Hymn To Her

“And she will always carry on
Something is lost
But something is found
They will keep on speaking her name
Some things change
Some stay the same”

From “Hymn To Her” by The Pretenders

One of my favourite books is Johnny Cash’s autobiography, “Cash”.  The way he wrote makes me imagine the two of us sat conversing in a car on a road trip to who knows where.  I reckon I’d have relished hanging out and chatting to that wise old saint.

Many in my generation only really came to appreciate The Man In Black through the five albums known as “The American Recordings” that Rick Rubin produced in Johnny’s final few years.  Collections of old classics re-worked, newly penned songs, cover versions by artists as diverse as Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Beck and Simon and Garfunkle.  Those albums also include recitals of old songs from his mother’s hymnals. 

Those records sounds so real, so honest and so frail and vulnerable at times.  The sound of a man nearing the end of his days, missing his wife, and at peace with his Maker.

On reading John R’s story, he tells of childhood days of back-breaking work in the cotton fields.  A subsistence way of life from a bygone era it seems.  He recounts his Mama singing spirituals and them all joining in.  I expect that those songs conveyed truths and beliefs.  Those songs turned their gaze away from their own situation and their toil and directed their thoughts elsewhere.  Those songs from his childhood were songs he revisited in his latter years.  It sounds like the connection to those words and songs were a bloodline or a lifeline of sorts.

I don’t spend much time thinking about hymns and, yet, I like the idea of one generation being a torch bearer and passing a baton down through ancestry. 

I never knew one set of my grandparents.  The others were folks I only ever saw once or twice a year.  The older I get, the more I realise that they are people I should have invested more time and interest in.  I know so little about my family tree and I’m told that a whole bunch of records went up in smoke in some family row years ago. 

Despite that, I love the idea of genealogy and inheritance.  I love the rawness of emotion and the brutal honesty of the Psalms.  It contrasts so much with what many of us have experienced in church and organised religion at times.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night and am not silent.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

you are the praise of Israel.

In you our fathers put their trust;

they trusted and you delivered them.

They cried to you and were saved;

in you they trusted and were not disappointed”

Psalm 22 v1-5.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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