For it is by grace you have been saved...

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Old Guys Rule (a post about hymns, eventually)

November 12, 1983.  On a cold St. Louis evening, only two months after Cheryl and I started dating, we stood in line in the snow to see the Christian rock band, Petra.  As a new Christian used to listening to Kiss, Van Halen, etc. I was a little skeptical about this Christian rock thing.  But I was far from disappointed.  In fact, I became a lifelong Petra fan.

Over the years, we saw Petra several more times, through several different lineups.  Always with the same reaction.  What a great band.  Great musical talent.  Superb songwriting from the band’s founder/guitarist/heart, Bob Hartman.  Fantastic show.  And a genuine desire to praise God and tell people about Christ.  Years (and years) later we would even take our oldest kids to the “Farewell Tour.  Petra has always been a family favorite.  The soundtrack to our lives.

That first concert also started a love of Christian music that would result in my spending several years in college and seminary working at Christian radio stations.  Getting to be the guy on stage at some of those shows, introducing bands, was a real highlight. 

Over the years, I watched a lot of bands come and go.  Some were really popular for awhile, but faded away.  Some I really liked, but never hit the “big time.”  Personal taste has a lot to do with it.  Talent surely does as well, but so does “luck” and timing.  But after over 30 years as a band, Petra was still going, still recording, still touring.  Still popular.

Fast forward to last Sunday.  Years after the Farewell, that last lineup of the band was getting together for a one day “Petra Reunion.” Our youngest son, Kenaniah (whose name is a biblical character, David’s song leader, but also happens to be the subject of a Petra song; I’ll let you decide which one he’s named after), was too young to see the Farewell Tour.  But he’s listened to this band his whole life.  So we jumped at the chance to go see this show.  It was only just over 100 miles away.  And once again…not disappointed. Old Guys Rule.  

It wasn’t a massive crowd.  Covid, ya know.  It was mostly an older crowd.  But what an enthusiastic bunch!  And how proud I was to look over and see my 16-year-old with a huge smile, singing along with songs written decades before he was born.  Reminded me a bit of the excitement of another 16-year-old back in ’83.

So what’s the point, other than a sentimental musical memory tour?  Just this.  Singer John Schlitt and guitarist Bob Hartman are both 70-ish.  And both put on an amazing display of their God given talent, and were sure to give God all the glory.  Old Guys Rule.  That’s actually the name of a song by another John Schlitt project, along with Billy Smiley of Whiteheart (another old Christian band).  The Union of Sinners and Saints recorded that song a couple years back, and it not only says something about these old musicians, but about their music.

Again, I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go.  Some have lasted.  A lot haven’t.  Not many will be doing 30+ year farewell tours and reunions.  It says something about the quality of their music, and their message.  I’m not just an old geezer talking about “the music when I was a kid.”  I actually like a lot of newer bands.  I really enjoy some new bands that are so new a lot of folks haven’t even heard of them yet (Collision of Innocence, Bayless, and Relent all come to mind).

Here’s where we get to the hymns stuff.  (Sorry it took so long).  I’m an odd creature, in many ways, but the relevant way here is my musical taste.  I’m one of the few guys I know who is a conservative, antique-hymnal-collecting pastor, who also loves loud rock music.  And I see a bit of a correlation to the longevity of Petra, and the enduring nature of some worship songs/hymns.

This isn’t a knock against modern worship music.  There is some really good stuff out there, from the Gettys to Sovereign Grace Music, and Ross King, City Alight, etc.  Time will tell how long some of those songs will last.  And I’m not saying all the old stuff is great.  In my 200+ antique hymnal collection there are hundreds and hundreds of songs that no one has sung in hundreds of years.  But there are some that stand the Test of Time (another Petra song title, sorry).

Those old hymns with the depths of lyrical content, and even some of the quality of musicianship.  It reaches beyond generational borders, with children and grandchildren singing along joyfully with their parents and grandparents.  Some of it surely comes down to personal taste.  Not every one is a Petra fan (though I can’t understand why not).  Shoot, somewhere in the world there may even be someone who doesn’t like "Amazing Grace".

But again, there are just some songs with a depth of meaning and quality of authorship that go beyond one or two generations.  So give those old songs a chance.  You might be surprised at the results.  Just like my 16-year old son’s joy seeing Petra.  Old guys rule, and young guys love it. 


pshimmons said...

I SO wanted to go to that concert! But alas I live in Michigan! Then all of a sudden an urgent tip to Nashville occurred that weekend! I thought I most SURELY be closer but man.... we were STILL like 5 hours away! :(

Glad you enjoyed it 0 thanks for writing about it!

Scott said...

Sorry you couldn't make it. It was amazing! I don't know why they ended up choosing Steelville, MO for this one-off event, but I was so excited that they did. In fact, it's half way back to where I grew up south of St. Louis, so we were able to use it as an excuse to go see my folks as well. I have appreciate the ministry of this band so much over the years. Again, sorry you couldn't join the fun. Maybe they'll do another one!