More Than Flesh and Bone: A Blues Ballad for Living Higher

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 4:57 pm

More Than Flesh and Bone: A Blues Ballad for Living Higher

https://youtu.be/-DXI4hxm_-o

Following the sparkling glimmer of a light-infused season, the month of January can sometimes feel as if a heavy, wet blanket of snow is descending upon us. It’s a time when the body can feel overindulged and earthbound, a time when we dispiritedly plod through the weight of winter days.
Sliding from the high notes of the holidays to the low notes of mid-January, nature’s force ushers us unwittingly from the warm cheer of family and friends to a still and penetrating solitude. Even our music changes tune, as the festive good tidings of December songs give way to introspective, tranquilizing melodies that help carry us away from the sluggish, gray days of January.

As American pianist George Winston — whose instrumental music has been likened to “flakes of falling snow” — once said,
“Every song I’ve ever heard, that has gone in and stayed in me, has always reminded me of a season. A picture and a place, maybe, but always a season.”

It might seem unfitting, then, to turn to the music of legendary blues icon Buddy Guy in the midst of a season known for plunging tired souls into the depths of “January blues.” But his song “Flesh and Bone” does just the opposite, propelling my spirit onward and upward into a brighter sky of possibilities.
Featuring rock and roll soul artist Van Morrison, Buddy Guy dedicated his song to B.B. King, the “King of Blues,” upon his passing last May — an apt choice for the hopeful message it offers:

It ain’t over the day you die

We all live on in the spirit by and by

With a poignant refrain that invites us to contemplate a life “more than” our fleshly existence — more than our human desires and temptations, frustrations and fears, tribulations and doubts — it simultaneously encourages us to transcend those very things, to “live higher”:

This life is more than flesh and bone

Find out now before you’re gone

When you go your spirit lives on

This life is more than flesh and bone

The message is a reflection of Buddy Guy’s religious upbringing. “My mamma used to say, ‘If you get slapped, turn the other cheek, so they can slap the other side,’” Guy recalled in an interview with Rolling Stone. She ought to have been proud, then, when her son took the high road after waking up one morning to an egged home. Buddy Guy explained:

“[My neighbors] said, ‘A black man gets eggs thrown on his house, and he’s still plowing snow off everybody’s sidewalk, corner to corner?’ And we were the best of friends after that.”

More than a religious ballad, however, “Flesh and Bone” also provides a welcome reminder of the importance of perspective, the perspective that we’re more than earth-bound creatures of the here and now with long lists of “things to do.” During these cold days of January, days in which we feel so acutely our fleshly existence and so easily succumb to the instant gratification our flesh desires, we can find a more enduring kind of solace in embracing the perspective of a “higher” world of mystery and spirit that this song evokes.

So perhaps it is fitting to turn to Buddy Guy after all. Considered the last of the blues legends, he is representative of a genre of music that, although rather marginalized in our culture, is known for eliciting heartfelt, soulful, and raw emotion. His music reminds us that this life is, indeed, more than flesh and bone.
Recalling what he told his producer while working on his 2015 album, Born to Play Guitar, which features the “Flesh and Bone” track, Buddy Guy says in a Billboard article, “Let’s play some funky blues like these older guys, the ones that taught me, and hopefully we can hit a note that will get people to pay attention.”
Well, he sure hit a note. And he certainly got my attention:

Daddy read the good book through and through

Said the Lord’s word is the only truth

It ain’t over the day you die

We all live on in the spirit by and by

This life is more than flesh and bone

Find out now before you’re gone

When you go your spirit lives on

This life is more than flesh and bone

Now I know my daddy was right

I read that good book and I’ve seen the light

Mama and daddy have passed and gone

They’re still with me ‘cause love lives on

This life is more than flesh and bone

Find out now before you’re gone

When you go your spirit lives on

This life is more than flesh and bone

The God I feed on is real as rain

More than words can ever explain

We’ll meet again some sweet day

Far beyond this world of pain

This life is more than flesh and bone

Find out now before you’re gone

When you go your spirit goes on

This life is more than flesh and bone

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lives in New York City and works as a senior content manager at Treehouse Technology Group, a company she founded with her brothers. She writes for All Things Good, a blog dedicated to thoughtful, meaningful, and deliberate living.

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