As a songwriter, sometimes you write a song that is difficult to share. All artists experience this, no matter what their media of choice is, and it can be hard to know whether the art you’ve made is really meant for others to see or if it’s just too personal.
I’ve had a few of these moments myself, but this song I’m sharing today has been the hardest yet – I’ve sat on it for a year, too unsure to share it. As I’ll explain, this song is very personal and emotional for me, but I decided the issues it deals with are so universal that sharing it might actually do some good. If something that started out as an exercise in personal therapy helps someone else, then it will have been a worthwhile exercise.
So let’s back up a little bit…
I’ve always wanted to write a song called ‘Jericho’, I’m not quite sure why. I’m not at all religious, so why should a Biblical story resonate so much with me? Hmm.
For those who don’t know, the story is about Joshua leading the Israelites, on a mission from God, to destroy the Canaan city of Jericho. After being told by God to walk around the walls of the city each day for six days, on the seventh day God tells Joshua to walk around it seven times, then blow their trumpets and shout, and the walls of the city will tumble. Joshua follows God’s instructions, with extreme patience, and everything comes to pass as God predicted (surprise, surprise).
This story was most familiar to me through the African-American gospel song ‘Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho’, which I knew as a child. Then, in my early teens, I heard a song sung by Hilary Duff called ‘Jericho’, which was an utterly rubbish song, but really got me thinking about Jericho as a metaphor.
The Biblical message of Joshua and Jericho is to have faith, and patience, in God’s work. And that, through this faith, your obstacles will be overcome. As I’m not a Christian, I don’t share that precise interpretation, but I do believe it can be a useful metaphor for our struggles in life.
We all have our own personal Jericho. Something we have to overcome that is stopping us from achieving our goals. For many of us, it’s just the voice in our own head telling us we’re not good enough.
A year ago, I had a very close family friend take his own life. It was a shock for all that knew him, even though he had struggled with depression for many years and had previously talked about ending his life. But we weren’t expecting it. He was such a wonderful person, who had been like an honorary uncle to me when I was growing up, and his absence was felt deeply by all his friends and family.
I was miserable for the first week after it happened. I couldn’t concentrate on anything properly. I’d walk to the supermarket and then completely forget what I was there to buy. I was upset and shocked and angry and numb all at the same time. Of course, we all had the thought along the lines of ‘Could I have done something?’ Could any of us have actually changed the course of events he had set out for himself?
The sad reality is that we probably couldn’t have. He made some bad choices which left him struggling financially, and he had too much pride to accept charity. Friends tried to help him, but he refused all offers of help. His sense of self-worth was so low that possibly he felt like he didn’t deserve it, but he also couldn’t see how much he was going to be missed. Everyone who knew him could see all the gifts he had to offer the world and he enriched the lives of all of us. It is such a shame that he couldn’t see this himself.
He was always particularly generous and kind to me, as I was growing up. As I became an adult, he always wanted to know what I was up to and my mum kept him well informed. A thought that upset me a lot after he passed away, was that he was no longer going to witness important moments in my life. We all have people that we expect will be there to see good things happen in our lives. After he was gone, I realised he wasn’t going to see a lot of things I’d hoped he would see. Like the rest of my extended family and close friends, I’d expected him to be around to see me finish my degree, settle into a proper job, get married and have kids…and realising I wasn’t going to be able to share any of that with him still makes me very sad.
About a week after he died, I started writing songs about him. I needed to process my emotions somehow, and songwriting is the best way I know how to do that. I wasn’t intending the songs to be for anyone else to hear, but when I wrote ‘Jericho’ I felt that maybe I’d made something worth sharing. It was one of those songs that just wrote itself, requiring very little effort on my part. All the years I’d been thinking about Jericho as a song led up to this, and I think it was worth the wait.
Today marks a year since I lost a bright star from my life, so it seemed like an appropriate time to share this song. I’ve been hesitant to share it at all, simply because my emotional connection to it is so intense, but in the end I decided that those are the songs you should share.
Everyone goes through tough times, but when you’re going through them remember that there is always – ALWAYS – someone who cares about you and wants to help. And if you see someone else struggling, say something. Offer to help, offer to listen. We all need to look after each other.
Your Jericho might be all in your mind but, because of that, it is always in your power to send the walls tumbling down.
So don’t ever give up.
Because there will always be someone who’ll be sad if you do.