Ah, Paris. Ah, acoustic guitars. Ah…young love.
In this series, I’m examining the philosophy found in the songs of Chris Cornell.
In 1999, Chris released his first solo studio album, Euphoria Morning. One of my favorite tracks of the album is Can’t Change Me.
A younger version of me got this song. I spent many a year brooding over lost angels and comfortable devils in my ear. You’ve got the tortured, troubled artist with low self-esteem and the angel trying to save him. The songwriter knows a better version of his life is out there, he sees there’s someone special to share it with, but he can’t get out the door. He can’t get better. ”She’s going to change the world, but she can’t change me…Suddenly I see everything that’s wrong with me. But what can I do? I’m the only thing I really have at all.” Goodbye, angel. You can do better. It’s not necessarily about a girl. It’s a dream, a friend, a chance.
Eight years later, Chris released Carry On, his second solo album. It’s first track, No Such Thing, feels like a sequel to Can’t Change Me. The songwriter has realized he can’t just be cool and brooding and wave goodbye.
The song chronicles the songwriter’s existential crisis. ”I saw the world, it was beautiful, but the rain got in and ruined it all.” He knows things are not how they should be, and he tries to cope: “I tried to be invisible, it was impossible, even for me. I laughed at love, it was a big mistake. In the absence of I was filled with hate.”
Again, I get it. What do you do with a broken world? You can try to be numb, but you can’t stay that way. You can try to avoid real relationships, but that doesn’t make you numb. It makes you bitter, and it impacts the people around you.
“There’s no such thing as nothing. There’s no such thing as nothing at all.”
That’s one of the more mature and fascinating lyrics I’ve found in rock. Whether you like it or not, you can’t be invisible or numb in this world. You can’t be neutral. You are helping or hurting. You pick a side.
“I had the brains not the think at all, but the rain got in and I thought too hard on the world. And as usual I slumped into the void. I tried to make everything meaningless but the rain got in and it made a mess. ’Cause there’s no such thing as nothing.”
The first half of this song is basically a summary of the book of Ecclesiastes. If you’re someone who has struggled with depression, you get it. What do you do with the world?
I really don’t know what the second half of the song is about. It sort of seems like a Hamlet-esque conversation about suicide or murder, but who knows. (“My finger’s on the trigger, and I’ll turn off the world.”)
If you identify with the song and struggle with depression, addiction, etc, one line is certainly worth some meditation:
“Maybe to lose or save your soul is a choice of how you fill the hole.”
After a couple of weeks of listening to country music from various decades, some patterns have emerged. Here are some things that country music singers love:
- Girls in tank tops
- Girls in skirts
- Girls in boots
- Cheatin’ men
- Bad men
- Bodies of water that are not an ocean (ex. a river, a stream)
Here are some things that country singers dislike:
- Cheatin’ men
- Cheatin’ women
- Anti-American sentiment
- Past relationships
- Current relationships
- Clean tires
Current (Texas!) country song that I can’t stop listening to:
Sad, beautiful song.
About two weeks ago, an internal switch flipped. I decided that I like country music. I thought this was a first for me, but it turns out that I’ve been absorbing country songs for a long time, now. Here are my current top five country songs that I’ve heard on the radio lately.
- Take This Job and Shove It by Johnny Paycheck. Every job that I have ever had has been amazing. But. I can imagine that if I was ever frustrated with my work situation, this song would be pretty funny. My favorite part is the flat top reference. And the way that Johnny says “shove it”. I feel you, JP. Hypothetically.
- Something Like That by Tim McGraw. Samantha has choreographed this entire song, which is noteworthy. Anyway, I think the story is fun, and the song reminds me of the glory days of high school.
- Mud on the Tires by Brad Paisley – The guy can tear up a Telecaster, so I’m already a general fan, but I just like this song. For the record, I don’t actually like mud on my tires, fishing, or shooting ducks. I do like sleeping bags, camp fires, and getting stuck.
- Ballad of a Southern Man by Whiskey Myers. Reminds me of Tuesday’s Gone and Jackson Brown.
- Some Girls Do by Sawyer Brown. Great chorus. The dancing and lip syncing in this video simply cannot be adequately described. Lots of stomping and air drums.
I like some newer ones, too, but I don’t know song/band names yet. I’ll keep you posted. Keep me posted.
I was standing in front of my desk at work last week and the strangest thing happened – I started smiling. I started smiling, I could not stop, and I did not know why.
The reason why slowly came over me like the warmth of whiskey – I was happy.
I sat on my desk and counted my blessings. My beautiful wife, my goofy dog, my collection of beer bottles commemorating treasured nights with friends, my family that loves me in spite of myself, a God who loves me more than I will ever understand.
A few days later, I sat on the porch of a farmhouse in West Texas and I saw God. In the rustling leaves, in the wag of a dog’s tail, in the quiet love between a father and a daughter. In the west Texas sky. I saw God everywhere.
I’m learning that even though moments like those are fleeting, they are glimpses of a saved Creation. I know that God will save us. I know that everything God does will endure forever. I know that nothing can separate us from Him.
Times like these break my heart, but I treasure them. I treasure these glimpses. I am thankful that God is leading us all home, and that one day we’ll all be together.
Hallelujah, and amen.
Heaven help me, I love the beer and the rock music. You know who else does? Slash and Fergie. This song is just great. If I were to become an exotic dancer, this would be my jam.
All you big shots that swagger and stride with conceit,
did you devise how your frame would be formed?
If you’d be raised in a palace, or live out in the streets?
Did you choose the place our hour you’d be born?
Tell me what can you claim? Not a thing – not your name!
Tell me if you can recall,
just one thing, that’s not a gift in this life?
Can you hear what’s been said?
Can you see now that everything’s grace after all?
If there’s one thing I know in this life; we are beggars all.
Like the writer of Ecclesiastes, the songwriter has examined the human condition and what it means. He’s decided that we walk in circles, that we can’t save ourselves, that the world is vapor, but that there’s something else. The something else in another world, promised by our Creator and Savior.
In this song, he acknowledges that everything we have is grace – it’s a gift from our Creator. Alluding to God’s response to Job (Job 38-39), the writer asks if humans can control the heavens (38:12), the gates of the deep (38:8). The writer references Johnathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God, asking, “Don’t you know that all things hang, as if by a string, o’er the darkness – poised to fall?” He references David’s psalm, asking, “Did you devise how your frame would be formed?” (Psalm 139, Job 10:11, Ecc. 11:5).
The line “we are beggars all” was probably made famous by Martin Luther at his death. The line is also found in the Book of Mormon, in Mosiah 4:19.
The message is that we can do nothing meaningful on our own. All we have is a gift. We can honor it or not.