I took our youth group to a David Meece concert last night. He was playing a free concert at the Liberty Theater at the same time as our usual meeting: so it seemed like a good swap. Most of my kids had no idea who he was/is: but then they all think the 1980’s is ancient history. Millennials, what are you going to do?
For those of you who might not be well versed in “ancient history” — David was really big in the late 80’s as a contemporary Christian artist. Huge, in fact. His music is all over the place and even if you don’t know his name, if you’ve been in a contemporary worship service in the past 30 years, there’s a good chance you’ve sung some of it.
His music wasn’t really my thing in the late 80’s but I knew who he was. In 1979, I had no clue. I was in 4th grade and Contemporary Christian Music wasn’t even on my radar. I was busy trying to make my board straight hair curl and reading every book I could get my hands on.
In fourth grade, our entire class began music lessons. We were all blessed with this tiny plastic “pre-recorder”, the name of which completely escapes me. Apparently easy to learn (though, horrible to play!) these starter instruments functioned to weed out the musically inclined from the not so gifted: in hopes of stacking the 5th grade band deck! Oh to be a chosen 5th grader! So, as a class, we began music lessons that became part of our school routine: with the knowledge that we’d soon be performing our newly found “skills” at the annual Christmas Concert.
I practiced. I was THAT kid. But sometime during the fall, I also found time to write an original song about the sadness of war, teach it to my friends, and convince my music teacher to let us perform at big event in December.
I told you, I was THAT kid.
The night of the concert came, we were awesome. No really, we were. One of my bestie’s cooler older brothers told us so! We sang our little hearts out, played our little plastic instruments (nope, still can’t remember what it’s called), and looked on with envy at the 5th graders, who had REAL instruments that night.
Skip forward about 15 years or so. I’m in a mall at Christmas time and an instrumental version of the song I wrote starts to play. I hum along for a few minutes until the realization hits me. Wait a minute.
I wrote that song.
Wait a minute: no I didn’t.
Turns out, my nine year old self was a plagiarist. Who knows if the song being pumped through store’s loud speakers had any lyrics, but there was no disputing the musical bit. The verse structure was exactly what I’d written all those years ago!
Now, I have NO idea if the people who populated my nine year old world had any idea that I lifted a Christmas carol but I highly doubt it. I can’t imagine them letting me get away with it! I wasn’t the popular kid who always got a pass and I didn’t have adults in my life who would have found it “charming.” I actually think they believed, as I did, that I’d created something completely original.
The years would pass without my ever knowing. It’s hard to track down a song with only a melody. I never heard it again and I had no idea who the original composer was. So, this musical influence remained a mystery, and I forgot all about it. Until last night.
As David started to play, “One Small Child”, I began to smile. I know that song, I wrote it! I leaned over to IZ and whispered, “Remind me to tell you a story about this song.”
I didn’t lift the song wholesale: my lyrics (what I remember of them) were different. But it’s clear to me, that at some point in my childhood, I had to have heard his song (which he wrote in 1966) at least once. Enough for it to stick, but not enough that I would recognize having heard it before. Though, for the life of me, I have no idea when that happened.
Which should lead us into a conversation about the mystery of memory. But today, I’m going to be content with solving this mystery: It was David Meece’s song I stole in 1979.
One conundrum a day, right?