Friday, June 19, 2015
Sing and Be Happy – Emory S. Peck
He probably had lived in northern Georgia. He might have been a native Georgian, or spent much of his life there. But, we know not much more than that, or do we? Emory S. Peck told us something pretty important about himself when he composed “Sing and Be Happy” in 1940, if you can peer inside the words he wrote, think about what message he had, and ponder a few other details of his surroundings. He was a 47-year old believer, and knew of a recipe for relief from a difficult time, judging by what he says in the three verses he jotted for us to examine. Maybe he himself stayed in the shadows so that his message might attract more light. Maybe that’s what we ought to do, too.
He’s anonymous, but Emory S. Peck does have a biography that someone knows, and a must have said some things in “Sing and Be Happy” that resonated with others. His grave is in a cemetery called Alta Vista, outside of Gainesville, Georgia. It’s a small town, or technically a small city (population 33,000-plus), the seat of Hall County, and nicknamed the “poultry capital of the world”. There’s several notable people who are from Gainesville, but Peck isn’t listed among them. Maybe it’s a mirror of his less-than prolific musical output, which one source indicates was just three songs. Or, perhaps Emory hailed from somewhere else in Georgia, and then made his home in Gainesville at some later point. Or, maybe he was just a happily-ordinary Christian, with this upbeat tune in his toolkit, which he could haul out to dispense advice to others having a bad day. He must have crossed paths with others, or felt this way himself – depressed and burdened (verse 1); tired, grief- or pain-stricken, feeling that life was unfair (verse 2); or feeling forgotten (verse 3). Emory’s solution was consistent. Trust that there’s a brighter end of the road, a goal that will not vanish, one about which we can sing. Focus on that, Peck advises.
This fellow Emory Peck was a 40-something, living in a world with lots of anxieties in 1940. Most historians will quickly surmise that maybe Peck, as perhaps many other Americans experienced in that era, were worried that war (World War II) was on the horizon. Did Emory have sons he thought might be compelled to wear a uniform and a helmet in the near future? His age suggests he had been a young man in his 20s—draft-age--during the first world war. Was Peck a Roosevelt democrat, enamored with FDR’s theme song (“Happy Days Are Here Again”), who decided that he could echo that theme in his Christian walk? Maybe he’d been outta work in the decade of the 1930s, and thought his president’s jocular suggestion was a good one that was beginning to bear fruit as the new decade dawned. It doesn’t have to be a year or a even just a day in the midst of an economic storm, or a looming cloud of global conflict on the horizon to dim one’s outlook. But, hearing these words from a guy who must have had many pressing issues to think about during a time I can only imagine makes me think again about how to respond. None of these concerns were invisible to Emory. He just knew how to see thorough them.
http://www.therestorationmovement.com/_states/georgia/peck.htm (This site indicates he is buried in north Georgia. So, was he a Georgia native, or lived a significant portion of his life there?)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gainesville,_Georgia (may be composer’s hometown)
http://www.hymnary.org/person/Peck_ES1 (site shows three songs attributed to composer)