PLAY: I’m Adopted
(The 4th post in a “behind the song” series from the Slugs & Bugs Under Where? CD.)
Two years ago I flew to pick up my son Ben from Ethiopia. He was 2 years old, and now he is 4. Adoption is now a huge part of my family’s story, as well as a central fact in the life of every Christ-follower, so I knew we needed a Slugs & Bugs song about adoption. I also knew it would be a challenge.
Within the narrative of every adoption there is an echo of sadness. Something has broken that will not easily mend, and what once was can never be again. Something beautiful, even glorious may be revealed in time, but any adoption song I would write would need to somehow acknowledge the whole story – not just the sunny side. Still, it also needed to fit on a fun and happy Slugs & Bugs CD. In time, I wrote a lyric that acknowledged the truth about a hard beginning, but quickly turned to rejoice in the beauty reflected by our adoption into the family of God.
Realizing the tender subject matter, and with a deep desire for the song to serve effectively, I shared the lyric with a few friends in adoptive families, eventually bringing it to my neighborhood church group (two of whom played on the song). They listened, prayed for me and advised me, and after a heart to heart with Amy, I decided to change the first line.
The original first line was…
I was born into a family where I could not stay, and sure I cried, I mean wouldn’t you?
Amy listened to the rough mix of the song after I had already sung the vocal. Thankfully, she spoke up and said those words would be too hard to hear over and over again, and I began to see how they could cause real confusion and unnecessary heartache for adopted kids that were old enough to understand. Over that next weekend I found the new words, and the song was complete. The new first line says…
I was born into a story full of twists and turns, even the scary kind, and that’s the truth.
I was telling a wise friend about my lyrical issues, and he affirmed the change by saying the first version gave facts, which are often cold and hard, and can easily wound. The second version, he said, tells the truth without the facts, and so gives the listener the chance to hear and understand at a level they are prepared for.
I didn’t even realize till much later that the new first line really opens the song up for everyone. Who wasn’t born into a twisting, turning, sometimes scary story? That’s the story of humanity.
Knowing we wanted the music to reflect the third world, we spent most of a morning in the studio finding the right groove, until Paul Eckberg and James Gregory landed perfectly into a rhythm that was Gracelandesque without being a total rip-off. But the song really came alive for me when Andy Osenga played electric guitar. Surely the guitar player from Caedmon’s Call’s groundbreaking record Share the Well would know what to do. Aaaand, yes. Those clean Gretsch lines weave the song together and pull it snug like George McDonald’s magical spider web from The Princess and The Goblin. Then came Ken Lewis’s brilliant percussion, popping and snapping, inspiring clapping. And the last instrumental touch was Jeff Taylor’s perfect pennywhistle.
I sang that little melody without thinking, on the fly at the end of a vocal pass. Ben suggested we use it for the theme. What a great idea! We got Jeff to come in and weave it throughout, and now that’s what I’m hoping to play when I tour with the song live.
Finally, the choir (some Petersons and Goodgames) came in and sang their little hearts out.
In the end, I wanted this song to be a celebration. Our stories are marked by trouble and grief, but the light of Christ chases away the darkness and his love makes strangers into family. Ben is my son, and I am a prince in the Kingdom of Heaven. A-oh a-oh!