Call me, don't be afraid, you can call me
Maybe it's late but just call me
Tell me and I'll be around
Ezekiel Christopher Montanez grew up in Hawthorne, California, and learned guitar from his older brothers. He met Ritchie Valens before that singer's untimely 1959 death and decided to follow in Ritchie's footsteps, writing and recording under the name Chris Montez. He soon became popular in the Los Angeles Hispanic community. Once signed to Monogram Records, he had his first national hit, the intense rocker "Let's Dance." At seventeen, he was touring with the likes of Sam Cooke, Tommy Roe, the Drifters, and the Beatles.
When he became disillusioned with the music business and was ready to quit, a friend introduced him to Herb Alpert, who signed him to A&M Records. Alpert convinced him to pursue a more conservative, soft-ballad sound instead of harder rock tunes. In 1966, his first A&M release, "Call Me," reached the number 22 spot on the charts. It was followed by three other Top 40 hits that year: "The More I See You," "There Will Never Be Another You," and "Time After Time." But after a few years and a few more hits, Montez's pop formula faded, and he changed his focus, recording songs in Spanish. As an international artist, he enjoyed successful tours of Europe and Japan, but the gentle pop song "Call Me" remains one of his best-known hits.
The song's popularity may hinge on wish fulfillment. Don't we all want a friend who will be there for us, night or day, ready whenever we need some comfort? Montez (or the songwriter, Tony Hatch) taps into a basic human need for support. But where can we find a friend like that?
Throughout the Bible, God sings a similar song. The Psalms overflow with testimonies about the loving Lord who responds to our 911 prayers: "I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me" (120:1, niv). "I will rescue those who love me.... When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble" (91:14-15).
But it's not all about rescue; it's also about relationship. In Jeremiah, the Lord talks about his future plans for the people he loves, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you" (29:11-12, niv). As in the pop song, when we need a friend, God says, "Call me." He longs for us to turn to him in times of need.
In fact, calling is the basic act of salvation. You can't earn eternal life with good behavior or heroic deeds. All you can do is call on him. He promises "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13).
|Psalm 17:6||Psalm 120:1, niv*||Romans 10:13*|
|Psalm 55:16||Isaiah 65:1||1 Corinthians 1:2|
|Psalm 91:14-15*||Jeremiah 29:11-12, niv*||2 Timothy 2:22|
C'mon people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now
Though not considered a major musical force in the late sixties, the Youngbloods did provide some interesting folk-rock tunes for several years. The founder was New Yorker Jesse Colin Young (real name Perry Miller), a singer/songwriter who started out in Greenwich Village and Boston-area coffeehouses. Some of his solo albums featured backup work by John Sebastian, who would later create the successful group Lovin' Spoonful.
Once the Youngbloods were formed and signed to RCA, they had a moderate 1966 hit with "Grizzly Bear." A year later, they recorded a tune written by Dino Valenti, who intentionally tried to write a "different" song about brotherhood. He wanted his song to stand out from the many current pop songs he felt were predictable and stale. The result was an idealistic folk anthem, "Get Together," which was released to lackluster sales in 1967. That seemed like the end of the song and perhaps the group's future on RCA. However, when the National Conference of Christians and Jews used the song in a 1969 brotherhood promotion, the renewed airplay brought such resurgence that "Get Together" made the Top 5 and sold two million copies.
The chorus of "Get Together" sounds a simple call for unity. The verses go a lot deeper, contrasting love and fear in poetic, sometimes biblical language. But these were the sixties—peace, love, and all that—and the flower children gladly grabbed this inspiring tune as an anthem.
Of course, "love one another" didn't start with the Youngbloods. At the Last Supper, Jesus gave his followers this "new commandment": "Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples" (John 13:34-35). He also prayed that his disciples would get together and stay together—and not only those disciples but "all who will ever believe in me through their message." That's us; Jesus specifically prayed "that [we] will all be one" (John 17:20-21).
Of course, that's never quite as easy as it sounds. We can "try to love one another right now," but there are all sorts of pet peeves and me-first attitudes that make it tough. Unity starts with humility. That's a principle that appears throughout the Bible, especially in Paul's writings: "Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don't be selfish.... Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:2-3).
A few verses later the apostle quotes what could have been a hit song during his time, the one about Jesus leaving heaven and becoming a servant. (Scholars really do think Philippians 2:6-11 was a song sung by early Christians.) "You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being" (2:5-7).
Only with that Christlike humility can we truly "Get Together" in any meaningful way.
|Ecclesiastes 4:9-10||John 17:20-21*||Philippians 2:5-7*|
|Matthew 22:37-40||1 Corinthians 1:10||Hebrews 10:24-25|
|John 13:34-35*||Philippians 2:2-3*||1 John 2:7-11|
Help! I need somebody
Help! Not just anybody
Help! You know I need someone
Was there any group more popular than the Beatles? When John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met in 1957, who would have guessed that their collaboration would become the standard of pop music success? Though they broke up in 1970, the Beatles' musical influence remains strong.
The Beatles' huge popularity spilled over from music to movies. Their number 1 hit from 1965—"Help!"—was also the title tune to their second feature film. Though listed as a Lennon/McCartney piece, it was actually John Lennon who wrote this song. When asked what motivated him to write it, he responded that it was autobiographical—he truly was asking for help.
How can this be? A young musician sitting on top of the world, cofounder of the most popular musical group ever, was asking for help? Idolized by millions, he had fabulous wealth. Yes, by the world's standards, John Lennon had it all... but he still felt empty inside. This songwriter had many emotional scars from childhood, beginning when his father abandoned him and his mother. As a young adult, Lennon saw his own marriage heading for disaster. Not even the vast fame and wealth of the Beatles could heal these hurts or fill the void in John's spirit.
John Lennon knew he needed somebody to help him, but "not just anybody." When we ask someone for help, we need to know the person we ask can do the job. That concern appears in the Bible, too. Where are you turning for help?
"I look up to the mountains," the psalmist wrote. "Does my help come from there?" Well, no. The mountains were the sites of idol altars. True assistance came from a higher source. "My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!" (121:1-2). Isaiah looked forward to a day when people would turn to the Creator: "They will no longer look to their idols for help" (17:8).
It's always good to know when we need help. It's even better to know that "not just anybody" can help us. Lennon's song can teach us these lessons quite well, but it's best to turn to the Creator for the help we need.
|Exodus 14:10||Psalm 121:1-2*||Micah 7:7|
|2 Chronicles 14:11||Isaiah 17:8*||Romans 8:26|
I need you
Like the winter needs the spring
You know I need you
Few took notice when Gerry Beckley, Dan Peek, and Dewey Bunnell met in 1969. Sons of U.S. Air Force officers stationed in England, they formed an acoustic guitar trio, Daze, in 1970. The next year, they renamed their group America, borrowing the name from a jukebox brand. After opening for established acts such as the Who and Elton John, they landed a recording contract with Warner Brothers.
Though acoustic guitar folk-rock trios were rarities in the early seventies era of electric country rock, they hit it big with their first release, "A Horse with No Name" (and they fiercely denied that the song was a pro-drug anthem). In the spring of 1972, America's second hit, "I Need You," reached the number 9 spot on the charts. With an appealing clarity, this song spoke of a deep need for love.
America received the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1972 and registered five more Top 10 hits in the following years, including "Ventura Highway," "Tin Man," and "Sister Golden Hair." In 1976, Dan Peek became a Christian and left the group to pursue contemporary gospel music.
You can say many things about romantic love, but America boiled it down to the basics. With simple repetition they made their point: "I need you." That's what love feels like, a hole in your heart that only your beloved can fill.
The Bible often compares romantic love with our love for God, and we find this sense of longing for a relationship with him. "O God, you are my God," David wrote. "I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you." At the time, David was a fugitive, scampering through the Judean desert. He felt pangs of hunger and thirst, but he knew he needed God even more. "Your unfailing love is better than life itself," he added. "You satisfy me more than the richest feast" (Psalm 63:1-5).
It was surely in happier times that David wrote his well-known Shepherd Psalm. We can imagine him as a teenager leading a flock through the grassy foothills, but the same idea inspired him even then. "The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need" (Psalm 23:1). It wasn't that the Lord just provided green pastures and still waters, but the Lord offered himself. Even in perilous times, the psalmist said of God, "you are close beside me" (Psalm 23:4).
It's lovely to witness the romantic yearning of someone saying to a sweetheart, "I need you." But that's also a picture of the basic human longing for our Creator. One philosopher wrote about a "God-shaped vacuum" in the human heart, and another said that our hearts are "restless" until they rest in God. We were made to know him, and so, like the winter needs the spring, we need him.
|Job 34:14-15||Psalm 42:1||Acts 17:25, 28|
|Psalm 23:1*||Psalm 63:1-5*||Revelation 4:11|
|Psalm 23:4*||Psalm 84:2|
Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on
Born in the coal-mining community of Slab Fork, West Virginia, Bill Withers was the youngest of six children. His mother and grandmother raised him after his father died. After a nine-year navy stint, he moved to Los Angeles, worked at Boeing during the day, and cut demo records at night. After coming to the attention of executives at Sussex Records, he was signed to that label.
In 1971, his first recording, "Ain't No Sunshine," sold a million copies. He soon had two other million sellers to his credit, "Use Me" and "Lean on Me," which hit number 1 on both the pop and R&B charts in 1972. As a songwriter, singer, and guitarist, Bill Withers was a triple threat. His plaintive voice, once described as "crystalline," contains elements of soul, blues, and gospel. And his honest and sensitive songwriting quickly established him as one of the all-time greats; others continue to record his material.
In most of his songs, Withers displays an exceptional ability to mirror the hearts of people with his lyrics. In "Lean on Me," he weds deep-felt emotional support with a chord structure borrowed from hymns he heard in church as a youngster. In fact, the entire tune has the feel of a hymn.
For this inspiring song, Withers mined some childhood experiences from his coal-mining town. People in the community would have their ups and downs, physically, emotionally, or financially, but it seemed that everyone would pitch in to help those in need. That made a deep impression on young Bill.
Christians know what that's about. We serve a Savior who said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). At various times we have found ourselves weighed down with burdens of emotional pain, of addiction, of brutal guilt, of a punishing desire to prove ourselves. The struggle to get through each day can leave our souls weary. But Jesus says we can lean on him. As the Lord told Israel, "I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).
And God asks us to do for others what he does for us. We become his ambassadors, showing his love, joy, and peace in our world. Burden bearing is therefore a task that we can share. "Carry each other's burdens," Paul wrote, "and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2, niv). So "Lean on Me" becomes our song as well as God's song. When we encounter people who are struggling with different types of burdens—physical, emotional, financial, or spiritual—we are called to pitch in and help.
|Exodus 18:17-23||Isaiah 41:10*||Galatians 6:2, niv*|
|Psalm 40:1-2||Matthew 11:28*||Colossians 3:12-14|
|Ecclesiastes 4:9-10||Romans 14:13|