The power of a sweet song
This is a story about the good that can come from one person.
I have friend named Joe who lives up the road. I’ve known Joe since I was 16. He’s a writer, mostly, but he’s also been a boxer and a cowboy ” rough occupations that Joe’s outward appearance reflects. He’s also got one of the deepest voices I’ve ever heard.
Joe pretty much keeps to himself, but he’s had public success through his song lyrics that have been recorded by everybody from Garth Brooks to Frank Sinatra.
I was driving in my car the first time I heard the song “Skin,” recorded by the country music band Rascal Flatts. It’s a song about a teenage girl with cancer who’s lost her hair as a result of chemotherapy treatments. The first time I heard it, I didn’t know who was singing the song, but it was so tender and powerful that I turned it up and listened intently to it. By the end of the song, I had tears running down my face.
“Whoa,” I told my husband Erik when I got home that night. “Have you heard that song, ‘Skin’?”
The song has become wildly popular and has climbed to the top of the country music charts, despite the fact that it was a “hidden” track on Rascal Flatts’ CD “Feels Like Today.” I kept hearing it more and more on the radio, and it never failed to affect me. Go on the Web, and type in “Sarabeth Skin” or “Rascal Flatts” and you’ll see how many people have been affected by it as I have.
I had no idea that my friend Joe had written the lyrics to the song until he called me a couple of weeks ago. I always know instantly that it’s Joe on the phone. That unmistakable deep voice gives it away every time.
He told me that he’d written a song and that something great had happened because of it. When he started explaining the song to me, I instantly realized that Joe ” gruff-appearance, deep-voice Joe ” was behind that sweet, tender tune.
What Joe particularly wanted me to know was Rascal Flatts performed the song at a concert in Nashville, and announced that all the proceeds from the concert that night were being donated to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, which cares for children with cancer. Not only that, he said, but the band’s record label, Lyric Street Records, and its parent company, Disney, almost doubled the donation, bringing the overall gift to $600,000.
For Joe, that significant contribution to a cancer center for children clearly meant more than he could say.
It’s ironic that I’m writing this on Jan. 13 ” the birthday of one of my best friends, Amy Toner Jones, who died of cancer in November 2003. Amy would have been 44 had she lived.
We all have stories like Amy, of family and friends ” perhaps even ourselves ” who have been struck with one form or another of cancer. Joe said he was inspired to write “Skin” based on Colette, the 5-year-old daughter of a friend who gracefully fought, but ultimately lost, her battle with cancer. He said he wrote the song about the teenage Sarabeth as if Colette had lived and been diagnosed in her teens with cancer. He wrote it as if she had survived.
This is the story about the good that one person can create out of tragedy. It’s the story of the power of a sweet song.
Carrie Click is the editor and general manager of The Citizen Telegram in Rifle. She would like to thank Joe Henry, John Colson of The Aspen Times, and Amy for their contributions to this week’s column. Carrie can be reached at 625-3245, ext. 101, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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