Just A Closer Walk With Thee
No one knows where or when “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” was written. It became popular in the 1930’s and 40’s in the southern part of the United States among African-Americans, and today is one of our most treasured hymns of faith. It acknowledges the frailty of human life, and humbly asks for Jesus’ daily companionship and protection.
My Dad’s Favorite Song
As long as I can remember, I’ve always known my parents loved music. And, I knew that my dad’s favorite song was (and always will be) “Just A Closer Walk With Thee”. I’ve heard a lot of wonderful musicians and choirs sing that song. Some of them even dedicate it to him before they sing it. But I never could. I guess it choked me up a little. Maybe a lot, and I never had the nerve to do it. A while back, I was going through some of my old gospel song books and saw my dad’s song. As I read through the lyrics, I realized the message in his favorite song, which I had heard my entire life, spoke to me with a new understanding. I was able to find comfort in the words Dad had held close to his heart all this time.
It’s true that life can be very satisfying when you let go, ask God to guide your steps, walk close beside Him, and let His will “be”.
That’s it! Just let it be.
With this new appreciation, I felt it was time to attempt to sing my dad’s song, but I would need some help. A lot of help.
A Band of Friends Unite For Dad
Luckily, I have been blessed to know some of the greatest musicians in the world. One of them, Kurt Griffey, grew up with me in Red Oak, Iowa. Several years ago, he introduced me to two more (Ron Wikso and Wally Minko). The three of them had played together in the Gregg Rolie Band. Kurt told them my dad had a fishing pond he and his friends used to go to. My dad really enjoyed the kids that came out to our farm, and I was touched Kurt mentioned it.
Never in a million years would I have guessed that he, and these two friends of his, would join me to create a Father’s Day Gift for my dad. Ron called Kurt, Wally, and Matt Bissonnette.
Even though they are all very busy with their own music commitments, they graciously agreed to help us out. Ron and Kurt were playing with CCR. Matt was on the road with Elton John, and Wally was preparing for his tour with The AndersonPonty Band.
We all know “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” is one of the most beloved of all classic gospel songs. And, it was important that we honor the message of inspiration found in the familiar hymn. But we also wanted to personalize it for my dad. Kurt did this beautifully when he wrote and played an acoustic guitar solo with a mandolin accompaniment. He knows my dad was a farmer, and would probably appreciate a hint of “country”. Ron provided the perfect tempo to set the heartbeat, and chose the most moving percussion accents. Wally’s expressive piano was beautiful and inspired, and Matt gave everyone the perfect groove with his masterful interpretation and delivery.
Each of them handled this with grace and importance, and that means so much to me. We stayed true to the lyrics of this song of faith from the 30’s and 40’s, but added an ending from a favorite song of peace from the 60’s and 70’s. (I thought the line “speaking words of wisdom” was very befitting for my dad.)
“Just A Closer Walk With Thee” is really a song for every generation, and we hope our version speaks to everyone’s daily “walk with Thee”.
Happy Father’s Day!
I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face when I played the song for him. Our version is a little different from others, so the introduction didn’t tell him what the song was right away. But when he heard the words, “I am weak, but Thou art strong”, he reacted with such joy, it chokes me up just thinking about it. He was so pleased, and is so grateful to these amazing musicians who had collaborated to create this special rendition of his song.
It’s a beautiful thing to see music bring someone so much happiness. It’s unforgettable when that “someone” is your dad.
My dad was so happy with his gift, he asked that I play it at one of the services at his and my mom’s church – The First Christian Church in Red Oak, Iowa. It was so nice to see their friends in the church react with so much love for them, and sincere appreciation for what we had created to celebrate Father’s Day.
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