“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
I recently read David Brooks’s excellent The Second Mountain and it prompted me to think about songs that celebrate loyalty, friendship and supporting one another.
Brooks’s analysis of what ails our modern life is masterful – he highlights the ills of lack of purpose, loneliness, distrust and tribalism. And goes on to lay the blame of much of this on the hyper-individualism that plagues society in America, Europe and other parts of the world.
This, he says, “is a system of morals, feelings, ideas and practices based on the idea that the journey through life is an individual journey, that the goals of life are individual happiness, authenticity, self-actualization, and self-sufficiency.” Hyper-individualism, then, undermines our connections to family, neighbourhood and the common good. Ultimately, it is unsatisfying and dehumanizing.
We are more than simply individuals, however, and we need each other. So Brooks points to the need for commitment, affection and interdependence. He says we need to prioritize those actions like “giving, storytelling, dance, singing…dining, ritual, deep conversation, common prayer, forgiveness, creating beauty, comfort in times of sadness and threat, mutual labor for the common good.”
I don’t know about you, but that sounds awfully attractive.
A friend loves at all times
Here are ten great songs celebrating friendship and mutual support.
Keb’ Mo’ – Lean On Me
Keb’ Mo’ includes Bill Withers Lean on Me on his album, Good to Be.
We all have pain
We all have sorrow…
When you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on.
Martin Harley – Brother
English roots artist and slide guitar maestro Martin Harley says of this song on his Roll with the Punches album, “Brother delivers a simple message offering friendship, consolation and an open door. An option to talk in person and to be heard. To be there for someone.”
If the load gets heavy and hard to stand
Brother, call on me
I’ll be there to lend a hand
Brother, call on me.
Luke Winslow King – Everlasting Arms
King’s 2014 title track from his Everlasting Arms album is a joyous celebration of friendship and just lending a hand. It’s a simple, catchy tune with straightforward words, but with a powerful message.
You can lean on me brother
I believe you carry too long
It’s such a long way back long.
With My Own Two Hands – Ben Harper
From his 2003 album, Diamonds on the Inside, Harper’s song encourages us to contribute to things like make the world safer, brighter, and more peaceful, using “our own two hand.” But there’s a nice undercurrent of working together in the song. The Playing for Change version is a good ‘un.
Now I can hold you, in my own two hands
And I can comfort you, with my own two hands
But you got to use, use your own two hands
Use your own, use your own two hands
Brother’s Keeper – Walter Trout
From Trout’s 2012 album, Blues for the Modern Daze. The song recalls the biblical story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, when Abel, after murdering his brother asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Walter Trout answers a resounding “Yes!” in this terrific song. The live version here features some guitar pyrotechnics from Trout. [Check out our more detailed look at this song here]
We’re supposed to be a brother’s keeper
I believe we’re supposed to hear him when he calls
I believe we’re supposed to help him
I believe we’re supposed to catch him when he falls
Glen Campbell – Try a Little Kindness
Back in time and going a little bit country with this one. This live version of Campbell’s 1970 hit version of Bobby Austin’s song shows off not only Campbell’s great singing voice but his excellent guitar chops. Kindness is sadly lacking in our get-more, achieve-more, be-more world. But it’s a powerful thing.
Don’t walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way
You got to try a little kindness
Yes, show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
Let Us Walk Together – Rev Gary Davis
Hailed as “one of the greatest figures in twentieth century American music,” Davis is all but unknown these days save to blues fans. His guitar wizardry came to the fore in the folk revival of the early 1960s and he influenced a generation of singer-songwriters and rock musicians. He sang mostly gospel songs and Let Us Walk Together is a typical Gary Davis song, with a simple melody and lyrics, brought to life by his mesmerizing guitar picking. [You can check out our piece on Gary Davis here]
Let us walk together
Right down here
Do Something – Matthew West
Matthew West is an American singer-songwriter and actor. This song is from his 2012 album Into the Light. This song was inspired by West meeting a young woman who had gone to Uganda and found an orphanage in dire straits and had worked to create a safe space for the children to flourish. She told West about her fight for these children, “I just kept thinking, ‘if I don’t do something, who will?”
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, yeah, I created you
James Taylor – You Got a Friend
No collection of songs of this nature would be complete without the Carole King song that James Taylor has made his one from 1971 onwards. No need to say anything more.
You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin’
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend
I Think It’s Going to Rain Today – Nina Simone
Our final song is Nina Simone singing this Randy Newman song. This beautiful jazz version is on Simone’s 1969 album Nina Simone and Piano, and the simplicity of the arrangement and Simone’s voice make for an emotional appeal for the milk of human kindness to overcome frozen smiles, indifference and need.
Right before me, the signs implore me
Help the needy and show them the way
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it`s going to rain today.
And if you want to find out more about what caring for our fellow humans means, find a Bible and go to 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Here’s a snippet:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant. It is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury.