Three Dog Night gets it right

One of the twins who lived in the room next to me my freshman year in college posted a link to Three Dog’s Night Joy to the World on Facebook Thursday. I’m not sure why she did but hearing that song again started a journey.

Back about the time that song came out, Dayna, the girl who lived next door to my grandmother, was three years older than me. She knew all the words. Her older sister may have even had the album. I could tell the words Dayna was singing were cool and, therefore, necessary to learn. So I did.

Any song that starts with the words, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog,” has got to be a winner. Once the verses and chorus words were in my head and our debate settled over whether or not it was appropriate for me to sing “straight shooting son of a gun,” I have a disconcerting memory of obnoxiously singing said song most everywhere I went for about a year and a half. The lyrics seemed kind of churchy, so I felt like no one around me would mind too much. I belted out, “If I was the king of the world, I’d tell you what I’d do,” and then whispered the next line about throwing “away the cars, and the bars and the wars and I’d make sweet love to you.” I thought in very general terms back then — and knew I had no business singing about bars.

When I watched the video last week, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face remembering the first day I knew those words and ran through Dayna’s backyard singing it to the top of my lungs. I was unsure if it was the first or second pop song I learned by heart. The other being, “Let it Be,” by the Beatles, which my second grade class learned in Mr. McClung’s weekly music lesson around the same time.

Mr. McClung was the local Methodist music minister who taught school music classes a couple days a week. For 1971, in a small town in Mississippi, I now realize that Mr. McClung was rather progressive. At that point, I didn’t give much thought to what he was. He was the teacher and a preacher, of sorts, and that was that. We learned “Let it Be” in class and eventually performed it for the majority of the school and town. I could take you to the exact spot on the stage where I stood when we sang, because as we sang, my 7-year-old self recognized the sounds of my classmates’ voices as being something beautiful. That moment was probably the first spiritual experience I had ever had.

After Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World made me smile this morning. I decided to post my friend’s link to it on my Facebook page and tag three of my second-grade classmates to see if they remembered our long-ago performance of “Let it Be”. Brian Kaskie, now a Catholic priest, was the first to respond. He remembered our performance and Mr. McClung’s introduction of it and its lyrics to our class. Brian says Mr. McClung asked if there were any Catholics in the class. So, he raised his hand, and Mr. McClung then asked if Brian would explain the significance of the Virgin Mary in the Catholic faith. He wishes he remembered what he said.

Then our friend and classmate, Eric Chancellor, now a pilot wrote, “I remember Mr. McClung. I remember the song. I don’t remember you running and singing. But I can picture it. Something very funny I remember is you, Jan, asking if you could have a bite of Felix Garcia’s Baby Ruth bar, slobbering on it, then him not taking it back. Great way to get a candy bar!”

Thankfully, I don’t remember slobbering over Felix’s Baby Ruth bar and am mortified at the thought. I asked Felix to send his address. When the weather cools, I’d like to repay him a long overdue candy bar. Felix responded with, “Can’t say I remember this incident, but then, the mind has a way of protecting itself from terrible memories. That, plus sometimes disease.” Which is exactly what I was thinking.

Eric’s troubling, but good-natured memory made me wonder what else I did through the years that I couldn’t recall but needed to make amends for. Brian chimed in with, “I’m sure we all have plenty to answer for from our youth! And think about our sins of omission, when we could have done something good and did not!”

We can never repay it all, can we? Whether it’s Baby Ruths from long ago or on a much grander scale, what can we do now? Maybe Three Dog Night provides the answer. Joy to the world. All the boys and girls. Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea. Joy to you and me.

Indeed, we need to live as open as possible — with joyful abandon, taking every opportunity to share happiness, taking care of each other and the world around us.