I indulged myself the other night in the pleasure of watching (again) the video of “Live at the Troubadour,” recorded at the famous nightclub in West Hollywood in 2007. It features James Taylor and Carole King with an all-star backup band. The two, who rose to prominence as solo artists and songwriters back in the 1970s, have had intertwined careers for 40 years. Now in the twilight of these careers, they still had strong voices and sang their songs with passion and expression, not showing the jadedness that comes from performing the same tunes thousands of times. I recently learned that Taylor had been awarded an honorary doctorate in music by the Berklee College of Music in Boston, an institution that Nebraska Christian College has an affiliation with, and where I had a picture snapped last month.
I always loved the songs of King and Taylor. I’m listening to the “Live at the Troubadour” while I write this blog. While their content is wide ranging, from a song about “Machine Gun Kelly” to various love songs, they both capture a certain pleasant melancholy, a nostalgia that remembers the past fondly, but understanding that it cannot be recovered. There are four songs in particular that capture this mood, and most of you will know them: “You’ve Got a Friend” (with its religious overtones), “So Far Away,” “It’s Too Late,” and “Fire and Rain.” It is remarkable to think that King and Taylor introduced these songs when they were in the twenties. Performing them thirty years later must bring many memories for them, as it does for me.
“Fire and Rain” is about a friend of Taylor’s, Suzanne, who committed suicide while he was recording with Apple Studios in England. He did not learn of her death for six months, the news being withheld from him by his handlers who feared a breakdown. He sings,
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again
We can all think of departed friends we would like to see again, so these lines touch our hearts. Even more moving, though, is the prayer that Taylor includes in the song:
Won’t you look down on me, Jesus
You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way
I hesitate to hold up James Taylor as any sort of Christian example, but honest prayers come from surprising places. There are times that life is day to day, one day at a time, and without the help of Jesus we will not make it through. We cannot make it alone. And part of this is the blessed hope of Christians that we will see our loved ones again, that death is not the end of all things. If it were, praying to Jesus would be nonsense, because the core of Christian faith is the conviction that he rose from the dead and lives again.
Nebraska Christian College