Sunday, November 6, 2011

His Name Is Life – Carman Licciardello and Bill Gaither

If nothing else could be said about the man named Carman, at least one could say he knew a winner when he saw it. And the same might be said of his collaborator Bill Gaither in 1983. The two of them composed something that neither of them could claim as his own, and even together, they could not assert that their thoughts were original. Much of the song’s lyrics are obviously taken from ancient texts. For both Carman Licciardello and Bill Gaither, that is OK. You cannot do better than what the poets said centuries ago, which their two contemporary counterparts have repeated some two millennia later in “His Name Is Life”. Together, Licciardello, Gaither, and the ancient poets define ‘life’ for us, though scientists might suggest it looks like an amoeba (see picture). 

The 27-year old Carman and 47-year old Bill must have been reading their bibles, like Christians you’d expect, and marveling at all the ways to relate to God’s son when they wrote this tune in 1983. They had been travelling musical companions in the early 1980’s, and so you can imagine they must have shared lots of time together discussing what each other thought about Jesus. He has lots of names, but they centered their thoughts on thirteen of them.  We don’t know what particular events brought about Carman’s and Bill’s creativity, but with gifted musicians, it doesn’t take much. Just a few well-chosen moments of study, of Spirit-led immersion and focus, mingled with plucking on a guitar or tinkling on the ivory keys. Maybe Carman and Bill were merely humming some notes when they ran across the names that struck them one day. Some of us are moved by his humanity, his compassion for His earthly children, and so we might favor ‘Teacher’ or simply ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, an identity we can more easily grasp. Not so with these two composers, at least not when they reached out to Him and to each other in this musical inspiration.  Most of the names they chose evoke images of Jesus the transcendent. Perhaps it’s a phenomenon of music, to reach for the highest rung with our hearts. Maybe it was also His way of drawing these two composers closer to Himself. 

Why’d Carman Licciardello and Bill Gaither choose thirteen names, not twelve or fourteen or more? Well, perhaps the syllabic tempo of the music they chose dictated that certain names were used. With their sense of musical pace, perhaps they just let go until it felt right, until that moment when they said ‘Yeh, that’s it.’ Is it ever an accident when the Spirit is engaged during songwriting? Was it for David when he strummed on a lyre while watching sheep? How does one touch creative musical genius? It seems two guys in 1983 might have found a method that worked for them.

Look at these two websites for information on the two composers:

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