You Ought To Know Rich

Monday morning, my alarm woke me up with a delightful surprise from my iPod:  the first lines of Rich Mullins’ song “The Land of My Sojourn.”  It begins with the most gentle strumming from a lap dulcimer:

And the coal trucks come a-runnin’ 
With their bellies full of coal 

And their big wheels a-hummin’ 

Down this road that lies open like the soul of a woman 

Who hid the spies who were lookin’ 

For the land of the milk and the honey…
(full lyrics here)


And so begins my plea to those of you who are younger than me, but who are passionate about quality Christian music, to get to know Rich Mullins’ music.
All too often when Rich’s name is mentioned, I hear a response like, “Oh, that’s the guy who wrote ‘Awesome God’, right?” and I shudder.  That’s like saying that Paul Simon’s Graceland is the album with “You Can Call Me Al” on it, or saying that Martin Scorsese is that guy who directed “Gangs of New York.” Yes, it’s true, but it’s such a sad and limited representation of the man’s work that’s it’s tragic.
Rich was the first person who produced such quality lyrics and music that it made me dissatisfied with the state of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) is it was and as it is.  I started listening to him in high school, and when his A Liturgy, A Legacy, and A Ragamuffin Band album came out, I was a junior.  Most people agree it’s his best work.  He wrote the album after a trip to Ireland (the one he references in the video above), and it’s ripe with imagery from the Irish countryside.  David and I played the sixth track, “Peace:  A Communion Blessing,” at our wedding.
I remember exactly where I was when I heard that Rich had died in a car accident.  I was in the basement computer lab in Klein Hall on the campus of Messiah College.  My friend — and future husband — David sent me an email telling me the news.  I gasped.  David said that he was planning to go to Manhattan for the weekend and he wanted to light a candle in Central Park for Rich.
But when I leave I want to go out like Elijah 
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire 

And when I look back on the stars 

It’ll be like a candlelight in Central Park 

And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye 
The first song that caught my attention from Andrew Peterson was about Rich:  “Three Days Before Autumn,” which he sang at that Valentine’s Day concert.

And so began another chapter of fan-dom.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “normal” Christian music and why it leaves me dissatisfied.  Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “You Ought To Know Rich

  1. Andrew Peterson's style and sound has always reminded me of Rich Mullins! I love storytellers who can convey profound thoughts with such brevity combined with music that accentuates the meaning even more! True artisans that use/d their gift for God's Glory!

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  2. He is definitely carrying the torch! You might keep an eye out for Andrew's new album, coming out later this year. It has a lot of themes about coming of age, etc. I cried through almost every new song he played at his most recent concert. It'll be a good one.

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