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Carry On – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
By Michael Dalton

Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour gave a great compliment to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. As David Crosby and Graham Nash came on stage to sing backup for a song on the David Gilmour: Remember That Night – Live from the Royal Albert Hall DVD, Gilmour paid tribute to the group’s vocal harmonies. 

“Carry On” showcases the group at the height of their vocal powers. The beautiful acappella bridge in the middle divides the song into two parts. The musical tension, which is heightened by the intensity of their voices, builds to a climax through the first two stanzas. It’s as if they are climbing a mountain and on reaching the summit break out into a joyous refrain. But then comes the best part of the song. It takes on a relaxed, elongated feel punctuated by some of the most powerful vocal harmonies that you will ever hear. Short, tasteful electric guitar solos keep it interesting. The music is mesmerizing.

The lyrics speak of love lost and found, and an uncertain hope for the future.

One morning I woke up 
And I knew you were gone.
A new day, a new way,
And new eyes to see the dawn.
Go your way
I'll go mine and carry on.
A break-up is in view. The writer is indifferent about the other person—you go your way, I’ll go mine. Instead of lamenting his loss, he sees it as an opportunity for a new perspective. 
The sky is clearing and the night has cried enough
The sun he comes the world so often up.
Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice but to carry on.
The fortunes of fables are able to sing a song,
Now witness the quickness with which we get along
To sing the blues, you've got to live the dues
And carry on.
Stanza two expresses optimism depicted in the elements. The sky is clearing. The night has cried enough. The sun comes once again. 

The call to rejoice is an encouragement to be brave. We must carry on.

Have the fables of love come true? Witness how quickly he begins to get along with someone else. It’s in part a reward for continuing on.

Carry on, love is coming,
Love is coming to us all.
This is the acappella bridge that takes the music in a whole new direction. The lines that follow express a tentative hope that is uncertain.
Where are you going now my love?
Where will you be tomorrow?
Will you bring me happiness?
Will you bring me sorrow?
Are the questions of a thousand dreams
What you do and what you see
Lover, can you talk to me?
Will this newfound love last? What will it be in the end? Will you promise to stay?
Girl when I was on my own
Chasing you down
What was it made you run?
Tryin' your best just to get around
The questions of a thousand dreams
What you do and what you see
Lover, can you talk to me?
Relationships are difficult and love is elusive. There’s no hope without communication. Can we talk?

The lyrics remind me of how society tends to look at relationships in terms of personal fulfillment. How times have changed. It wasn’t that long ago that marriage was more of an economic necessity for both sexes. Now we look at how another person might be able to meet our needs for self-enrichment. It’s this preoccupation with ourselves that jeopardizes us from ever experiencing the sacrificial, giving nature of love. Just carrying on will not ensure that we reach this pinnacle of human experience.

I know what it’s like to continue on with no real hope of improvement. Back when this song was popular, my best friend and I decided to take a camping trip. We envisioned a couple of days of drinking beer (we had a case) and smoking pot (about an ounce) in a campground adjacent to Trinity Lake. 

It was not the idyllic trip we imagined. I rode my brakes too much on the drive over. After making it to the campground, I decided to back into our spot by first pulling forward up a steep incline. In a matter of seconds the brakes failed, and my car was over the edge of the road. I stared in disbelief at the tree that had stood its ground, stopped the car and flattened my driver’s side door.

A tow truck pulled the car out, and I was resigned to being without it while the brakes were being fixed in Weaverville. Unfortunately, due to a faulty repair job, the brakes went out again on the way back from the repair shop. This time I was on a long and winding road that would take us to a marina on the lake. The brakes failed just a short distance from the boat ramp. I was going slow enough that I managed to turn down a side road, where to the consternation of my companions, I pointed the car towards a small tree. The emergency brake failed, and I knew that I could count on another tree to stop me and it did.

As we waited for another tow truck, this was quickly turning into the camping trip from hell. Some time after we made it back to the campground, my best friend’s older brother showed-up. My best friend took the opportunity to leave and took our tent with him. I was left with a cot, a dwindling food supply and my best friend’s younger brother and his friend. They had come earlier for a visit and stayed. 

One afternoon I decided to leave my companions and go for a swim. Since we were there before the onset of the summer tourist season, I thought nothing of leaving my pants hanging outside the public restroom, which was next to our camping area. When I returned from my swim, my pants were gone along with my wallet, which had all my cash and credit cards. Even though this was many years before the existence of the show Survivor, it was starting to feel just a little like it.

I had to call my parents because I had no place to turn. We were running out of food, and I was not sure when I could get my car back. My parents had me call the Trinity Alps Resort—a nearby place where our family had vacationed for many years in a row. The owners of the resort agreed to provide food and lodging provided that we work. I can still remember the misery of picking-up downed branches while being sick with bronchitis. Somehow I had managed to become ill, and smoking the little pot that I had left made me worse. 

When I finally got my car back, I can remember quietly driving home listening to “Carry On” and the rest of Déjà vu. The song was always a favorite, but it was like someone singing songs to a heavy heart. 

I felt betrayed by my best friend and wanted nothing to do with him. We were never close again. I carried on in despair with no hope.  

Recently I had the chance to review the CD I Have a Hope by Tommy Walker. He wrote the title song to give hope to the homeless and destitute that live in our cities. The song is filled with Biblical affirmations and promises that can help lift the lowest among us from despair. It’s encouraging to be reminded that “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). It makes me think of a beautiful benediction, “May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

What a difference faith in God can make. Before I had no hope that my situation would ever be better. Even as a believer I can sometimes think the same forgetting that “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6a ESV).

As Phil Keaggy has said in song,

Just a moment away, if you ask He will stay, 
Again I say, call on His name, 
If you do, you're life will be changed. 
My sky began to clear when I received Jesus Christ into my life. My long night of crying was over. The sun rose on a new day for me.  

Hope begins and is sustained through a relationship with God. It’s a hope that is secure. Nothing can touch it, not even the failure of relationships, which come and go. This hope that God imparts makes it so much easier to carry on.  


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