Trying to perfect my own song

Published 3:00 pm Sunday, May 26, 2024

My end-of-the-year music playlist summary popped up on my phone a couple of years back, with the following customized message: “Only you would listen to Johnny Cash, followed by Ozzy Osbourne and David Crowder Band.”

It’s true. They were in my regular rotation, this combination of rock-country-gospel, hard rock and metal, and contemporary Christian music.

Every kind of music has its place in the eclectic mp3 folder of my mind. Maybe it would be more accurate to call it the file cabinet of vinyl, cassettes and compact discs.

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I have owned thousands of albums in every format of which I have heard, including 8-tracks, reel-to-reel cassettes, and every digital form. But these days, I have fewer albums in physical formats that I own digitally. And even though I have a large digital library from which to pull my favorites at any time, I usually wind up listening to a streaming service like Spotify or listening to YouTube videos playing in the background as I work.

Music is a unique thing, this art form. It can root your feet to the ground in a way you’ve never known, or carry you beyond the clouds heavenward. It can put words to emotions and emotion to words, interpreting things you never knew how to say or even understand.

So many songs elicit certain emotions and act as time machines for our memories. When certain songs play, I know exactly where I was when I heard it the first time, or when it accompanied a momentous occasion in my life.

It seems music is always playing in my mind, just below the surface of conscious thought. I have no idea how many times someone has asked me what I was singing when I didn’t even realize I was. This hasn’t happened so much in recent years, as I really try to be aware of what’s coming out of my mouth. This wasn’t always the case, unfortunately. And some of you need to keep a better reign on what comes out of your mouths, too. You know who I’m looking at.

If someone were able to peek into my music files in my mind at any given time, they’d be just as likely to find screaming heavy metal as banjo-picking bluegrass, or soaring operatic vocals, old-school rap and soul, sad ballads, happy dance tunes, or some random assortment of notes from unknown origins.

I’m not ashamed of liking any of the genres I like. You’d either like them, too, or not. It’s like standup comedian Mitch Hedberg once said about a band he’d been in: “People either loved us, or they hated us … or they thought we were ‘OK’.”

I think God gave us all types of music, and no genre or style is ungodly (though some of you may disagree with me). I think the only thing that makes music “ungodly” is the same thing that would make a piano itself so — how it’s used. What’s the intent? What’s the message of the music? A beautiful ballad can bring praise to the Creator, encouragement to others, peace, etc., or stir up hatred and illicit behavior. It’s how it’s used. An instrument is simply that — an instrument in the hands of someone who uses it as they will.

How am I using the instrument of my life that I’ve been given? Sometimes I think I’m doing OK, and other times I have the same thought as I do about my first guitar, which I bought at age 16 — I still have that guitar, and I’m just as good today as I was the day I bought it. Practice makes perfect.

Am I becoming a more perfect person? That’s what matters. How is the song of my life playing out?

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at