The Day the Music Died

This Cup is a kind of riff on Jim Quigley’s sermon on Christmas Day about a group of scholars who met to consider the dominant characteristic of America at the beginning of the 21st Century and who concluded that it is despair.

When our daughter picked up me and Jonnie Sue at the Portland bus terminal on December 26 for a holiday visit, Christmas music had already been swept away from the airwaves, and “American Pie” by Don McLean was playing on her radio. I was reminded of my interpretation of one of its phrases, “the day the music died,” which is completely different from that which has become the predominant one, a reference to the deaths of Buddy Holly, J.P.Richardson, and Ritchie Valens in a plane crash in 1959. I don’t remember that being the interpretation until quite a few years after the song came out, but it is touted now as “the” interpretation. Just check Wikipedia.

I find myself in strange company though thinking that it has deeper meaning because Glenn Beck does too. He sees in the lyrics of “American Pie” a mourning of the loss of American conservative traditions. I see it quite the opposite. To me, “the day the music died” was not a day of 24 hours or a sudden event like a plane crash but the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Together, I think, those events put America in a state of depression and despair that we are still in. It wasn’t so much those individuals, per se, but the movements they led and embodied and the stark realization that the manifest will of the people, the hopes and aspirations of millions, could be nullified – negated – by just three guys with guns. We have not quit entirely, but we have been groping our way in a fog and a daze ever since; the music hasn’t come back to life yet.

But as Jim said, there is hope. It is in the eternal repository of hope – the Gospel of Jesus. It is in the proclamation by churches of the Gospel of Jesus. It is in the encouragement and the strengthened resolve of men and women in the worlds of politics and business who hear the proclamation by churches of the Gospel of Jesus and who continue the upward progress to freedom, equality, and justice. The music will come to life again.

Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 31-December-2013.

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