I’m Adopted

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!

20 thoughts on “I’m Adopted

  1. This song is such a gift to our family. Our daughters know their adoption stories well but hearing them jump with glee and shout out “I’m Adopted!” is a beautiful thing. Thank you for choosing your words wisely and blessing this family with your gifts! Sometimes my daughter will even sing out, “I’m double adopted!” She understands she is part of God’s forever family as well as ours.

  2. LOVE this song! Thank you for the perfect words and upbeat melody. We have a daughter from Ethiopia and a son from Vietnam. Thank you for blessing adoptive families like ours with this wonderful tune! (By the way, I listened to your song John 11 almost daily when I was in Ethiopia in July, 2011…the words lifted me up and encouraged me so much as we worked to get our very sick baby home.)

  3. This is a really neat song! Thanks for sharing it.

    By the way: Every time Randall sings “I’m Adopted” and the kids echo it, I hear the “Dah-dl-Dah-Dah” from the bridge of “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers. Am I the only one?

    Or, was I the only one until you read this and now you hear it too? 🙂

    1. You are not the only one. It’s already been pointed out to me, but whatta you gonna do? I’m kind of chronically amazed more melodies don’t reference back to other songs more often, though it is part of my songwriting routine to try and make sure I’m not accidentally stealing from Van Morrison or Jimmy Buffett or some old Beatles song or another.

      1. Some melodies or chord progressions just find a comfy corner in your head and wait to come back out again like they were your own. I was noodling around on my 12-string a couple years ago and my wife informed me that I was playing Andrew Peterson music. Sure enough, it was a chord progression from “So Long Moses” (D, Em, F#m, F, G). I was even playing in Drop-D; I shoulda known something like that might happen. 🙂

        In any case, your music makes me smile and laugh and think – and this is just yet another case of “hey, that’s pretty cool!”

  4. Great story! I love what your friend said about telling the truth without telling the facts. I have often thought about that line, “I was born into a story full of twists and turns…” From the first time I heard it I thought it was a perfect way to talk about your son’s situation without sugar-coating anything. I’m glad to hear the back story.

  5. This is one of my favorite songs on the new album. The back story makes it even better. And it just struck me charming how the kids are singing “a-oh a-oh” while AO is playing that fabulous guitar line.

  6. What a gift to hear this song for the first time today. I’m ordering the CD for a dear friend who leaves for Ethiopia in less than 24 hours for her court date. She will be bringing home two beautiful boys in late January. I’m so glad that I was able to send her this blog post before she left. Thank you for always finding the balance between the songs that make my kids giggle and the ones that touch my heart!

  7. We saw you live here in North Houston and have been fans ever since. Little did you know the two year old rascal that was rushing the stage would become your life long fan, and NOW has a song written that will hopefully be dear to his heart. He too is adopted and though we were present at his birth and have been his parents since his first breath I think this song is lovely and I can’t wait to share it with him.

  8. I love this song. So perfect for our family. My husband and I are parents to 4 great kids. All of our kids are biological siblings, we are in the final stages in finalizing our youngest daughter’s adoption. We are over the moon and truly blessed.

    Thanks for such a great and meaningful song.

  9. My daughter loves this song- i’m fairly sure it is her favorite on the cd (if i can tell by the vim and vigor with which she sing’s along). she’s not adopted but perhaps she’s tapped into that feeling we all get at some point: Who are my real parents? and we know the answer is God. Children come from heaven. Thank you for your wonderful music!

  10. Here’s a video of my sister, brother-in-law and their newly official daughter doing some “I’m adopted” carpool karaoke. Such a beautiful moment. Thank you for that song!

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