Brilliant Songs #6: Chuck Brodsky’s “We Are Each Other’s Angels”

I came across this song just a few weeks ago, courtesy of Facebook friend Eric Gray, who had just organized a house concert by Chuck Brodsky in San Francisco. Eric is a music guy, as well as a baseball guy (powerful combo…), so I of course investigated Mr. Brodsky, went on You Tube, and here we are, with Brilliant Song #6 in this occasional series.

Ironically, I was moved to write about it when checking in, as a kind of pop culture imperative, with the Super Bowl halftime show the other day.

When a band I had never heard of, Maroon 5, and its lead singer started prancing around the stage, with the singer ripping his shirt off to reveal his gym physique and every-square-millimeter-of-skin-tattoos as the young ‘uns who were herded onto the field for the occasion jumped up and down around him on cue in the usual highly staged, ridiculous-looking scene, vapid, showy and just all around fake as can be, I thought immediately of actual musicians making actual music that is reflective of actual lives in this rough-and-tumble and beautiful world.

And I thought again of Chuck Brodsky, and his half-plaintive, half-rhapsodic paean to angels—in human form.

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Like a lot of workaday singer-songwriters, the Asheville, North Carolina-based Brodsky has an easy, engaging manner that thoroughly lacks pretense. Not for him the ripped-off shirt display, though one could see him inadvertently showing up on stage with a favorite ripped flannel shirt he’s worn down a bit much over his years on the road.

Let’s have a listen to his Angels song, and after you maybe sniffle a bit (if you happen to be that kinda person…), I’ll come back for some brief discussion and appreciation. The full lyrics will be below, though you won’t much need them to grasp the words and meaning, thanks to Brodsky’s blessedly clear, heart-infused diction.

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So: the message. Could it be any more straight-ahead?

Whenever I present occasional brief reflections (some five minutes) or full-blown sermons (closer to 20 minutes) in church, the focus is always on that word: message. What’s the take-away? What, in the final distillation, are we trying to convey?

One of the things that just slays me about music—and why I suspect it is the very highest, closest-to-the-heavens art form—is that it can say so ridiculously much, in such a short interval, attached to/intertwined with a tune that can both melt your heart and keep you humming it all the rest of the day. (And through the night, and—at intermittent times—the rest of your life…)

Brodsky demonstrates both those attributes here. So plain-spoken and from the heart, isn’t he?

Simple and eloquent; a man and the music he has made, unadorned.

There’s a leave-taking going on here, but not from a broken heart or any sort of recrimination. It’s just time for these friends, or perhaps even just short-term acquaintances, to move on down their respective roads, with kindly acknowledgement and regard for what they have shared of each other’s angelic natures.

And the basic unspoken theological underpinning, too: that however much it might soothe us to conjure actual angels hovering in some disembodied form and assigned to protect and guide us, boyyyyyyyy do they ever seem to fall down on the job a lot, off there hobnobbing as they do with Hansel and Gretel and the Easter Bunny.

But Brodsky goes right past the myth and makes a beautiful pitch for actual, in-the-flesh angels, the kind that really do exist, in human form, with the evidence all around us in the inexhaustible goodness and charity human beings show each other in every place and time.

A neighbor of mine recently lost his wife of 50+ years, the wound fresh and deep as he fought—and lost—his battle with tears in recounting for me her last days. Then I asked about his two daughters, and everything about him momentarily brightened. “They’ve been angels,” he said. “Just angels.” 

And so they have.

Literally?

Well, yes—a whole lot more literally than the kind we read about in various scriptures. A spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, conventionally represented in human form with wings and a long robe,” my dictionary tells me.

Except for the wings and long robe, my neighbor’s daughters—and so many others around us every day—truly are “attendants, agents, or messengers of God,” inasmuch as they exemplify the love, care and compassion that are at the core of godly attributes in virtually every religion.

God lives, indeed. Just look around.

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Well I hope I see you later
‘Cause it’s time for me to go
That’s my ride that just pulled over
Sure was good to know you
So go answer your calling
Go and fill somebody’s cup
And if you see an angel fallin’
Won’t you stop and help them up

‘Cause we are each other’s angels
And we meet when it is time
We keep each other goin’
And we show each other signs

Sometimes you’ll stumble
Sometimes you’ll just lie down
Sometimes you’ll get lonely
With all these people around
You might shiver when the wind blows
And you might get blown away
You might lose a little color
You might lose a little faith

But we are each other’s angels
And we meet when it is time
We keep each other goin’
We show each other signs

Thank you for the water
I thought I was gonna die
Out here in the desert
But you quenched my thirst
Let’s break a little bread together
I’ve got a little manna
It was a gift
From someone that was passing by
And offered me a lift

We are each other’s angels
And we meet when it is time
We keep each other goin’
And show each other signs

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So if you enjoyed all that, a bonus below. (And if, like Brodsky, you’re a baseball fan, too, find his “Letters in the Dirt” and “Doc No-No” on You Tube, one-of-a-kind songs both…)

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Check out this blog’s public page on Facebook for 1-minute snippets of wisdom and other musings from the world’s great thinkers and artists, accompanied by lovely photography.
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Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.

Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.
 https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/

Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: larry@rosefoto.com

Angel by Andrea Kirkby, Norwich, UK  https://www.flickr.com/photos/andreakirkby/

4 comments to Brilliant Songs #6: Chuck Brodsky’s “We Are Each Other’s Angels”

  • Angela  says:

    Why lament over not being a contender when you can so easily be……an angel?

    This beautiful song has given me occasion to reflect on the many times I have been the recipient of amazing kindnesses. They have spanned a wide range, from good friends to perfect strangers offering gestures of remarkable, unfettered generosity to an understanding gaze, a smile, a cup of coffee. I hope I can say the same of myself, that I have eased the path of another when I could.

    This post seems timely in light of this week’s upcoming Valentine extravaganza. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of romance, and deep true love and passion, and red and pink and chocolate. All fine, all really wonderful. But it’s not the only kind of love, and even that woozy love thrives on everyday kindness, patience, gestures of simple awareness, caring and respect.

    I appreciate this post so much for offering me the chance to reflect on the many angels that have graced my days, and all the ways that my life has been enriched and expanded when I was able to share that grace with others. Thanks for this encouragement to see, to appreciate, and to act.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Angela, I just happened to see “Streetcar Named Desire” last nite in a local production, where the “woozy” love of romance and passion (the latter in full-tilt, animal aggression) stood in stark contrast to the lack of “everyday kindness, patience, gestures of simple awareness, caring and respect” shown by the main characters (with the exception of the wife Stella, whose kindness also masked her resignation and excuse-making for her husband Stanley’s relentless abuse). Tennessee Williams had an ear and eye for dark longings and explosive expressions, but in a larger sense, those longings were for the very kindness you reference, the “time in between” Valentine’s Day, birthdays and holidays. You know, the Dalai Lama Days, where kindness is a daily practice and caring and respect are the norm.

  • Jay Helman  says:

    Wonderful, thank you for the introduction to Brodsky. I will soon have him on any/all playlists possible. I am reminded of the many angels that I met and worked with while in stroke recovery nine years ago. They were nurses, doctors, therapists, friends and loved ones. Upon my return to work nearly 4 months after the near-death stroke, I shared with colleagues that there were many angels around me in the University of Utah hospital. Not surprisingly, many thought that I “literally” meant angels of the disembodied kind. Coming back after a traumatic brain injury it occurred to me that many may think that I was disoriented, delusional, etc. But I persisted and talked about the embodied angels all around me during that time spent struggling to climb out of a very dark and deep hole. Daily kindness, humor, encouragement and, from my family and friends, love and strength, made what many believe to be a miraculous recovery possible. Life is good, and angels are all around us. Thank you, Drew, and thank you Chuck Brodsky.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Jay, yesterday in church a visiting minister, now retired, related a tale quite similar to yours, and right in line with Chuck’s song as well. She’d been perfectly healthy in the past ands was serving her congregation when she suffered progressive liver failure of unknown origin that she had ignored too long (too busy to go to the doctor). So she was basically at death’s door when she got on a transplant list, for which chances were slim. She had made her peace with dying when, almost miraculously, a donor organ was available that was a match for hers, so she got the transplant and is doing fine now. Compromised, but very much alive.

      And one of the points she really emphasized was how many people and technologies and organizations in so many different places and strata were responsible for her survival. Her “I wouldn’t be alive were it not for….” list was pretty much incalculable, and it remains so today.

      And all her delusions, which she had fiercely nurtured, about being independent and wholly in charge of her own welfare? Right out the window, revealed as the hokum that it is for every member of the human family with a pulse.

      She’s right, you’re right, Chuck’s right, and lucky us, he made it into a wonderful song!

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