ABBA used to have a lyric about “it’s gotta be rock and roll to fill the hole in your soul.” Shaky theology to be sure, but at least from the days of David playing his harp to calm the demons besetting King Saul, music has always had medicinal as well as entertainment value. Our favorite music has a way of connecting us to others and of conjuring up the zeitgeist of favorite times, places, and memories.
As I think back over the lifetime of music that has lighted my path and soothed my savage soul, I always come back to the soaring vocals of Sandi Patty. I first heard of her 35 years ago from my mom who is highly unlikely either to gush or to recommend music, but she did both about a young singer she and Dad heard perform with the Gaithers. I saw her album not long after, bought it, and a lifetime fan was born. Last night we came full circle as my mom and I went to hear Sandi Patty sing for the last time on her retirement concert tour.
So many of my favorite memories have are set to a score by this powerful vocalist. Early in our relationship Olga and I bonded over Sandi Patty’s epic rendition of the National Anthem (If you haven’t heard her version, you’ve never really heard it.) Later, my cousin sang “Love in Any Language” at our wedding. My brother-in-law sang “You are a Masterpiece” at my niece’s dedication. When Samantha was little she used to put on her fancy dress and stand on the landing and give Sandi Patty and/or Barbra Streisand concerts for me since they were my two favorite singers. Olga and I have a tradition of blasting the Sandi Patty/Larnelle Harris duet of “I’ve Just Seen Jesus” every Easter morning, loudly enough to awaken our neighbors. Her “Yuletide Joy” Christmas CD is the first one I listen to every year. Sometimes when I’d get a new Sandi Patty album, I’d call my sister Sally and play my favorite song over the phone so she could get goosebumps with me.
When my kids were little they inevitably absorbed my love of this music. Once at a concert, Anthony wanted to try and meet her afterwards, we sneaked around back to where I was fairly sure she would exit whereupon I was sharply reprimanded by one of the concert organizers who was in the process of ordering me out when Sandi herself came right past us. Three-year-old Anthony called out, “Hi Sandi Patty!” Being a mother herself she heard the young voice and turned back and said “Well, look at you! Did you enjoy the concert?” “That was a lot of good singing!!” he answered happily. She laughed heartily, tousled his curls, and thanked him for coming before going on her way. (God forgive me, I could not stop myself from shooting a self-satisfied smile at the grumpy woman who was trying to throw us out.)
That was one of three times I actually met her briefly in person (most recently last night when I was trying to find a bathroom in the auditorium and ran right into Sandi Patty again!) Each time I found her to be very unassuming, down-to-earth, and entirely gracious. It is funny to think that someone who has cast such a long shadow across my life doesn’t know me at all. So I think that is why–on the occasion of her retirement–I wanted to write this, in some small way to say thank you, thank you for the music which has been the soundtrack of my life. God bless you, Sandi Patty.
(PS – if you are reading this and do not know the music of Sandi Patty, turn up the speakers and click here: Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee )