A Tribute to Douglas

I grew up in a Christian home with very diverse musical tastes.  My mother a north-easterner from New Jersey grew up a Roman Catholic with parents whom she said had “British” tastes, hence her love for classical music.  She gave my siblings and I a healthy appreciation for the three “B’s,” Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven.  My father on the other hand grew up in the south, with more of a Baptist leaning.  His musical tastes fell along the lines of the great Southern quartets, the Dixie Hummingbirds,  and the Golden Gate Quartet, along with the Gospel Clefs, the Gospel Keynotes, the Sensational Nightingales and the lists goes on and on.  Needless to say this cross-section of musical tastes gave me and my siblings a tremendous appreciation for all types of music from Rachmaninoff to Mantovani to Perry Como (Thanks to the annual Firestone Christmas Albums) to Aretha Franklin to Singers Unlimited…well you get the idea.

Because of this, I have always had great difficulty with the narrow limits some Christians have drawn around what is called appropriate music for church and/or worship.  My specific experience has centered around the music wars that have been waged in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and seem to never end.  I have sat on many panels and even in 2015 a question will still arise about the appropriateness of “drums” in worship.  There are some who still have not figured out that an inanimate lifeless, breathless instrument has no power to commit a sin.  It is not the instrument, it is the person on the instrument that determines what happens on or with the it.  This inability to appreciate diverse forms of music and the tendency to confuse personal preference with principal has caused the church to force all musical forms into a Eurocentric classical-anthem-hymn-dominant box.  If you attended the recent General Conference you would have experienced musical renditions throughout the session with little to no stylistic deviation.  If you closed your eyes, you would have thought the same person and/or choir was singing at each service with a mere change of gender or voice from soprano to bass.  No one even risked singing in a different language.  Does this truly represent diversity in music and worship?

Forget about the Biblical inconsistency of such a position; think about it in a universe where no two people are alike, not even siamese twins.  There are no two snowflakes, flowers, hair strands, or fingerprints that are alike.  Since this is true, why would we believe there is only one acceptable form of musical expression that is pleasing to God when He is the one who created such a diverse universe.  Does that make sense?  I won’t even mention that the acceptable musical form just happens to align itself with one culture as well.  What a coincidence.

This brings me to Douglas Leacock.  A truly gifted musician who recently passed away.  I was stunned to learn of his passing from my wife last week and unfortunately will not be able to attend his well-deserved memorial service this coming Saturday,  July 27, 2015.  I was first introduced to Douglas as a youth when he and his sisters, Rosie and Janet sang for a program at my home church.  They were called “The Gospel Chimes.”  A fitting name for their melodious music.  I can’t remember the program or occasion but I can still remember the lyrics of the song.

“Tell ’em about Jesus, and His Love.” “Tell ’em about the Savior from above.”

“Tell ’em about Jesus, and His Love.” “Tell ’em about the Savior from above.”

“Do-Do-Do-Do”

I don’t remember sermons that well, but I remember that song.  That was Douglas, a genius musician who used his God-given talents to lift up Jesus Christ and tell others of His love.  Is there any greater purpose for a follower of Jesus Christ to fulfill, than to tell others of Jesus’ love?  But the real tragedy was that at some level, Douglas’ church didn’t make room for the kind of music God had gifted him to share.  He joins a long list of disaffected musicians from the Seventh-day Adventist Church with rare and usual gifts who were never truly appreciated, encouraged or celebrated by their church.  They did not fit into the narrow box that those who controlled the church determined was the only acceptable musical form that God approved of.  From the Blend Wrights who dared to sing their music to the rhythmic beat of the Hammond B-3, that began a revolution of African American female trios across  North American, to those whom I have know, Darnell Crandell, Charles “Lippie” Davis, Gene Andrews Jr. & Sr., Satara Wisdom, Bobby Soverall and many, many others.  They all were never really celebrated and embraced by their own church.  Many of them found greater acceptance in other denominations and worshipping communities outside of Adventism, to the great regret of us all.

So today I want to remember and celebrate Douglas Leacock for everything he meant and means to me and all of the young people whose lives he touched with his brilliant music during our youthful years together.  I am grateful for his willingness to share his God-given gifts with us even when he was not appreciated and celebrated among his own as he should have been.  And though I cannot join Rosie,  Janet, and the rest of his family and friends who will remember his life, I want to pay tribute to him for all that he did to make Jesus more real to me in song.  Though he is resting in Jesus, he is still telling me about the Jesus and His love.  And not even death can silence his voice in my heart.

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