Monday, June 2, 2008


Listen to JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE by Patsy Cline.
Listen to JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE by Loretta Lynn.
Listen to JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE by Mahalia Jackson.

With apologies to you readers, and to the "soul-funk funk-soul" series (which will return someday), and with thanks to John and Jason for covering, I'm back with a detour from the regularly scheduled programming.

One reason we were away was to attend my grandfather's funeral back home. Those of you who have met him will know what a loss that is. But I'm not soliciting tributes (in the comments section at least), and this week isn't totally related to him, but it is somewhat. This post will be especially, to set up the back story.

We had to plan for the funeral, of course. I got put in charge of the music, which suited me fine. Fortunately, Grandpa left some guidance. About 15-20 years ago, Grandpa had a cancer scare. At the time he wrote himself out a program for his funeral service on a sheet of paper, and had held onto it until the end. I was now given this piece of paper.

The directions were characteristically plain-spoken and a little wry ("solo singer, preferably male"; "prayers okay, no sermon"). The blue ink had seeped into the paper.

One of the things he had done was make a list of songs he wanted included. I was a little disappointed, in spite of myself. The Old Rugged Cross; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; Memories; My Buddy; Always; Peace In The Valley; My Way. It's not that I had objections to Grandpa's taste (endearingly conventional), really, just that I didn't have any great versions of these in the vaults (that I thought I could use anyway, i.e., not the Gipsy Kings' version of My Way!). Plus, despite not having anything great, serviceable versions were so easy to find. i was basically done in ten minutes.

One song stood out though. Grandpa had written: "Just A Closer Walk With Thee by Ray Price." Hmmm... Don't have that one.

Why had Grandpa picked this specific version? I was quickly wishing that he hadn't. I know Ray Price (Night Life being one of my favorite country tunes), I even knew he was still out recording. But I didn't know this one, and I couldn't find it anywhere (turns out there's a good reason for that, which I'll explain later). I spent a couple of hours on the internet before the funeral, but it was in vain. If Grandpa didn't have a copy (he didn't), there was nothing I could do.

I picked what I thought was an appropriate substitute, and the funeral service went along fine. But I felt a little disappointed in myself, like I let my grandfather down. Whether it's that, or just natural curiosity, I've spent the intervening days piling up as many different versions of Just A Walk With Thee as I can. (And there are more than you can imagine!)

So that's why we only have one song this week. These three are three of the "substitutes" I considered for the funeral. Come back tomorrow sometime and I'll share some more versions!

Photo: Most Holy Redeemer Church (1).



Penny said...

I hadn't heard of the previous cancer scare. How lovely to have his plans from that time.

Not only are his conventional choices endearing, they are understandable. You've now probably listened to most of the same songs at his funeral that he undoubtably listened to when he lost his own grandparent or parent. I wouldn't wish grief upon anyone, but I hope he had as sweet memories of his own grandfather as you have of yours. Again, glad you're back.

bill said...

thanks! nice to be back