When our son, Sam, was a little boy, he was always singing and making music. We used to say that he went through life with a soundtrack in his head. He wrote his first musical when he was in preschool and would sing it to us all the time. He would attempt to make the noises of all the instruments with his voice, so we would know just where the strings went and where the timpani was supposed to come in. Sam was often wrapped up in his own world of music and sometimes, as a parent, this worried me.
Sam has been in bands made up of friends since about junior high. His music was always changing, but was always recognizable as his own. It has evolved over the years as he has taught himself to play many instruments and studied a variety of musical genres. Sam has written a few albums and I have a priceless stash of the CDs he has recorded under his various names – The Ben Mayton and Sam Brothers, Sam Valentine, Sam Valentine and the Ponies.
This week, Sam released a new album, his fifth, entitled Sam V. His friend, Chris, who recently graduated from Purchase College with a degree in Music Production, produced the album with him. As I listened to it for the first time, I felt my heart overflow with pride. The music is distinctly Sam. In today’s world, where a lot of music just sounds like the same old rehashed noise, it is remarkable that Sam is able to retain his unique sound. As I listened, I heard strains of music from every era of his life. The music is much more fully developed, but that little preschool boy singing his musical is still in there. The album is funny and quirky and heartbreaking and gorgeous.
Equal to my pride in the music is my pride in the themes and lyrics he has chosen for this album. Like all college students, Sam has had his share of struggles and heartache as he seeks to discover who he is and what his place in this world might be, what God’s call for him might be. On Sam V, he honestly lays bare his soul, revealing good choices and bad. The album ends with two of my favorite songs. One is his own prodigal story, “The Return.” As his mother, I wept when I heard him singing the forgiving father’s words, “I’m glad you’re home.”
I am glad Sam’s home. I am thankful that the musical soundtrack of his life has brought him to a place where he can sing about God with the love and devotion he shows on my other favorite song, “Shepherd.” I have been using this song as a background for my meditation. The haunting chorus, as it repeats again and again, leads me deeper and deeper into communion with the divine mystery.
I feel very blessed to have a son who has such a great gift and I feel thankful that he has chosen to share himself in such a grace-filled way on this album. I pray that God will use Sam’s words and music to heal others who are struggling and help them to find their way home.