This Chaplain’s Favorite Songs…and why

I guess most of us have favorite songs that stick with us over the years. Songs that we can relate to. Songs that move us and somehow, at least in some way, inspire us and keep us going. Moving forward. I have mine. Other of my immediate family members have the music talent. I sing, but to myself in my car with the stereo blasting and the windows raised. But the following are several songs from my lifetime that have a rich meaning to me. Over the course of the next several days I will attempt to describe why they are meaningful to me. So keep checking back to see additions to this particular entry!

1. HEAVENLY MAN – by Proto-Kaw
2. SUPERMAN – by The Kinks
3. FLY LIKE AN EAGLE – by Steve Miller Band
8. WANDERING SPIRIT – by Kerry Livgren AD
10. THE CALL – by Ken Medema
11. GIVE – by Missing Persons
12. AMAZING GRACE – (hymn)
13. MAKE IT EASY – by Yes
14. DESIRE – by Ozzy Osbourne
15. HARVEST MOON – by Blue Oyster Cult
16. JUST REACH OUT – by Petra
17. WHO ARE YOU – by The Who
17.b. THE REAL ME – by The Who
18. TELEGRAPH ROAD – by Dire Straits
19. BE GOOD TO YOURSELF – by Journey
20. COME SAIL AWAY – by Styx

You can tell my influences are 70’s and 80’s classic rock, Classic Christian rock, and the good ol’ Baptist hymnal. But these songs, for many reasons, have accompanied my prayers (some of them), inspired me in the gym or on the road while running or working our, or helping me teach lessons to young people, or even helping me vent my anger over certain issues on occasion. Some of these you have heard before. Some may even be favorites of yours. But in the coming days I will relate a few stories behind each song and why it affects me so. One disclaimer: when I was younger, I seperated “Christian” from “secular” music. But no longer. Music is music. The artist gives it meaning, but the listener may receive it totally different. The combination of music styling, lyrical content, and how it affects the listener is what makes it a “favorite” song. That in mind, these are my favorite to date. What are yours?

HEAVENLY MAN by Proto-Kaw is my all-time favorite song. For one reason it is simply a great rock anthem. Not only does it feature some of the best sounds of 70’s rock stylings, and even a hint of 60’s organ, but some terrific 80’s guitar licks and 90’s arrangements. The song musically has it all for me. It is an amazing piece of progressive rock from the master, Kerry Livgren, and the “original Kansas,” which is now called Proto-Kaw. Lyrically, it is progressive, authentic Christianity at its core. It is written from the perspective of a man (or woman) who apparently has been through some of life’s toughest challenges. The singer is asking God for healing, and also essentially telling God, “I know your story. I believe you. While I do have my questions and my doubts, I continue to cry out to you. I need you. I can’t explain or comprehend you, but all I know is I can’t quit you. I ‘m connected to you. I need you. Won’t you hear me? Won’t you heal me!?!”. It is quite a prayer we all say, if we are honest. And the end of the song even sounds very Native American. I love this song. I never tire of it. It speaks to me and for me. Thank God for Kerry Livgren and the fact that he has given his life to the Lord and has never looked back. The man is my hero. And this song is my anthem.

SUPERMAN by The Kinks is my second favorite song of all-time. For starters it’s from the Kinks’ classic 70’s album “Low Budget.”. That’s the story of my life! HA! The album version of the song – not the radio edit, or the remix – is my favorite. A super classic rock song. Great guitars and drum. And lyrically I can definitely relate. I play this song often in my headphones at the gym. I won’t lie. I’ve never been in great physical condition. Preparing for the Army for the past 15 months has been challenging to me. This song is about a guy who wants to fly like Superman and help people, and he sees the condition of the world and wants desperately to make a difference. Trouble is, he is too weak, too broke, too slow, too inept. But he desperately wants to do something good. Something big. Man, can I relate to this song. It has a great steady beat and is easy to work out to. This song always gets my blood pumping, my feet jumping, my head bobbing, and my mouth singing along. Go Kinks!!

FLY LIKE AN EAGLE by Steve Miller Band. This is one of the coolest 70’s rock songs ever. And who hasn’t heard it?? And who can’t instantly sing along to “tick tock, doo doo do doo do?” the song’s best version is the album version with the “space intro” attached to it. Lyrically, the song is commentary on the social ills of the day. Listen to it and tell me it doesn’t remind you a bit of Matthew 25. “Feed the babies…shoe the children…. house the people (homeless)…. There’s a Solution!”. These are terrific lyrics. In fact, in 2004 I made an RA Racer Derby car of an eagle, inspired by this song. In 2005 I developed a children’s summer camp sermon/story series based on this actual song. We even sang it and tweaked the lyrics to “ohhh, we are on a mission.”. It’s a slower song but so cool in so many ways. Bluesy jazzy classic rock. And like the Kinks’ “Superman,” it echoes my personal desire to make a difference in this world – to truly fly like an Eagle. To soar!

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS and TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS and AMAZING GRACE — These three classic hymns are my favorites. Together they each have memorable choruses, and very simple truths. And the older I get the more I realize how true and life-changing the messages in these songs are. God’s grace and love and mercy and salvation are real and tangible. When life gets difficult and you begin to feel like it is lost, simply begin to consider the blessings in your life. Seriously enumerate them. And your mood may start to change. The Lord gives us so much. Sadly, we often take it for granted. These three hymns mean more and more to me every time I sing them.

CARRY ON WAYWARD SON by Kansas. Again, Kerry Livgren and just about anything he touches is golden to me. This song, even though it has been well played on the radio for decades now, and remade – most recently by Stryper, still means something to me. Who doesn’t like to rock to this song? Most recently, on March 20, 2011, I was entering the last mile of my first half marathon race through the streets of Atlanta. I was EXHAUSTED. But as I neared that last half mile, I could hear that song blasting out of a massive stereo system. I felt chills and dug down deep and found a “hidden gear” I didn’t know I had. I passed four people in a sprint to the finish line, and received my medal. That song’s chorus encourages me to keep going and achieving, regardless of my background. That once I reach Heaven, I will find peace.

TIME STAND STILL by Rush. Actually, there are so many Rush tunes that I love, like Distant Early Warning, Nobody’s Hero, and The Pass. But this one speaks much wisdom. Quite simply, it says to embrace the moment. To use all your senses to fully experience the here and now. Don’t get lost looking back or worrying about the future. Remember the “now.” in fact, the writer actually desires to slow time down. We can’t. But as this fun, rocking song says, time marches on, so make the absolute most of it – whether it’s a good time, sad time, or bad time.

WANDERING SPIRIT by Kerry Livgren AD. This song is an amazing rock tune – an earnest prayer to God. The brutal honesty of this song is something all Christians can relate to. Waiting for Heaven, waiting for Christ’s Return. Yet struggling to maintain daily integrity.

SOLDIERS UNDER COMMAND – By Stryper. An amazing high energy Christian melodic metal song (and album) from 1985. My good friend Jody Paul and I have seen a few Stryper shows, and once with my son. Now, as a Soldier and a Chaplain, this song means a whole lot to me.

THE CALL – By Ken Medema. This song from Medema’s 1987 “Flying Upside Down” CD has always served as a reminder of God’s Call. This song is another rocker that details what God calls us to.

GIVE – By Missing Persons. This song is sung by the irrepressive Dale Bozzio. She didnt really try to be like Deborah Harry of Blondie. But these songs were playful, creative and clean 80’s new wave rockers. But this one song inspires me to keep on going even when I want to quit. The chorus is awesome: “Give, when you have anything at all to give. Give, you have everything to live for. Give all you’ve got to give. And when you’ve given all you can — give again, give again.”

MAKE IT EASY – You might think of this Yes song as a praise song, but that is the impact it had on me. In the gym, on the running trail – this song has powerful, passionate musical arrangement and lyrics. The chorus reminds me that Jesus said “come to me all you who are heavy laden. Take my yoke for my burden is light, my yoke is easy.” Jesus essentially gives me the power to accomplish things I simply cannot do on my own. This song by this incredible prog rock band gets under my skin and lifts me up. It’s a great encouragement.


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