For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants of one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul did not agree with Kris Kristofferson’s assessment that “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”
But then again, Paul never heard it sung by Janis Joplin.
She would be seventy-five years old today.
My brain has a hard time imagining Janis Joplin at seventy-five, but she certainly left us way too soon.
She was the lead singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company when they came to Wesleyan on March 9, 1968. Fifty years ago this spring. A month before Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. Three months before Bobby Kennedy. Eight months before we elected Richard Nixon.
But when I hear her singing in my head I don’t think about national events. I think about that great talent lost. The wrenching pain that drove her to greatness and ultimately pushed her over the edge.
When she was at the University of Texas, as a fraternity prank, some guys nominated her for “Ugliest Man on Campus.” There must be a special place in hell for people who think that’s funny.
The acne scars. The tangled hair. When I hear Faith Hill sing her version of “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart,” I wonder if two people could ever be more different than Faith Hill and Janis Joplin.
Everyone sings sad songs. And every singer wants you to believe that they have lived the blues. But Janis Joplin didn’t need to convince anyone.
In Kris Kristofferson’s “Me & Bobby McGee,” she sang one of the most poignant lines of all time: “I’d trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday.”
As it turned out, she did not have very many tomorrows to trade.
Sometimes yesterday seems so much better than today. In my head, it is not Bobby McGee, but Janis Joplin, who is singing. And feeling good was easy then, when Janis sang the blues.
“Me & Bobby McGee” is a dark vision. But it is despair delivered with a driving beat that makes you want to sing along. The words are dark but the music is bright.
In many ways, faith is about trading yesterday for tomorrow. Maybe not without regret, but certainly with hope.
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