“And the moon is a sliver of silver, like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter’s shop; and every house must have it’s builder; and I awoke in the house of God.” – Rich Mullins
This has to be one of the near perfect opening lines to a song I’ve ever heard. He was right about the moon, and about the fact that we all just woke up here one day, in the house of God, in the middle of a story that will outlast us when we’re gone. Having not willed any of this into being, God still gave us the power to burn it all down.
The Color Green reminds me of why it is such a holy thing to steward our lives and this beautiful creation with reverence; of why we are intended to receive everything we have with gratitude, and then return it to God and the human community in better shape than when we found it.
The Color Green is from Rich’s greatest album, A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band. They recorded pretty much live to tape with only a few overdubs, something most musicians really cannot pull off. The Muffins could play.
I once heard Rich say that the whole reason they decided to do that format was so he could actually play piano on one of his own records. Reed Arvin, producer on most of Rich’s stuff, was a Nashville studio guy. He played piano on many Amy Grant live tours and tons of records. Arvin is a piano freak, and he had really high standards. Rich was such a good musician, especially on piano, so it’s hard for me to imagine anyone refusing to let Rich play on his own records. It must be true, though, because I personally heard Rich tell that story more than once. It really got under his skin that he couldn’t play his own songs on his own records. That’s also the reason he learned to play dulcimers, so that Arvin would have no choice but to allow him to play on his own records.
The second time I met Rich was at Manhattan Christian College. He had played in chapel and I saw him out back by a dumpster smoking a cigarette. I hung out with him for awhile and told him that I wanted to be a musician and songwriter. His big piece of advice was: only play your own stuff. He said he hated it when people bought backing tracks and sang songs written by other people. “Write your own stuff. Play your own stuff, man. It’s infinitely more interesting to people.” His words changed my life, as did many things that Rich Mullins said, did, and wrote over the years. After that I was hooked. I can’t remember how many times we got to hang out with Rich and his bandmates over the years, but so much of what he said stuck with him.
I mark his birthdays and the anniversary of his death every single year. He was, and remains to be, one of the most profound influences on my life. I am grateful for his talents, and that he found his way to Nashville and started making records. When I grow up, I hope to be half and wise and profound as Rich was. Listen to The Color Green today, it will do your soul some good.