Things I Learned from R. B. (March 22nd, 2020)


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 8

The tour ended in a rather joyous splash.

Of the ten thousand original dollars offered by the investors, we were able to complete the entire project, travel all across the country and still return five thousand dollars to them.  It wasn’t great—but considering the industry of music and theater, not too bad at all.

The cast gave hugs, promised to write, took addresses, and in a matter of two hours, what began as a dream ended—leaving me with a deep sense of loneliness.

For me, it was not just the end of a tour. It was also the demise of the music group I had been traveling with for eight years. My partner from the inception had grown weary of pulling her makeup out of a suitcase and was going back to Ohio to begin the next chapter of her life. I didn’t have the heart to go on without her. Singing voices can be replaced, but memories and passion are rare and come at a premium.

On top of that, I was reunited with my two older sons, who were rather pissed because they had spent two months with their grandma—especially since the littlest one rattled on about stories from the road.

The rent was due, and the refrigerator needed to be filled. I had no money. Worse—I had no plan.

About five days after the tour disbanded, I was sitting in my small apartment in Nashville, musing my fate, when the phone rang.

It was R. B.

I had completely forgotten that he also lived in Nashville. He was calling to ask my advice on where to find a reasonably priced place to record some of the music he had written. This was back in the time when “reasonable” and “recording” were two words that couldn’t be used in the same sentence.

I was also a little needy to be needed.

So I offered to use my gear at church nearby, where the pastor and I were friends.  When we arrived, I asked R. B. to sing me his songs. There were six in all.

The problem with sitting and listening to a singer-songwriter is that he or she often feels the need to take ten minutes to explain the origin of their three-minute song. After about an hour-and-a-half, we finished, and R. B. asked me my opinion.

“There’s only one way you can tell if a song is any good,” I said. “Without hyping it, telling its story or sharing a tearful story, just play and sing it and see if people dig it—just for its own worth.”

R. B. frowned at me. Part of the frown was due to the fact that he didn’t know exactly what I meant, but most of it was caused by R. B. being very unfamiliar with criticism.

I listened to the songs individually one more time, and told him that of the six, there were two that people would enjoy hearing and other artists might like to sing.

That afternoon we recorded those two songs. I overlaid some piano, organ and vocals and did a quick mix on it over to cassette tape, so he could take it home and listen.

He was thrilled.

I must have gotten about seven calls in the next two days—R. B. pointing out things he had just discovered and expressing how grateful he was that I took the time to help him.

Meanwhile, I made a contact with a minister in Mobile, Alabama, who was just beside himself—overjoyed to have my wife, kids and myself come down and join the staff.

I had never done anything “churchy” before, but the opportunity came with a house, free utilities and a small salary. So I looked past my apprehensions.  I buried my dreams and made plans to move my entire entourage to Mobile, Alabama.

Shortly before we left, R. B. came to dinner and told us that he had just hired on with an electronics firm in Minnesota. We shook hands. I think he even mustered a hug.

As R. B. left, I remember thinking, “I’ll probably never see him again.”

 

Five Moments … May 10, 2013

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In my not-always-so-humble opinion, there are five moments necessary to experience in order to generate a human life that is valuable and not detrimental to others. Without this quintet of encounters, certain levels of presumption, insecurity, arrogance and frustration overtake us, rendering us ineffective and at times, even nasty.

  1. “I am not God.”
  2. “I am not saved.”
  3. “I am not better.”
  4. “I am not guaranteed.”
  5. “I am not right.”

My particular disasters which instilled these important truths deep within my internal organs were terrifying and even life-threatening. Yet without them I would be a self-reliant egotist, determined to push my will to the forefront, even when it was of lesser quality than my peers.

I found out I wasn’t God when I was a nineteen year old kid. I wrote a series of bad checks, thinking that the Almighty would bless them, covering them at the bank because I was pursuing His will. Fortunately for me, before they bounced and turned me into a felon, I came to my senses, slapped myself around a bit and decided it was better to have money IN the bank when you promised someone he could retrieve it.

I found out I needed to be saved when I was in my early twenties. At the time I was constantly hurting people’s feelings, wondering “what the hell was wrong with them.” I was convinced I was talented and that this was all that was necessary, requiring no common decency or gentleness towards humanity. Fortunately again, God and His friends–people–gave me a very quick lesson in humility.

It became clear to me that I was not better than anyone else when I started to compete in the marketplace and realized there were many people just as good as me, and some even more accomplished. At first I was in denial, making excuses or even attacking my competitors to find holes in their abilities. But eventually I realized that the purpose for having those around you who are equivalent to you is to have collaborators, and the reason for having individuals who are more established than yourself is to have angels, promoting more heavenly results.

Likewise, my concept of feeling guaranteed that God’s grace was always sufficient for me was challenged one night in Mobile, Alabama, when I looked down at the body of my son, the victim of a hit-and-run accident. I realized that misery does not “passover” those who are called to minister, but instead, teaches us to minister more effectively.

And finally, every day of my life I find out that I am not right when my ideas are quickly shown to be errant, weak, outdated or ill-timed. At that point I have a choice. Do I persevere in stupidity, acting like I’m a resilient fellow? Or do I evolve and learn from my mistakes, discovering the beauty of transition?

If you haven’t experienced these five moments in your life, do not despair. Yet you should understand that each one of them is essential in forming a human being from the dust of the earth who truly is in the image of God instead of  one who merely munches on the knowledge of good and evil.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

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