If you’ve never been to an Eric Bibb gig, next time he’s on the same continent as you, make plans and go! Eric’s gigs are outstanding experiences – he’s not only a talented singer, songwriter and guitarist, but the whole spiritual, positive vibe from the gig will stay with you long after the gig has finished. You’ll have a smile on your face for a week afterwards – guaranteed!
His hallmark song, performed at every concert is “Needed Time.” This is an old traditional song, brought to prominence by Texas guitar-slinger Lightnin’ Hopkins (Rolling Stone magazine included Hopkins at number 71 on their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time), and recorded by him in 1950. Hopkins, although a prolific recording artist – he is the most recorded blues artist ever, with an estimated 800-1,000 tracks recorded over five decades from the 30s to the 70s – recorded few spiritual songs, just Needed Time and Sinner’s Prayer, as far as I know.
Needed Time refers to the sense of needing God to come into whatever circumstances we’re experiencing. “Now is the needed time…” the song goes, and then prays for “Jesus to come by here,” “even if you won’t stay long.” It a song of aspiration, giving voice to a felt need of help in the difficulties of everyday experience. Hopkins once said, “I play it from my heart and soul…The blues is something that the people can’t get rid of. And if you ever have the blues, remember what I tell you. You’re gonna hear this in your heart… slowly rough and delicately brutal, like stones being rattled in a can of ribbon cane syrup.” For sure Needed Time is a song that seems to come from the heart and soul.
Never more so as in the hands of Eric Bibb. It’s always a special moment in his gigs when he launches into the song and invites you to “think of someone you love,” as he caresses his way through the song. The song reminds me of Psalm 42: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” The Psalm talks of turmoil and trouble, the taunts of enemies and a sense of abandonment by God. And yet somehow there is the an underlying sense of trust in God’s goodness and a cry from the heart that God would eventually “come by here.” As Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann says, the Psalms work on the assumption that “if you don’t summon God, nothing will happen.” (see brief video below)
The Psalms seem to wrestle at a deep, gut level with the experience of trials, and yet they are also shot through with a deep seated hope for change – which is one of the reasons why they are so widely read and appreciated. Needed Time is a kind of modern Psalm, with a sense of both despair and hope, a realistic facing of the troubles of the hour, a cry for God to come and hence a hope for the future
“Now is the needed time…now is the needed time
Jesus won’t you come by here…prayin’ won’t you come by here
Even if you won’t stay long…prayin’won’t you come by here.”
Lightnin’ Hopkins’ New York Times obituary named him as “one of the great country blues and perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players.” Here is Brooks Williams’ tribute to Lightnin’…
Walter Brueggmann on the Psalms
And finally, here’s Lightnin’