, given to the world with all the hope and feeling inside us.  When we let go of performance and give ourselves completely to the music, we breathe in the sacred and breathe out peacefulness.

For some, the song is a way of being with people.  Its harmonies are in layers of relationship, the kindness with which we greet those around us.  The layers are often complex, but the substance is simple – a deep love for humanity, an understanding of the beauty in imperfection, and a willingness to continue the song, even when faced with moments of unexpected improvisation.

At times, the song is an anthem, sung with voices or spirits, in lyric or prose, for peace, for freedom, for equality.  We raise our voices and lift our hands because we cannot bear to keep silent in the face of injustice, violence or cruelty.  To do so would be to profane the sacred melody, and to allow the dissonance of hatred and war to drown out the great mass of people whose song is in their work for goodness.  This kind of song is sometimes made with our very bodies, and some have given it their lives, but more often we give it our hearts.  It is always a song of hope.

And then there are the quiet moments, in between the great crashing movements – a meal shared with a friend, a hug given by a child, the contemplation of a painting, a deep and abiding appreciation for the unbounded beauty of earth.  These are the love songs, and each one is a prayer.

Some of us are musicians, and some not, but it doesn’t matter.  Whether or not you have ever lifted you voice in melody and lyric, you are a singer of life.  In all your living and your loving, may you give back the song the world has given you.
(excerpt from The Song and the Sigh, ©2010 by Dan Schatz)

Song – The Song and the Sigh

(words by Henry Lawson; music © 1995 by Dan Schatz)

from The Song and the Sigh, ©2010 by Dan Schatz)

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