“Drift Away”

Who can forget this 70s classic especially since it’s still being recorded as of 2007?  It begins plaintively like a good hymn in the “suffering” section of a hymnal should.

                        Day after day I’m more confused
                        But I look for the light through the pouring rain
                        You know that’s a game that I hate to lose
                        Now I’m feeling the strain
                        Aint it a shame?

This could certainly describe the plight of the Christian:  Caught in the “pouring rain” of life, “day after day” getting “more confused.”  He is in need of “the light” even as Nicodemus was when he came to Jesus in the dark

This “hymn” then waxes positively Pauline in the next verse.

                        Beginning to think that I’m wasting time
                        I don’t understand the things I do
                        The world outside looks so unkind
                        I’m counting on you
                        To carry me through

Mentor Williams, the songwriter, is with Paul in Romans 7.  He too doesn’t understand the things he does, but he differs in focusing on “the world outside” while Paul mourns the wretched man that he is.  But both are counting on another to “carry me through.”  Paul says, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ.”  To whom does Williams give thanks?

That is found in the title erroneously given to “Drift Away” which is “Gimmie the Beat Boys.”  Yes, it’s the beat of the rock and roll that frees Williams.

                        Give me the beat boys and free my soul
                        I wanna get lost in your rock and roll
                        And drift away

In the final verse though we see that it’s more than just the beat; it’s the melody; it’s the guitar strings; it’s sound, sensation, and feeling, but it’s not the words except in so far as there is rhyme and harmony in them.

                        And when my mind is free you know melody   can move me
                        And when I’m feeling blue the guitar’s coming through to soothe me
                        Thanks for the joy that you’ve given me
                        I want you to know I believe in your song
                        Your rhythm and rhyme and harmony
                        You’ve helped me along
                        You’re making me strong

I think this is a meet, right, and salutary use of rock and roll.  You can get lost in its beat; you can be soothed by it, helped along by it, or just plain drift away in it.  But this is not what a hymn should do.  A hymn doesn’t cause you to drift away; it carries you away to Christ and Him crucified.

Interestingly enough, there is a country music version of this song.  I know it was also recorded in the 70s and it was a hit, but I can’t remember the artist.  However, in the country version the line is, “I wanna get lost in your country song.”  You see?  “Song” implies music and words.  Still not a hymn though.  We don’t get lost in true, Christian hymnody.  We get found.  Stay tuned for “Who Let the Bands In?”

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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