My songs are not cool

Guest post by Doug Ranck of Free Methodist Church in Santa Barbara, CA

Many years ago I was asked to sing in a duet at the funeral of an elderly lady who lived next to our family. She had requested, before her death, a favorite song of hers to be sung at the service. In my opinion, it was a “syrupy and smaltzy” gospel song. Out of love and respect for her I sang it with enthusiasm.  Two days after the event I was looking at the music again and realized this beloved song for her was written and introduced during her early teen years. It was one of those “cutting edge” choruses.

At the moment I understood, like I had not before, new songs do indeed become old songs and many of them die a quiet death due to dated music or “fluffy” lyrics. I also recognized songs I might have thought to be “cool” then and even good now may not be assessed in the same way by many others.

What causes a new song to gain traction and become a classic to the masses? Many would say depth of lyrics and a sing-able/catchy tune add to the sustainability. Some songs gained notoriety because they were introduced at big events and ultimately spread when people returned home to their own churches where they were repeatedly sung in all types of venues.

Somebody’s “cool” song will retain its luster but most won’t. If I were to review the scorecard of personal favorites and greatest hits from my teenage years it would not be impressive. I actually can’t think of one song written and introduced during that era still being sung with any regularity today. What does this say about those songs or me?! I’m sure you came up with some perfectly logical answers but in the event you did not I would like to offer one closing observation and one application helpful to our view of all music and its effects on us:

Music brings memories
Many articles have written about how music speaks to our souls. In certain contexts we may have heard or sung a song and now it is forever tied with the associated event or person. In our walk with God songs are often connected with learning significant spiritual truths, words echoing the prayers of our heart or decisions we have made to follow Christ more faithfully. If we see the person or re-experience the event we can hear the music clips play in our heads. If we hear the song the face of a person or the profile of a situation spins into our minds.

Don’t “yuck my yum”
As I said in an earlier blog post music choices by individuals are very subjective. Our friends and other people in general like different songs or genres of music for a variety of reasons partly which cannot be easily explained. In the present we may like one song or another due to style or lyrics but the older songs are often tied to something much deeper. The older songs are tied to memories and if you tell me you don’t like my song you are also messing with my memory. For the lady we honored at the funeral her music choice represented a song having had an impact in her life. It represented something important and for me to discount or ignore it was to do the same to her as a person.

The next time you are with people of other generations ask them about their “greatest hits,” hear the associated stories and remember to close your mouth when you are tempted to criticize their music as old-fashioned. Soon enough your music may be “un-cool.”

Editor’s note: Doug is one of a handful of writers who contribute to the YLO and MVL Resource Books each quarter. We’re grateful to Doug for his hard work, and his heart for student ministry.

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