We used to be singing people. We sang in the car. We gathered around the piano and sang old hymns, folk songs and songs that made us laugh.
I don’t know where it stopped, but I doubt many of you could scrounge around the house and find a songbook of any kind.
In a box somewhere is a Broadman hymnal, a Cokesbury hymnal, a Baptist hymnal and a red one called the Church hymnal. I also have a Readers Digest songbook of great old American songs.
If I found them, I would have to dust them off.
Last Sunday when I was out of town, I found myself in a place that sells burgers and shakes at 11 a.m. Earlier, I visited a church and they sang absolutely nothing I recognized. The words were on a screen, but they were unfamiliar.
I was watching the online stream of my church and the choir sang a beautiful arrangement of “Jesus Loves Me.”
I sat in a restaurant booth sobbing. It was a song that was among the first I learned. My mama sang it to me. I sang it in Sunday school. It was the gospel pure and simple.
My weeping was both joy and sadness. A waitress saw me and brought me a milkshake. It was a little bit of heaven on earth, a little “Jesus Loves Me” served up with a chocolate shake.
We now equip our SUVs and minivans with video screens. We pacify children with the latest animated fare piped in on headphones.
I’m sure it was a bit annoying, but we sang when we rode in the car. We might sing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” or “She’ll be Comin’ around the Mountain.” Our songs might be the aforementioned “Jesus Loves Me” or “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
I think about those songs. I often wonder just who was this horn-blowing woman named Dinah and who was the banjo player who was with her in the kitchen.
We would sing, “Let me call you Sweetheart” or “In the Good Old Summertime.” No one uses the term “Tootsie-Wootsie” anymore, but we should.
Today, it seems a child’s first song is likely to be some drivel from Taylor Swift or Beyonce.
Folks will say, “Isn’t that cute.”
No, it isn’t.
Songs can take us into seasons. Songs like “Easter Parade” and “Over the River and Through the Woods” marked Easter and Thanksgiving holidays. Countless songs celebrate Christmas.
We used to sing “Auld Lang Syne” at New Year’s. The Scottish title translates into English as old long since or times gone by. Sadly, the big New York celebration has replaced the old classic with “New York, New York.” It’s a nice song, but it doesn’t say “Happy New Year.”
I think our singing of the past is hanging by a thread. I don’t know if it will ever make a comeback, but it should.
Songs can make us laugh, cry, reminisce and remember. They belong in a songbook and in our hearts.
Sing with your kids and your grandkids. Sing whether you sound good or not. One day they might be sitting somewhere and cry at the memory of time well spent.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.