Saturday, December 5, 2009

When James Taylor Sings Back-Up.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, out of Cleveland, Ohio recently held two concerts in New York City. Each evening featured a series of greats from the present and the past. U2 sang, for example, with Bruce Springsteen. The line up included people like Stevie Wonder, Dion, Metallica, B.B King, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Beck, Art Garfunkel & Paul Simon, Crosby, Stills and Nash...

Pretty stunning.

I heard about the concert...the line-up. Hadn't heard a note of it until this afternoon when our son began playing the concert broadcast he had recorded on his DVR from HBO. I hadn't intended on having my morning swallowed up by amazing music, but I kept listening...and, sometimes, dancing with my 27-month old granddaughter.

Great stuff! The clear voice of Bonnie Raitt singing about love...and then the horn section wailing away on Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al."

Do you know what really got me? It was watching people like Graham Nash and David Crosby singing "back up" to other artists. It was watching -and listening to- James Taylor, whose voice seems perfect to my ears, singing Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With." (I've never been able to figure out those lyrics. Is this some call to relationships anytime and anywhere with anyone, or is he saying "there may be some perfect ideal out there but love the person God has put in your life?")

Taylor is such a star he might have said, "I'll sing only my own hits. Everyone else can join in on 'Sweet Baby James' or 'Up on the Roof" or 'Fire and Rain' but they'll be doing my music." No, there this extraordinary singer was gladly singing songs made popular by other artists. And he was singing back-up to people like Paul Simon!

Stars stepping to the back of the stage. Out of the lights. Singing backup so others could shine.

I shook my head. Listened to the music. And thought about how that is a pretty good model for relationships...for friendships...for citizenship...for marriage...for life as a Jesus follower.

Jesus gave us an example. He washed the feet of the disciples. He talked about how greatness is really all about becoming as a servant...not fighting over a seat at the head table.

Paul, the first century Christian missionary pastor, talked about being a part of the Body. All of us connected. All of us having a role to play. Paul talked about giving the humblest part honor.

When life is all about me, when we insist on being in the spotlight and having everyone (and everything) else revolve around us, nothing else seems to work. Selfishness wrecks churches, friendships, marriages, and nations.

James Taylor...sweet baby James...singing back up! Wow...superstars doing their best in the shadows.

Come on, people of Jesus, let's rock! Outdo one another in showing respect...affection...honor.

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