Sunday, December 6, 2015

Songwriting 101: "Let There Be Peace On Earth"

Growing up Catholic in the 1970s, I remember hearing "Let There Be Peace On Earth" a fair amount at church.  If you've ever been to Catholic mass more than once, it becomes evident pretty fast why this song would stand out.  For starters, there's the wonderful 3/4 waltz time, which I've always been a bit of a sucker for.  Also, the lyrics are completely accessible to a young person.  The lyrics aren't about something long ago and far away; up high that you can't understand.  There are no profound theological concepts, there's no archaic terminology.  It's about changing the world by changing  yourself.  Indeed, you can't change anything unless you recognize and address your own shortcomings that might contribute to the mess of a world in which we live.  Meaningful change is never an easy task, but it is quite doable on an individual level.  You can sing all the songs about God's might and power that you want, but you can't do a fucking thing about God.  (After all, he's the alpha and the omega, the is, was and ever shall be, right?)  You can, however, do something about yourself.  If enough people drop fear as their motivation for action (or inaction, actually), the miracle of love can happen, but even a miracle needs a hand.

I can't recall hearing that song after the 1970s.  I'm sure it's regarded as hippy fluff nowadays.  But this year, Christmas will be overshadowed by the shit situation in which we find ourselves.  The terrorists are winning because we're more scared than we've ever been before.  Our answer seems to always be tighter surveillance, looser gun laws and more guns.  Always more guns.  We have literal fascists - a word I don't use lightly - vying for our nation's top office.  I live in a state not only known for discrimination, we're coming up with new people to discriminate against.  I could go on and on.  But it's December.  It's the only time during the calendar year when peace even gets lip service - have you ever noticed how many Christmas songs talk about peace?  Clearly, no one takes it seriously past December 25th, but maybe it's time.  Because all I know is violence isn't working.  In fact, as a look back on history, I can't think of a time that it ever did work.  If  you think hard about this, you'll see I'm right. 

As for myself, I like to think of myself as an imperfect pacifist; that is, one who believes in pacifism but still engages in the occasional verbal/physical scrum just to make sure I'm right about pacifism being the way. But if there's ever - ever - going to be peace on earth, it has to begin with me.

I love the lyrics to this song.  A lot.  I'm not going to link to any online versions of this song, because the best way to hear it is to hear it sung by folks like you and me.  And I'm not going to post to the revised. inclusive lyrics to this song because I give you more credit than that.  When you see lyrics like "let me walk with my brother", I know that you know that despite the non-inclusive lyrics, we're talking about everyone here. These are the lyrics I grew up singing.  Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.  Now more than ever.

Let There Be Peace On Earth
Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me
let there be peace on earth
the peace that was meant to be
with God as our father
brothers all are we
let me walk with my brother
in perfect harmony

Let peace begin with me
let this be the moment now
with every step I take
let this be my solemn vow
to take each moment
and live each moment
in peace eternally
let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me

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