Shed A Little Light

Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
– from “Shed A Little Light” by James Taylor
th-401965 was a watershed year for civil rights in America. It was a turbulent, wrenching birth of a new way of thinking. With the March on Montgomery, Alabama in March of that year, and the Watts riots in Los Angeles in August, all Americans were being forced to “recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the Earth — ties of hope and love — sister and brotherhood. That we are bound together in our desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong. We are bound together by the task that stands before us and the road that lies ahead.” (James Taylor)

I grew up as a racist. My parents were from Texas, and had adopted a lot of the prejudices common to whites in the south. And though I was born shortly after they moved to California, where a more open-minded thinking was prevalent, those old feelings hung on. I had an uncle who used the “N” word casually and often, and no one corrected him. I told jokes as a kid that I am ashamed now to think I ever repeated. There were very few African Americans in my school or church. I can remember looking out the front window of my house in the direction of Los Angeles during the Watts riots, fearing that a mob of angry blacks might come up my street any minute. I did not know who these people were.

Evangelicals have not fared very well in overcoming racial prejudice. Religious historian Randall Balmer, in one of our recent radio interviews, pointed out that there was only one known evangelical leader who took part in the Montgomery, Alabama march. Not a good representation. I can remember also, that Martin Luther King was looked upon with great fear and suspicion. He was not considered a true minister of the gospel, though he was practicing the gospel more that most pastors alive.

That’s why we need to turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King. We need to check our own attitudes to see if we have any hate, fear or bigotry harboring in some dark place in our hearts. And to help us do that, I recommend — no, I insist — that you take the next four minutes to listen to this song, written by James Taylor and recorded, in the video, by an unusual match-up of singing groups: the Maccabeats, a Jewish a cappella singing phenomena out of Yeshiva University in New York City, and Naturally 7, an African American a cappella group also from New York that can simulate the sounds of an instrumental band using only their voices, mouths and distortion effects. They staged this performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King first shared his dream with the American people and the world. I have included the lyrics to the song here so you can study them more carefully, although the lyrics are also included in the video. The arrangement and sound are phenomenal, and the range of dynamics can be best experienced with earphones.

Enjoy, and do something today that will connect you more firmly to this sister and brotherhood of human beings we were all born into.

Thanks to Dean for turning me on to this video.

Click on picture for video.

Click on picture for video.

 

 

 

 
Shed A Little Light
James Taylor

Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us,
All men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love,
Sister and brotherhood,
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world
Become a place in which our children
Can grow free and strong.
We are bound together by the task
That stands before us
And the road that lies ahead.
We are bound and we are bound.

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness
And the mist
And though the body sleeps
The heart will never rest

Shed a little light, oh Lord,
So that we can see,
Just a little light, oh Lord.
Want to stand it on up,
Stand it on up, oh Lord,
Want to walk it on down,
Shed a little light, oh Lord.

Can’t get no light from the dollar bill,
Don’t give me no light from a TV screen.
When I open my eyes I want to drink my fill
From the well on the hill,
Do you know what I mean?

Shed a little light, oh Lord,
So that we can see,
Just a little light, oh Lord.
Want to stand it on up,
Stand it on up, oh Lord,
Want to walk it on down,
Shed a little light, oh Lord.

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist,
There is a hunger in the center of the chest.
There is a passage through the darkness
And the mist
And though the body sleeps
The heart will never rest.

Oh, Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us.
All men and women living on the Earth,
Ties of hope and love,
Sister and brotherhood.

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14 Responses to Shed A Little Light

  1. One of my favorites from James Taylor. I post it on my FB page every year. I’m posting this one this year. Thanks!

  2. Gary Mintchell says:

    Thank you. I needed that today.

  3. Jeff Stiles says:

    I had already viewed MLK’s Lincoln Memorial speech (1963) and then pulled up James Taylor (on youtube) and found a clip of him singing “Shed a Little Light” with the Lowcountry Singer from Charleston SC (from a Columbia SC concert) in the aftermath of the senseless shooting at Emmanuel AME. Then I viewed the video which you have a link to and discuss. By the end I was weeping… all so sad and beautiful at the same time. If everyone of us could just pause and pray that we would forget about the thing that divide us and remember what it is that can bring us together… Shed a little light. Don’t laugh at that joke or agree with someone who is spouting racist diatribe… Get to know your neighbors… realize they don’t have to be just like US or ME. God bless John for this “light” that you shine. Keep shining bright.

  4. Mark Seguin says:

    Great song of I firmly think / believe of a very good man of God!

  5. Absolutely Awesome! What a tribute and reminder of how life should be!
    Standing ovations seem to be called for here! Bravo! Thank you for this post!
    Cynthia

  6. Lois Taylor says:

    Thank you for today’s Catch. I was born and raised in a suburb of NYC. My father was as prejudiced as you could find. My mother wasn’t. I was raised in the church. Our church was all white. You would think I grew up prejudiced. I didn’t. As a child I learned that we are all God’s children and made in his image. Praise the Lord!

  7. Lisa in Sunland says:

    What a wonderful video! And thank you for sharing your youth/family with us as well. Blessings on ya!

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