Sing Your Song for an Audience of One

Playing for Free by Joni Mitchell

I slept last night in a good hotel

I went shopping today for jewels

The wind rushed around in the dirty town

And the children let out from the schools

I was standing on a noisy corner

Waiting for the walking green

Across the street he stood 

And he played real good

On his clarinet for free. 

Now me I play for fortunes

And those velvet curtain calls

I’ve got a black limousine 

And two gentlemen 

Escorting me to the halls 

And I play if you have the money

Or if you’re a friend to me

But the one man band 

By the quick lunch stand

He was playing real good for free.

Nobody stopped to hear him 

Though he played so sweet and high

They knew he had never 

Been on their T.V.

So they passed his music by

I meant to go over and ask for a song

Maybe put on a harmony

I heard his refrain

As the signal changed

He was playing real good for free.

I don’t know why but the lyrics of this song struck me deeply this morning. Joni is saying by now she is a rising star and plays for fortunes and fame. She has the limo and escorts and the velvet curtain calls. But she notices this guy who is playing his clarinet high and clear with skill for free. She thinks about going over to request a song or harmonize with him but the light changed and the thought is fleeting. Still she is struck by the skill of this one man band and the fact that he would play for free…

Do you sing your song for free? Do you continue to do your hidden work without the accolades and recognition of fame and fortune? I stand and give my applause to this humble man with a song and joy in his heart to share with no tangible reward in sight.

When you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly. (Matt. 6:6)

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2 Responses to Sing Your Song for an Audience of One

  1. Lisa Ramsey says:

    I love this Holly. If you are going to be an effective minister for God this is the only way you can do it. The only motivation must be for your audience of One. Any other motivation in your heart, especially one of notoriety, will lead you to failure. Matthew 23:12 The exalted will be humbled and the humble will be exalted.

    • Holly Smith says:

      So true Lisa though I think a lot of us go through that phase of notoriety unfortunately. There is so much “American idol” like thinking in the culture that tries to mix with Christians imitating the world’s way of stardom. Jesus is the only star and he modeled the most humble servanthood ever. Aren’t we lucky to have such a model. I loved that song because Joni seemed so in awe that this guy would sing his song for free. She knew he was good too and perhaps knew she should have joined his ranks or values and shared harmony.

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