Rich Mullins: A song-by-song rundown of his 'Brother's Keeper' album

Thursday 1st February 1996

The American singer/songwriter RICH MULLINS talks us through the tracks on his new album

Rich Mullins
Rich Mullins

"Brother's Keeper"
When he and Beaker wrote it, Rich was staying with author James Bryan Smith and Smith's wife, Megan. "Jim was working on a book called Embracing The Love Of God," Rich recalls, "and so a lot of our conversations were about how you allow yourself to experience God's love and how you love someone the same way." As for one of the song's most thoughtful lyrics - "I won't despise him for his weakness, I won't regard him for his strength" - Rich reflects: "It's easy to accept that we shouldn't be dismissive of people because of their faults, but it's harder to not be inclusive of people because they're attractive. What's wrong with regarding someone's strength? The strength is not the issue. The person is the issue."

"Let Mercy Lead"
That cooing at the beginning is indeed Aidan, Beaker's son, to whom the song is addressed. As Rich tells it, "We were sitting around and we said, 'Hey, let's write a song for Aidan.' We started it before he was even born. And Beaker said 'I want to write a song for him that will take him through life.' I wish we could have the same intensity about everything we write, because we spent months and months discarding really cool ideas. Beaker is not entirely satisfied with the song. But fortunately he's gonna be around to tell Aidan other things."

"Hatching Of A Heart"
The motivation was just that I had this real dreamy piano riff... I stole the title from Thomas Merton... It's like this book I'm reading now, Soul Making by Alan Jones. One of the things I've become interested in is, what is the soul: does it grow, does it pre-exist us? The Bible doesn't really talk a whole lot about it. It's the whole 'born again' thing. My own experience is there in the song."

The song tells of a policeman who intends to quiet a group of revellers, but who encounters so much joy that he ends up joining the celebration. "We try to make Christianity attractive," says Rich. "And that's like saying I'm going to make the Rockies attractive. How are you going to do that? By letting them be what they are. I think nothing is more compelling than to see people who have the Spirit living in the Spirit, and not trying to advertise, just being who they are."

"Wounds Of Love"
"I think everyone who allows themselves to honestly be loved is going to be wounded," muses Rich. "Your life is a gift and out of gratitude to God you should go out there and live. And when it's all over you're gonna be pretty wounded. And I hope that you're hurt because people have loved you, not because they have used you."

"Damascus Road"
Rich sings that he was "hung in the ropes of success" until God "stripped away the mask of life they had placed upon the face of death." Why that image? "That's one of the miracles of Christ - the blind can see," he says. "There are times in your life that I believe God powerfully gives you vision and you say, 'Oh my gosh, that is not what I thought. In fact, that is the exact opposite of what I thought."

"Eli's Song"
The album's second baby-inspired song was co-written by Rich, fellow Ragamuffin Lee Lundgren and Lundgren's wife, Nicki, for the couple's newborn daughter, Eliza. "I had written this dulcimer thing that I really liked," Rich recalls. "Nicki had said the dulcimer melody sounded kind of rough and kind of delicate, like a cowgirl and a ballerina at the same time. We put that together with a leaf to make it a three part image." They added the rocking of Eliza's cradle to fade out the tune.

"The Breaks"
One of this song's lines - "I do not know yet what I am made of, or all I may someday be" - mirrors a lyric from "Creed" on Rich's last album: "I did not make it, no it is making me." Rich attributes both thoughts to one of his favourite authors, G K Chesterton. "It's kind of like the Apostle Paul's thing about losing your life to find it," says Rich. "Growing up in the 60s and 70s, people said, 'I'm going out to find myself.' And it's (chuckle) sort of silly. My parents would say, 'How did they lose themselves?' And so in the process of living, and trying to be faithful to Christ but not doctrinally narrow, I'm asking that if I were to hold on to Christ, what would that be, and what would it not be? And in light of that, let me let go, oh God, in your mercy, of everything that is not you."

"Quotin' Deuteronomy To The Devil"
This folk-rockish tune came to be as Rich and Beaker were "just sitting around one day" in Rich's Wichita pad. "It was sort of a joke, actually," says Rich. "As much as I am sometimes sceptical about those preachers that yell at you all the time - like in real life, if a preacher yells at me I just leave - if you cartoon it, then I think it's interesting." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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