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Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

Thoughts about a great song, Phil Keaggy's 'Our Lives'

Thoughts about a great song, Phil Keaggy's 'Our Lives'

Last week as I played my iPod’s 22,000 tracks on random, a song came up that I hadn’t heard in quite some time, and it confronted me powerfully: ‘Our Lives’ by Phil Keaggy, one of the foremost guitarists of our time, and a profoundly distinctive singer-songwriter at times, too.  (See the video of it below.  But how about reading what I have to say about it first?)

When he was thirty years old, in 1980, he recorded this piece on the album Town to Town, and we got a copy at the time.  I remember our daughter Karen a couple of years later, as a baby, hearing this song as we drove in the car in the Jamestown area, and breaking out into excited singing and dancing in her car seat!

This work has seldom failed to bring tears to my eyes.

Perhaps it’s because of some of the consummately meaningful lines, such as

‘have we finally found the meaning to our lives,’ or

‘when love’s a gift, how then can it be earned,’ or

‘did we think that we could toe our own line?’

Maybe it’s because of the epic-like yet endearing development of the effect of the track, progressing from a sort of Renaissance guitar piece to a lyrical E-Bow-driven electric section to a country pop style.

Or could it be the thoughtful way he sings it?  (If you’re not a fan of high tenors, well, you’ll need to look beyond that to the music itself!)

Then there’s the Bach-like interweaving of melodic-harmonic-rhythmic elements throughout, creating a counterpoint fabric of meaningful density in support of the theme.

Perhaps, too, it’s the series of sections of the song that cycle back through with new adaptations of the same word patterns, emphasizing the thoughtful importance of the ideas and reflections.

And the magnificent chord changes that continually develop suspensions, tensions and releases!

Too, there are continuous compelling key changes within the melody and chord structures as they actively ‘inspire and…cheer, hold a hand, and draw near to their side.’

And the poignant joining of many generations, from the very young to the very old.

I think it’s all of these.  Maybe some of you readers will feel the same comprehensive effect too.  O for music that has profound excellence and significance!

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