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27 January 2023
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Viewpoint from Tony Mallion 28/10/2016
Chairman of the Identity Youth Project
also published in the Great Yarmouth Mercury
Awarding the American pop singer and writer Bob Dylan a Nobel prize for literature for his lyrics has certainly caused a stir in the past few days and kept radio phone ins and newspaper letter columns busy. In my early days at BBC Radio Norfolk an exasperated listener told me he was fed up with what he regarded as the excess of ‘modern pop music’ being played by the station. Local radio music was carefully selected to try and meet many tastes but this caller would have none of it. He wanted songs with good lyrics and the ones he was hearing did not satisfy his demands. What would he have thought about the award to Dylan?
Lyrics have their place and mean different things to different people. Composer Cole Porter included in his song I Get a Kick Out of You one of my favourite lines:’I get no kick from champagne – mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all’. As a nondrinker I may agree with the sentiments but it is actually the inspired double rhyme which brings me delight. Lines like that are written purely for pleasure but there are also those which have deeper significance, especially hymns
These are intended to convey worship to the glory of God and can speak to us in many ways. In earlier times when literacy was lacking and Bibles and services were in language not always understood by ordinary people hymns could teach great spiritual truths. The work of writers of centuries ago like Charles and John Wesley, Isaac Watts and John Newton live on and can still point us in that direction if we let them
Recently the Radio Four Daily Service (weekdays 9.45 am) focused on the work of hymn writers ancient and modern including Graham Kendrick who has produced over 200 worship songs of which the best known is Shine Jesus, Jesus Shine
He also wrote The Servant King and explained how the two words, servant and
king, inspired him because they showed how the creator God and Heavenly father
was also the Saviour Jesus who demonstrated servanthood by washing the feet of
his disciples and ultimately dying on the cross. Graham Kendrick so beautifully captured all of this in a line of profound poetry: ‘Hands that flung stars into space; to cruel nails surrendered. This is our God, the Servant King.’ Now that’s what I call a truly great lyric!