The Day the Music Died
In November 1971 Don McLean released the album American Pie. The song American Pie charted number 1 in the USA for four weeks in 1972. At 8 minutes and 11 seconds, it has the distinction of being the longest song to reach number in the US. You’re probably humming or singing the song to yourself right now.
In part, the song tells the story of February 3rd, 1959. The day Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and "The Big Bopper", J. P. Richardson, died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. In waves of nostalgia, McLean remembered that day—and the other days—when the world was too sad to sing.
While taking lunch yesterday, I watched a short update from Nola Reed Knouse, Director of the Moravian Music Foundation concerning singing in church. She shares a sobering story of science and faith. The reality of not singing in church for months or years until we have vaccine hurts and terrifies me. Music serves as a theological, social, metaphysical foundation for me, for my tradition, and for humans, birds, peepers, and the rest of Creation. Music, regardless of language or rhythm, serves to transport us and hold us together.
The words of Nola, a highly trained and appreciated professional, disheartened me. I think not just of congregational life, but the musicians who spend their lives making art and trying to get paid for it. I think of music halls left empty on Fridays and Saturdays. I think of a generation that could avoid becoming musicians because there will be literally no money in it this year.
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing
Bye, bye Miss American Pie…
In Psalm 137, the writer laments, “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” So much had changed for Israel. Their nation torn apart. Their people deported. Their Temple destroyed. So much had changed. So much had died, including the music. How could they go somewhere else and find the words and the tunes and the hearts to sing?
I don’t know HOW, but I know THAT they did. I don’t know HOW, but I know WHY. They listened to their hearts. They remembered their old songs and gave them new life. They adapted to the strange land around them. They found their voice and collectively sang a new song.
And so will we.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.