Musical Musings 4-7: Songs of unity and connection with Karin and our Chancel Choir

Music Notes – Sunday, April 7th:   

This week’s musicians are The Chancel Choir and UUCC Pianist Karin Tooley


Opening Hymn: #346 Come, Sing a Song with Me – McDade

#346 in our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal, “Come, Sing a Song with Me” is a well-known and beloved hymn to many Unitarian Universalists. The words and music were written by Carolyn McDade (b. 1935), a self-described songwriter, spiritual feminist, and social activist. McDade is also the composer of two other UU favorites: “Spirit of Life” and “We’ll Build a Land”.


Centering Music: With a Little Help from my Friends/He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother

“With a Little Help from My Friends” was written in March of 1967 and first released later that year as part of the historic Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Ringo Starr (b. 1940) sang lead vocals on the original recording, but the song was co-written by John Lennon (1940-1980) and Paul McCartney (b. 1942), making this song an exception to the rule of Beatles’ songs typically being performed by their primary songwriter. Starr’s only contribution to the writing of this song was changing the opening line, which originally was “What would you think if I sang out of tune? Would you throw ripe tomatoes at me?” Ringo changed the line because he was concerned about fans taking the lyrical advice literally when the song was performed live. “With a Little Help from My Friends” has been covered over 50 times by other artists, most famously by Joe Cocker (1944-2014), whose 1968 version went to #1 in the U.K. and rose to further prominence after Cocker’s iconic live performance of the song at Woodstock in 1969. The song appears in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and Ringo Starr still regularly closes his live performances with a solo rendition of “With a Little Help from My Friends”.


One of the best-known anthems of the 1960s, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” was written in 1969 by professional songwriters Bobby Scott (1937-1990) and Bob Russell (1914-1970). The song was first recorded by little-known American singer-songwriter Kelly Gordon (1932-1981), but then achieved wide success when recorded later in 1969 by the British band The Hollies, whose version of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (which included then-studio musician Elton John on the piano) became a top ten hit in the U.S., the U.K., and several other countries.


Offertory: Somos el Barco – Wyatt 

“Somos el Barco (We Are the Boat)” is the best-known composition of folk singer and songwriter Lorre Wyatt (b. 1945). A native of New Jersey, Wyatt was also long-rumored to be the original composer of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”, a claim Wyatt himself has disavowed. “Somos el Barco”, which has been recorded by many artists, including Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary, is a song of our shared voyage and aspirations to build a better world together.


Closing Hymn: #1021 Lean on Me – Withers

First released in 1972, “Lean on Me” was the first and only number one hit for R&B singer Bill Withers (1938-2020).  In 1987, a remake by the reggae band Club Nouveau won Withers a Grammy Award for Best Song and made “Lean on Me” one of only a handful of songs to have reached #1 both in its original form and then later as a cover version. The song was notably performed by Mary J. Blige at the concert celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009, and is also #1021 in our Singing the Journey hymnbook.


Postlude: May Love Surround Us – Shelton

“May Love Surround Us” is a choral benediction by Jason Shelton (b. 1972). Rev. Shelton is an award-winning composer, arranger, conductor, song and worship leader, workshop presenter, and coach. He served as the Associate Minister for Music at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, Tennessee from 1998-2017, and is now engaged in a music ministry at-large, focused on serving the musical resource needs of UU (and other liberal) congregations around the country (from

                                                                         -Mike Carney, UUCC Music Director