|John and Annie Denver|
It's fund raising time for the Public Broadcasting Service. That's bad news and good news. The bad news is the programming is interrupted every half hour with pleas for funds, the lifeblood of PBS. The good news is the airing of shows I like during the telethon efforts. Last night's offering was a remembrance of John Denver. One contemporary musician made a great point in the piece. He said there are four or five songs you consistently hear at weddings and two of them were written by Denver. Although not mentioned by name, one is Follow Me. The other wedding standard is Annie's Song, composed in honor of Denver's wife shortly after the couple reconciled from a separation. Annie Denver was interviewed for the special and commented on the song forever linked to her. She mentioned hearing Annie's Song played by strolling violinists in Venice and as elevator music in Japan. The most meaningful rendition the real-life Annie remembers came at the wedding of their daughter. Annie Denver also noted that as the song evolved into a classic, she no longer associated it with herself; it became its own entity.
A year before Annie's Song scored big on the radio charts, Roberta Flack had tremendous success with Killing Me Softly (With His Song.) The song was based on a poem written by unknown folksinger Lori Lieberman who went to see an unknown Don McLean perform at a Los Angeles club. She was blown away by her impressions of the artist who gave us American Pie. Lieberman gave her poetry to song writers who changed it into musical form. She recorded Killing Me Softly but it went nowhere. Several years later on a flight from LA to New York, Flack noticed Lieberman's version on a TWA in-flight entertainment play list and listened on headphones. Instantly falling in love with the ballad, Flack contacted famed producer Quincy Jones who arranged for Roberta to record Killing Me Softly. The result: two Grammy awards for Flack in the categories of Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal. Not that it matters historically, it was also one of my all-time favorites. I even had Deb Schark buy the album for me- but that is another story.
I can't imagine what it would feel like to have a hit written in your honor, immortalizing your life. There is an interesting note to the Killing Me Softly tribute to Don McLean. When it became the number one record in the US, a friend called McLean and told him he was the subject of the song. He was stunned- he had no idea there was any connection! Part of studying the New Testament is studying Old Testament prophecies and their fulfillment. Isaiah had spoken of the coming work of John the Baptist. Did John know Isaiah was speaking of him directly or that he was the Elijah the Israelites were waiting for? Jesus told the crowds that John was mentioned by Malachi- was John aware of the significance of that verse? Several times, Jesus spoke of prophecies in relation to himself and how they were in the process of coming to pass. But Jesus also told about prophecy that should give us pause. In Mark 7:6, the Lord issues a scathing indictment of hypocritical religious leaders for acting as if they loved God while in reality, their worship was meaningless. Jesus quotes a stinging rebuke from Isaiah and told the Pharisees the words were written about them! That would scare me to death, to think I was the fulfillment of a prophecy of condemnation! The Bible is filled with glimpses of what will happen at the end of time when there will be a separation of good and evil. The scriptures define the sets of those who do God's will and those who do not. Which were written to apply to you and to me? McLean was shocked when he found out what lyrics had been penned about himself. Jesus tells us many will also be shocked on the last day. Will we be in the number confused at their final destination? The apostle John tells us in his first epistle that we can be confident of salvation! That's a good enough assurance for me- I don't like surprises!
Applicable quote of the day:
"Whatever meaning Annie's Song had for me on a personal level, there was also a larger context. It could just as easily been about love for a brother or a father or a friend. It could just as easily have been a prayer."
PS: There is a sad footnote. In spite of the success of the beautiful Annie's Song, Mr. and Mrs. John Denver divorced in the 1980's.
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