The Best Musical Advice

I have played the piano as long as I can remember. In my late teenage years, I began to have a growing desire to write songs. I had asked Jesus into my heart as a boy and had even felt a call to preach when I was ten years old. The older I became, the more drawn I became to the idea of writing songs to express my faith. The only problem was, try as I may, I couldn't pull it off. I could never come up with an original tune. Finally, I made an deal, so to speak, with God when I was nineteen years old. I was driving my car in South Carolina when I promised Him if He would give me the gift of songwriting, every song I would write for the rest of my life would in some way point to Him and His Word. 

Within a week of that prayer, I received my first original tune. Since then I've written a number of songs on a variety of topics. Everything from the Boston Red Sox, to the cotton fields of South Carolina, to an ode to the piano (“Me and My 88 Friends”), to a love song to my wife. However, I have kept my end of the agreement. At some point in each song, the lyric will point in some way to God and to Biblical truth. As I've said to many people, “Wait till the last verse. All of my songs 'get saved' by the last verse!” I assumed I would always write songs for other people. Thankfully, other people have sung a few of my songs. But as more and more songs were written, I came to the terrifying conclusion that maybe God wanted me to sing the songs myself. This was scary, because I never thought I had a great singing voice. 

This all changed after a conversation in 1970 with the great Doug Oldham, a well-known and respected Christian singer and recording artist. He knew I had begun to write songs and while showing me a new microphone, Doug said, “This is the kind of microphone you'll need use to when you do concerts of your own.” I laughed and said, “I'll never do concerts. I can't sing.” Doug shocked me with his reply. He asked, “What has that got to do with anything?” I answered, “Well, I assumed singers need to know how to sing.” He then gave me the best advice as an artist I've ever received. He told me to concentrate on communicating, 
not musical perfection. Doug went on to say there are many successful singers with a wide following who are not known for their perfect pitch but who, nonetheless, connect with their audience and move them. Doug advised me, “Communicate. If you can do that, you don't have to have a great voice.” That nugget of wisdom was revolutionary and life-changing to me Since then, I have asked God to give me songs and stories that will relate to those who hear me and that will touch their lives. Whenever I start to get discouraged that I'm not the next Caruso, I just turn to the music of two of my musical heroes, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, and say to myself, “They sure know how to communicate.” 

I hope you will follow my website regularly and come to my concerts or preaching 
engagements and that all of us will end up at the foot of the cross.