I was thinking the other day about a song I heard when I was growing up… Greg X. Volz’s, “The River Is Rising” (Greg being of the Petra fame). My sister, Amy, had this album (the song was the title of the album) on tape and I think we pretty much wore the tape thin. We loved this album tremendously and it became pretty much a part of our musical DNA.
Well, I decided to Google Mr. Volz and see what was out there. While the legality of the posted material is somewhat questionable, I did manage to find the entire album (though a very low quality version) out on YouTube. No video - just a scanned shot of the album cover - and the audio.
Now, it came out in 1986, and it really sounds like it came out in 1986, but it was pretty progressive for Christian music of its day. Heck, there were guitar solos (gasp)! But what struck me about it was how it literally transported me back-in-time to those trips in the car when Amy and I used a headphone splitter to listen to Petra, Volz, DeGarmo and Key, U2, and even Lead Zepplin (oooooooh…).
The thing that struck me about Volz (and the other music we listened to), was the hook. That part of the music that sucked you in and held you… The thing that identified the songs in 2 measures or less.
It also showed me a glimpse into how I hear music and how much of what I write was influenced by these albums. When I work on a song, it starts from a base of something floating around in my head. Given my limited experience, the net result generally never sounds like what I’m hearing in my head. But the songs I hear and the songs I work out have a root hook that defines them no matter how they turn out.
After hearing that album again after all these years, I realized that a lot of those hooks started there and in the other albums we listened to. They’re not the same, but they certainly have some striking similarities. Even after all these years, I’ve forgotten in my conscious memory most of that music, but they’re all a part of my being - my DNA.
It makes me think about the music my boys’ are listening to. My oldest, Clayton, is somewhat infatuated with the music of Chris Tomlin. Tonya put a CD together of his music from her iTunes account and it gets some serious rotation in the van. The other day, he came to her and said, “Mom, I need to hear some good music” (referencing our Tomlin CD). Seeing as though it was better than hearing him fight with his brother, she quickly obliged. She asked him if he wanted to listen to it in the living room or on the porch. He said, “The porch.”
That boy… 5 years old… sat out there on the porch swing for 45 minutes by his own will and just listened to the music.
Now, I’m not sure what Mr. Tomlin’s influences were, but I’d be shocked if Petra and friends weren’t somehow a part. If not, they’d have to be at least 2 or 3 degrees removed. And I know Tomlin’s music will influence my son as he brings his own music to life. I find it fascinating how the torch gets passed from one generation to the next, each singing their own song, but building those songs from the roots of their elders.