Dear Partner Letter #16: Among Friends

Songs & Stories From Home Episode 76

AMONG FRIENDS

 

Sure good to see you it’s been much too long
As we start talking it’s like you’ve never been gone
Laugh about old times about where we’ve been
No better feeling than to be among friends

Chorus

Among friends
Things are so right among friend
Feel so alive among friends
We are tonight among friends
It’s good to be among friends

 

In June of 1995 McCoy and I celebrated thirty years of friendship with a concert we called Among Friends. That was the first verse and the  chorus of the song that opened the show. The Between Friends album had long defined our singing as something between the two of us. This concert and the songs we introduced that night would celebrate the ever growing circle of the music and our lives.

 

Dear Partner, 

A longtime friend from California, Bruce Goddard, had unexpectedly showed up with his daughter on Pat’s and my wedding day. They were a welcome addition to our celebration. Two months later Bruce was back in town to introduce the Among Friends concert. Here’s a bit of what he said…   

Want to comment myself that thirty years is a long time. It’s been a wonderful trip. And the thing I think I’m most impressed about all of this is how the circle of friends continues to grow. That it’s an inclusive circle that brings people in. It’s bigger now than it was and it aint as big as it’s gonna be. That for me is very impressive. So sit back, relax, it’s okay to enjoy yourself because you are among friends. (And would you please welcome to our stage Mark Pearson and Mike McCoy.)

Nineteen ninety-five had been a prolific time for me as a songwriter. Songs for Pat’s and my wedding. Songs for Lindsey’s high school graduation. Songs for Nashville including some that hoped to showcase The Brothers Four as a still viable recording act. And then the songs we introduced Among Friends. And while the recording quality’s not the best including being a bit speeded up, the spirit’s there, sometimes with a slightly out of tune guitar.

The song Luck and Love and Time tells the story of how we built your house of logs. Row by row. Day by day. When the rafters fell, it was lucky no one got hurt. And in the end that house was truly built with care and love. And the song went on to explain that success in any form or forum takes some luck, that good things take time and without love nothing is really worth that much, and yet when we have those three there is no limit to what we might do or discover.

 

I remember building that log cabin
Stacked logs row by row
Every day they went a little bit higher
Slowly watched that cabin grow
Then came the day the rafters fell
Thought for sure that we would die
Picked up the pieces one by one
Just to keep the dream alive

Chorus

Wondered if we'd ever reach the top
Not sure how to keep going or if the rain would ever stop
Now the cabin stands a monument to tryin'
Built with luck and love and time

 

The song Let’s Leave This Town Together was an invitation to my older brother. Until I was five years old he was my best and sometimes only friend. For years after that he was the standard by which I measured myself often unsuccessfully. When we were in our 30’s, although we didn’t live that far from one another he seemed to be keeping his distance. I remember after a holiday with extended family asking him if he could explain to me why he was withdrawing from me. And finally referencing an imaginary town we created as kids involving what were known as Dinky Toys, he explained he was keeping his distance because I had left Dinky Town without him. In other words he felt I had abandoned him. The song was written hoping we can  let go of our childhood fears, in this case set the ghosts of our old ghost town free. The recording from that night was lost. So I’m singing the first verse and chorus now…  

 

Brother, here's the place we used to play
No signs of the times or the town we made
For years that imaginary town was home
A place that was safe and ours alone
For so long it was you and I
Imaginations kept our town alive
There was no way that we could know
That town was something we’ d outgrow

Chorus

Let's leave our town together
Safely in our memories
Let go of our childish fears
Set the ghosts of our old ghost town free

McCoy, you and I both came to the University of Washington on football scholarships. In the fall of 94 you were back in Sumner, your hometown. You and the team you were part of 30 years earlier was being honored. In telling me about that reunion you talked about a talented childhood friend who had died too soon, and the way you described him inspired me to write the song The Ballad of Dick Standley

In a small town growing up Dick was what you might call the king
In our neighborhood when we were kids he could do everything
He was the quarterback and with the basketball the things he could do
Whatever team he played on you knew that Dick would come through
In the summer of his thirteenth year was when everything changed
We learned that Dick was dying and life was never the same
With disbelief and horror we were made to realize
That life's a precious, fleeting thing and even kings will die

No one knew just what to do when news came Dick had died
This wasn’t supposed to happen so we all just met outside
We decided to play a football game even now as I look back
I can't explain the reasons I was chosen quarterback 
The first play I just faded back threw the ball into the air
The distance that ball traveled we just stopped and stared
In our fourteen year old logic it was like we could believe
Somehow part of Richard was now alive in me

So it was we wore the crown set records played the games
Dick remained part of every pass and part of every play
I thought about those games and years and life out on that field
How we are all connected in ways sometimes unrevealed
As I walked to the sidelines that evening a friend’s son ran up to me
With a six year old’s confidence he proclaimed "I'll break your records, you'll see"
I told him that I hoped he did as his dad just grinned with pride
I didn't have the heart to tell him that the records weren't just mine

 

There was a song for your son, Riley. A story about what might have happened if you had truly spread your dad’s ashes on Mt. Rainier, and when Riley was born you had returned to the mountain to share the good news with you dad. 

I've come to this mountain meadow where these wildflowers grow
The place we spread your ashes, Dad, seven years ago
I have come back to visit you this rainy summer morn
To tell you I'm a father now your grandson has been born

Chorus

We're all part of the river of life the branches on a tree
Just as I'm a part of you he's part of you and me
Our spirit remains so alive though your earthly race is run
From a son to a father from a father to a son

And a song for your daughter, Kiesa. A bedtime song. A song a bout how being afraid of the dark is nothing to be afraid of when we can see a reassuring light. Perhaps even a light shining just for us, our Special Lucky Star. When we sang the song that night we had no idea how important it would soon be to see such a light shining through the darkness.

 

It's time for you to go to sleep the day has turned to night
Whatever's left to do will keep so let's turn out the light
You say the darkness scares you some the darkness scares me too
So we will turn the night light on to shine for me and you

Chorus

Just like a star to guide us to help us through the night
To wish upon to dream and trust to lead us to the light
Those times when you might chance to wake it shines there in the dark
Waiting for the dawn to break your special lucky star

We introduced a song that night called “The Real McCoy” that  celebrated a life of love and truth. It turned out the song was not about who you had become but about who you were on the road to becoming.

You know he always could hide behind his pride and his cool
Not everybody's hero he was nobody's fool
When you saw him you were looking at a golden boy
No reason to think it's not the real McCoy

Things looked different to the man inside
More frightened and lonely than we realized
And all that he loved might have been destroyed
If he couldn’t find that real McCoy

Bridge

Find him he must and find him he did
Now he’s not just a middle-aged kid
But he’s sharing who he is to the broad daylight
After living through a long dark night

Then there was a song about singing together, that night celebrating thirty years’ worth, and how good it can be when it feels like the whole world is ours for a song. 

When we were eighteen didn't wonder what life means
We were carefree and careless and strong
With nothing to lose young and bullet proof
The whole world was ours for a song

Didn't know where the road would take us we'd go
Make life up as we went along
Sometimes we got lost unaware of the cost
The world remained ours for a song

Bridge

After taking our chances and paying our dues
Singing our share of love songs our share of the blues
When the music would stop was the time we both knew
We had to find ways to keep singing

With songs we have sung we are no longer young
Our innocent days are all gone
But given a choice we will still raise our voice
And make the world ours for a song

A few months after the concert I gave you a book for your birthday of what felt like the most significant original songs we had sung through the years. I think I was thinking we had reached a summit of sorts. A part of me believing our best days on stage might be behind us. That our friendship had somehow plumbed the depths of what I knew friendship to be. We had no idea the true heart of our journey together was simply waiting to be discovered.     

Songs & Stories From Home | Mark Pearson Music

One of Those Times in a Life | Mark Pearson Music

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