But his songs. His music. His life.
With others I have sung a chorus written by his friend Beaker (David Strasser), “Oh God, you are my God and I will ever praise you and I will seek you in the morning and I will learn to walk in your ways and step by step You’ll lead me and I will follow you all of my days,” with tears on my cheeks and a throat so constricted it would hardly utter a sound. More than once my vehicle has been filled with a Rich and Marty duet that surely was pleasing to no one but God and times too frequent to remember my eyes have brimmed salty with the thought of what we had and all we’ve lost.
I read that when he first moved to Nashville he lived in a tent in Pam Mark Hall’s backyard. When filming videos in Ireland he forgot to take a coat and ended up having to wear one belonging to Steve Taylor (it’s the coat in the video below). How he didn’t keep up with how much money he had or made; he lived on $24k a year and, when he wanted to give some away, had to call his accountant, find out if he had enough and have it sent. How he went back to school to get a music degree, then moved to a Native American reservation to live so he could teach kids. How at a musician’s banquet where he was a guest, the other guests were surprised to find him behind the table serving.
I was broken the day he died, unbelieving. The first time I saw him in concert was in support of the project below, a true worship service. If Philip Yancey is the conscience of evangelicalism, Mullins was surely the conscience of its music. I marveled at a little known Andrew Peterson song called “3 Days Before Autumn” that was uncanny in its ability to capture what so many of us felt when Rich Mullins died:
And I take comfort in knowing that this ain’t my home
and I know when I’m lonely that I ain’t alone
and I know that he’s singing at the foot of the throne;
but that don’t seem to matter down here.
‘Cause the winter came early this year.
I think A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band is the best musical project to have ever been released in the history of the medium. Pure poetry, amazing music, with profound explorations of simple themes. From “Hold Me Jesus” comes a lyric that never ceases to invade my soul:
Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want
Than take what you give that I need.
And I beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down
Falling on my knees.
Mullins’ admiration of St. Francis of Assissi gave birth to many songs praising God for His creation, perhaps none so beautiful or so poignant as “The Color Green,” featured in the video below. In this deeply insightful song, he managed not to simply invoke Genesis 1 and Psalm 19 but to channel them.
Be praised for all your tenderness
by these works of your hands.
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless
and bring to life your land.
Look down upon this winter wheat
and be glad that you have made
blue for the sky and the color green
that fills these fields with praise!
Like Keith Green, Rich Mullins knew worship before the birth of the modern worship movement; I believe it is fair to say he midwifed it by his demonstration that the entirety of God’s creation was to bring Him praise. Sometimes I miss Rich more than others and this week I’ve missed him a lot. I love Rich Mullins and his music.
Anyone else have any Rich Mullins reflections or remembrances?