Tag Archives: music

some new music (with old roots)

Several weeks ago, I decided I would “pre-order” Coldplay‘s new album X&Y from iTunes. So this morning, I got up and downloaded the songs and put them on my iPod before I went walking so I would have something new and interesting to listen to. I was generally underwhelmed, but right as I was getting ready to change to something entirely different, “A Message” came on.

Within seconds, I knew the song, and I nearly stopped walking to listen more closely. “A Message” is clearly indebted to the wonderful Samuel Crossman hymn “My Song Is Love Unknown” with the tune LOVE UNKNOWN by John Ireland, a fact only slightly acknowledged on the web (see here and here for the references I have found). Here’s my interpretation of the lyrics, since none that I have found on the web are accurate with the references to the original hymn:

My song is love
Love to the loveless shown
And it goes on
You don’t have to be alone

Your heavy heart
Is made of stone
And its so hard to see clearly
You don’t have to be on your own
You don’t have to be on your own

And I’m not gonna take it back
And I’m not gonna say I don’t mean that
You’re a target that I’m aiming at
And I get that message home

My song is love…
My song is love unknown
But I’m on fire for you, clearly
You don’t have to be alone
You don’t have to be on your own

And I’m not gonna take it back
And I’m not gonna say I don’t mean that
You’re the target that I’m aiming at
And I’m nothing on my own
Got to get that message home

And I’m not gonna stand and wait
Not gonna leave it until it’s much too late
On a platform I’m gonna stand and say
That I’m nothing on my own
And I love you, please come home

My song is love, is love unknown
And I’ve got to get that message home

Some reviewers and listeners have called this a love song, but I can’t. The similarity between the hymn and the song is striking — I wouldn’t call it plagiarism but could certainly describe it as inspiration. There are certainly elements that move the song beyond the Lenten themes of the hymn, but I find it to be a deeply spiritual thing.

The next time someone claims that Christianity is dead in Britain or the US or anywhere, I will simply point them to this song. The next time someone says that old hymns aren’t good for anything, I will point them to this song that many are already describing as a hit. It’s clearly not the age of the music that makes things good or bad — it is the depth of the spirit in it.

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