Yesterday I met with a student to work on a writing assignment for a 200-level English class at a Big Ten university in my town. The assignment requires the student to, in seven pages, validate his reasons for wanting to have a particular album or playlist if he were to find himself stranded on a deserted island. His paper, the assignment states, must have threads, or themes, that reveal why the music choices are significant to him.
(First of all, seven pages? Seriously? Who wants to read all that? The instructor must have graduate student minions to do the reading for him. All I can think is seven times twenty-six (the number of students in my class this semester) — that is a lot of pages to read and respond to!! Anyway, I digress.)
So, I was thinking after I left this student yesterday, what music would I want with me if I were to be stranded on a desert island. I don’t know how I could limit the music I would need to one album or play list, but I am going to do my best here. In the process, we will see what kinds of threads, or themes appear. Ok? Let’s play!
Category 1: Music from classic guys: Billy Joel, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, Elton John. I mean, …. ok, I just paused my writing to turn Pandora to my Elton John station…what’s playing? “Don’t Let the Sun go Down on Me!” Can’t you see me jamming out to this on my own island, playing my air piano, and crying out to God, “Don’t let the sun go on me…” Yeah, I’ll admit, I don’t know many more of the words, but I’ll be alone on an island; I can sing whatever words I want! The music of these guys — Billy, Phil, Stevie, Elton — makes me so stinking happy! I won’t be able to be depressed; I’ll be too busy performing my own concerts at full volume!
Category 2: Some female pipes: Christina Aguilera, Aretha Franklin, Crystal Lewis, Kim Massie, Alicia Keyes. Since I’m performing concerts, I might as well channel my inner diva and belt out some soulful tunes. I mean, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” “Ain’t No Other Man,” “People Get Ready Jesus is Coming,” Mm–mm–mm. I’m holding my palm frond microphone, closing my eyes, and sainging.
Category 3: Queen. Yes. They get their own category. Clicked my Pandora, and what started playing? “Don’t Stop Me Now!” This is my jam!!!! “…two hundred degrees, that’s why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit! I’m traveling at the speed of light!” I’m picturing me singing this and dancing through the jungle on my island, picking bananas, and laughing as loudly as I can. I think I’m going to like island living.
Category 4: Crowder and company. David Crowder has a way shifting my jam to worship. In one little click I went from being the master of my own universe to remembering that “You Make Everything Glorious.” I’m sitting on my beach, looking out at the crashing waves, drinking in the sunshine, arms in the air, worshiping with abandon, “…from glory to glory, You are glorious!…and I am Yours!”
Category 5: Fernando Ortega. Crowder paved the way for Ortega’s even more worshipful and reflective acoustic sounds. As I sit on the beach, the sun starts to set on the horizon. I hear “I need thee every hour…” and I realize all of a sudden that the concert and the dancing are over for the day. The darkness is falling and I am utterly alone. I needed Him all day, but in the darkness, I am painfully of aware of that need. So, I let the music continue to play and I hear the words from my youth, “…just as I am without one plea…I come, I come.” I dare to harmonize with Fernando, because, I mean, no one’s listening. If I am flat, who will know? who will care? And as, in my mind, our voices blend, the words sink into my soul and I feel the presence of God. I am not alone.
And that’s my thread, isn’t it? That although I would be the only person on my deserted island, I wouldn’t actually be, you know, deserted. I would be in the company of Greatness and I would celebrate that, ponder that, and be thankful for that.
Thanks for the help, ladies and gentlemen, you make a great mixtape.