Let The River Run

Carly Simon

note the New York World Trade Center twin towers in the background

When I first heard this song, I was so surprised and puzzled by the strong emotional effect it had on me that I wanted to look into it further.

It was written by Carly Simon for the film ‘Working Girl’, a romantic comedy set in 1980s New York. The plot has a young woman secretary who is unfairly treated find justice and achieve success. Here we see Carly Simon singing interspersed with scenes from the film’s opening where workers are making their commute by ferry across the river to Manhattan. In the background is the Statue of Liberty and ahead of them the ‘silver city’. On the surface then, it is about their aspirations to succeed in the big city – materially and maybe romantically too.

For me though, the song transcends this context and speaks of a yearning that goes beyond hopes for material wealth or security. The words ‘New Jerusalem’ immediately lead us towards religious ideas.

Let the river run

Let all the dreamers wake the nation

Come, the New Jerusalem.

Let The River Run was taken up as a theme by the international Women’s March in January 2017, held the day after the inauguration of President Trump in America to protest against his anti-women and anti-human rights policies. It seems to fit the great flow of humanity, joining together like tributaries into a mighty river surging towards justice.

The Bible has many references to rivers, but here is a famous quote from the prophet Amos:

… let justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry.

Amos 5:24

Credit to BBC Soul Music Series 27, broadcast on 23 January 2019

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000253j

Call Me

Blondie

“Blondie’s Back” Live Concert at The Town Hall 1999, New York City

In the 1970s Blondie had a string of hits and although the publicity made them look like a manufactured pop product, they were in fact a ‘proper’ rock band as you can see here.

This song was a big hit in the 1980s, having been written as the main theme for the film ‘American Gigolo’ in which Richard Gere plays a male prostitute who is framed for murder. ‘Call me’ is being sung from the point of view of his character, clearly an advertisement and invitation to make use of his personal services. I’d like to re-purpose the refrain of the song as a message from God to us all:

Call me on the line
Call me, call me anytime
Call me, oh my love
When you’re ready we can share the wine

These corona virus days are troubled times and this is an invitation to pray. Pray for those suffering the disease and its after-effects, pray for grieving families and friends, pray for stressed and lonely people, poor and frightened people. Pray for God to guide our leaders, pray for the medical staff and all the key workers. Pray that some good will come from this for our society, our economy and our environment. And if you’re reading this in the future when this particular crisis is over, I’m sure there will be something else to pray about – just read the news.

God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him.

I Peter 5.7

Don’t Give Up

Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush

We all need hugs!

March 2020 – Covid-19 lockdown – the world is uncertain, jobs are lost or fragile. Many people are literally “home alone”. A friend of mine who lives alone, previously articulate and outspoken on Facebook, suddenly removed their account preceded by one message to me:

I'm tired... Nobody cares, they all think I'm a heretic. There's only so much a bloke can take

Self-isolation and social distancing takes many different forms, not just physical.

I listened again to this beautifully moving song from Peter Gabriel, written in the 1980s when coal mines were being closed and unemployment was high. Wikipedia links it to Gabriel’s response to photos taken in the American Depression era. “He composed lyrics within a situation about a man whose unemployment causes stress in his domestic relationship. The verses, sung by Gabriel, describe the man’s feelings of isolation, loneliness and despair; the choruses, sung by Bush, offer words of hope and encouragement.”

And when I read that paragraph something resonated – isolation, loneliness and despair – all words we are using to describe the situation we currently face.

The video is simply a very long hug between Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush as he pours out his despair and she pours in her encouragement and hope. She assures him that he belongs, that he is not alone in this crisis: 

“Don’t give up, ‘Cause you have friends
Don’t give up, You’re not the only one
Don’t give up, No reason to be ashamed
Don’t give up, You still have us

The need to belong somewhere, to someone, to a community, resonates with us all across the world right now. In South Africa the word used is “ubuntu” and the phrase “umntu, ngumntu ngabantu” helps to understand that “A person is a person through other people”….or “I am because I belong”. 

9 “Don’t get tired of helping others. You will be rewarded when the time is right, if you don’t give up. 10 We should help people whenever we can…” )
Galatians 6.9-10

Don’t give up helping others … I wonder who I can “sing” this song to today? And maybe these are words that God also “sings” to us?

Don’t give up now, We’re proud of who you are
Don’t give up, You know it’s never been easy
Don’t give up, ‘Cause I believe there’s a place
There’s a place where we belong

©Judith Twani

Links
Wikipedia – Don’t Give Up
Hotlipsmusic – Hold On Tight To Your Dream