PLAY: Lightning Bug
Lightning bugs are cool. Inspirational grandparents of Tinkerbell, Rudolph, and E.T., lightning bugs have brought their happy magic to twilight as far back as anyone can guess. They light up the darkness, which is miraculous enough, but their kindnesses to the human race extend beyond their bright bottoms.
They come out as the work-day ends but before bedtime beckons, so daddy can set down his briefcase, hoist his princess into his elbow and stroll among them, delighting in the wonder of the moment as much as his little girl, though for a different reason. And they descend! Not satisfied to sparkle from afar, up in the boughs and branches of trees, lightning bugs flutter down so we can admire them in our world, among the flowers we pick and the grass we tend – even sometimes lighting on our clothes. And they don’t fly as much as float through the stillness, so one need not run to catch them, only eyes to see and a hand to reach out and scoop the shining air out of the sky.
I can’t remember how the song came about, I just wanted to write a simple melody about lightning bugs. The lyric “shine your light, let the whole world sing” came quickly, and instantly recalled the feeling of the old Coca-Cola ad. Usually that would make me want to change it. But I really liked it, and sometimes that’s enough.
My kids seemed to enjoy the simple and repetitive melody, especially as I began adding ladybug and stinkbug. Jitterbug came out and sang very nicely, and I wondered, “Is that OK? That’s not really a bug.” And of course it was more than OK. It was just right, and it opened my mind to chickenbug and sharkbug which make the whole song more delightful. Writing for children keeps the doors and windows open to my imagination, and imagination is one of the anchor lines to my faith in Christ.
Tracking this song was brilliant fun. Paul Eckberg played much of the drum track with one hand while checking email and texting and brushing his teeth with the other. Jeff Taylor did a pitch-perfect lightning bug impression on the penny whistle, the ladybug is the clarinet, the stinkbug is the trombone, the bawk, bawking chickenbug is a trumpet, James Gregory sawed out everyone’s favorite scary shark theme on the upright bass, and I got to play kazoo! Meanwhile Stuart Duncan (violin) and Ben Shive (piano) kept everything developing musically through the modulations and closing cacophony. Some of my favorite fiddling on the record is in that lightning bug verse where all the bugs start to join in.
“Lightning Bug” and “The Wagon” are two of the simplest melodies on the record, so my 4 year old sings them easily and often – along with “I Wanna Help” and I’m Adopted.” Thankfully, the big kids seem to like it too. I have yet to do it live, but once we get the new videos, I’m thinking I’ll just lead some hand motions and play kazoo.