Sunday, January 3, 2010

Episode 100 - Rich Mullins: Here In America

Well this is my 100th post on Reading between the Grooves and I'd like to thank all of the followers – those who are acknowledged as such, the clandestine group of folks that comment to me directly regarding these posts, as well as the many lurkers. To quote the album “National Lampoon’s Radio Dinner,” “I know you are out there, because I can hear you bleeding.”

As of yesterday and since I started counting on October 17, 429 unique individuals have visited this blog and there have been 1,699 page views. Prior to mid October, I haven’t a clue how many found these humble essays that I've been preparing daily regarding music. Since counting, the top five highest daily visitations corresponded with the following topics:
  • December 17, 2009 – The Who’s “Join Together” – 70 visits.
  • December 16, 2009 – Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Way I Feel” – 61 visits.
  • November 4, 2009 – The Hooters’ “And We Danced” – 56 visits.
  • January 2, 2009 – The Moody Blues’ “Are You Sitting Comfortably” – 51 visits.
  • December 6, 2009 – Maria Muldaur’s “Somebody was Watching over me” – 49 visits
For the 100th post, I wanted to do something special. Since I feature spiritual songs on Sunday, I had to find a song that fit both criteria. This really was a tough one for me, but I then decided on taking a song from one of Contemporary Christian Music’s 100 "Greatest Albums in Christian Music." This list was published in 2001, so it is quite dated. Even at that, I am not so sure I agree with all of their choices from previous years.

Going down the list backwards, I had great difficulty finding an album that I considered special enough to include for today's post.  That is until I reached the number three album – Rich Mullins’ “A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band” and hence, the LP’s opening track “Here in America” is my 100th post. I will do this LP’s single “Creed” at a later date.

I find it ironic that the song entitled "Here in America" has a video that was primarily shot in County Claire, Ireland. This just may be an example of Rich's sense of humor or he may have been emphasizing the line in the song that states, "But I am home anywhere if You are where I am."

I had a chance to meet Rich Mullins at least once – perhaps twice (hey, my memory is not what it used to be). On several occasions, Rich visited the church I attend, as his brother Dave was the Associate Minister and later the Senior Minister at this congregation in the 1990s.

I found Rich a real rebel in the Christian music business, as he did as his heart dictated. His lyrical content, musical presentation, and how he viewed his own belief system all worked toward his own success. This may not have worked for anyone else, but it fit his personality perfectly.

Rich Mullins was an excellent musician and he made the piano and hammered dulcimer sing. He had a knack of creating solid lyrical content that often was drawn from his own experiences. The crowning moment was the success of his recording “Awesome God,” which has become a praise and worship staple and will go onto the honor roll of hymns. Unfortunately, Rich's voice was silenced when he was involved in an automobile accident on September 19, 1997 and left this world for the next.

Although I met Rich and had a chance to talk with him, I would have loved to have played music with him - an opportunity that never presented itself. The closest I came to this was to accompany his brother Dave and Jon Schwitzerlette during the spring of 2009.

My two basses, Dobro® DX-100B Californian 
by Moserite and fretless Precision bass copy

We performed one of Rich’s songs, “Boy Like Me/A Man Like you” and I played my Dobro® Bass. This was the first time I’ve played bass in public since the 80s - I had the opportunity to play bass again with Jon a couple of months later. Keith Janney played guitar that time and I played a fretless that my wife and I had recently refinished.

Rich Mullins may be physically gone from this planet; however, his legacy will continue on as does his spirit.


Saints and children we have gathered here to hear the sacred story
And I'm glad to bring it to you with my best rhyming and rhythm
'Cause I know the thirsty listen and down to the waters come
And the Holy King of Israel loves me here in America

And if you listen to my songs I hope you hear the water falling
I hope you feel the oceans crashing on the coast of north New England
I wish I could be there just to see them, two summers past I was
And the Holy King of Israel loves me here in America

And if I were a painter I do not know which I'd paint
The calling of the ancient stars or assembling of the saints
And there's so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see
But everywhere I go I'm looking

And once I went to Appalachia for my father he was born there
And I saw the mountains waking with the innocence of children
And my soul is still there with them wrapped in the songs they brought
And the Holy King of Israel loves me here in America

And I've seen by the highways on a million exit ramps
Those two-legged memorials to the laws of happenstance
Waiting for four-wheeled messiahs to take them home again
But I am home anywhere if You are where I am

And if you listen to my songs I hope you hear the water falling
I hope you feel the oceans crashing on the coast of north New England
I wish I could be there just to see them, two summers past I was
And the Holy King of Israel loves me here in America


  1. Jim -

    Debra Richmond forwarded this to me on facebook. What a great blog! I will be sure and share it with Dave. Hope you all are doing well and surviving all of the snow!

  2. Rich's music does live on and my life is still so affected by his. I am still, here over 12 years since he crosses the Jordan, meeting and learning from people I would never have known of if not for Rich Mullins. I rented a video the other day about contemplative prayer and it was like "three degrees of separation from Rich". What a neat surprise, and wow did i learn from them. It made me smile my face off :)
    I like your thought about why the video was shot in Ireland. I had never thought of it that way.

  3. Very cool. Robin (above) just brought me in the loop via Facebook. Very nice. I will share with all my "Ragamuffin" friends (and I see Amy has already seen the post). Rich's music and ministry certainly affected many lives and I am not surprised at how many more he continues to minister.

  4. Thanks Robin and all. Didn't realize that there were any comments until now. Blogger doesn't provide any notifications as of such to my knowledge.