Friday, January 25, 2008

How Can I Keep from Singing?

Ms. Kitty has me thinking about songs that affect us deeply, that, to some extent, are a definition of who we are.

Isn't it amazing how a song can do that ... in the words of Killing Me Softly, "...strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words  ..."

For me, the song is How Can I Keep from Singing, as done by Eva Cassidy.  Spend the .99 and download it.  If you have heard an unethusiastic UU congregation mumbling it in a service, you've never really heard this song.  It is soulful and exultant, as done by the late singer.

My life goes on in endless song
above earth's lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it's music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble sick with fear
and hear their death knell ringing,
when friends rejoice both far and near
how can I keep from singing?

I shared it with my mother and she is now in love with it, and wants it played at her funeral.  "You'll never want to hear it again," warns a friend of mine, who recently had to bury her father.  So my mother and I argue, good-naturedly, over the ownership of the song.  But I can't really argue.  After all, I want it played at my funeral.


Shelby Meyerhoff said...

I love that song too, although I haven't heard the Eva Cassidy version yet.

Comrade Kevin said...

May we all sing together and not obsess about which individuals are better able to perform than others. May we all appreciate the words equally.

SC Universalist said...

this particular version of the song was adopted by Pete Seeger - who is a UU. the original song was a hymn written in 1860.

Anonymous said...

I am a composer and a poet. I'm gonna ask you to please, please find out who wrote this, both words and music and give them credit. The way you have written the info here is sounds like the singer wrote it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most poets and musicians get little remuneration so a recognition would go a long way.

Steven Rowe said...

To Anonymous, As noted above, the song was written around 1860, so the particular song is in public domain, this version was adopted by Pete Seeger. Since I wrote that comment above 3 years ago, it's been established that the original tune was published by Robert Lowry in 1869, Lyrics were first published in 1868, as by "Pauline T." Last name unknown.

Lizard Eater said...

Thank you, Steven!