Songs of Courage

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Jun 17, 2017 / 0 comments

Courage: it is an aspect of character with many facets.  It can be courageous to speak out; it can be courageous to stay silent. It can show courage to move forward. At other times and circumstances, and for the same person, it can take more courage to stay in one place. It can take courage to reflect; it can be equally courageous to act quickly. Courage, along with its companion integriy, may also be touchstones which help guide choices such as those. 

Whatever the timeframe or the nature of the decision, courage often benefits from tempering with wisdom, and with kindness. Consider, then, ways courage comes about in these four songs.

Songs of Courage

Peter, Paul, and Mary rewrote the melody a bit and added their trademark harmonies, not to mention strong doses of passion, to a song written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hayes. You might know If I Had a Hammer as a school sing along these days, or a campfire song, or maybe from a pop recording. There is power in the words, though. Peter, Paul, and Mary performed it in many circumstances, from civil rights marches (including the big march on Washington in 1963) to top television shows to sold out concerts to small coffeehouse gigs, and they won a Grammy for their recording of it too. It is on their debut album, called simply Peter, Paul, and Mary.

As Tish Hinojosa began to make her life in music, she realized that her experiences growing up first generation Mexican American in Texas, loving the music of artists from Rodney Crowell to Linda Ronstadt to Emmylou Harris, and playing music across landscapes of northern New Mexico, gave her a deep well of experience and a distinctive voice for her songwriting. That's a well from which she still draws. Here, though, is a vintage clip of a song that resonates with the theme of courage infused with strength and gentleness. It is called Love Is On Our Side and is recorded on Hinojosa's album Homeland.

Carrie Newcomer, who comes from Indiana, has been called a poet of the prairie. She focuses in seeing and revealing the sacred in the ordinary, the holy dimension, the connecting dimension of what may be encountered. That comes through in her song Lean In Toward the Light. She uses ideas of seasons and change in nature -- a theme you will often find in her work -- to suggest the power of sometimes small actions actions to create change. There are risks in kindness; among other things it creates change, which Newcomer also thinks about in her lyrics. The song is recorded on her album The Beautiful Not Yet.

Courage, action, risk, reflection, consequence: all of these things have connections with other people. The courage, risk, and hope of friendship and connection are what comes up in the song Walk the Road. It was written by Kate Rusby. Cathie Ryan recorded it on her album called Through Wind and Rain. In fact, Ryan liked the song so much she chose a phrase from the song as the title of the recording. "It is a song so full of hope -- I love to sing it!" Ryan says. 

From the song Walk the Road

All the way through wind and rain
I'll never deceive my heart again
Hand in hand, across the land
We'll walk the road together

Cathie Ryan. From Songs of Courage
Photo courtesy and copyright Kerry Dexter

Justice, connection, hope, trust, responsibility: these songs allow all those things to find poetic, musical, and lyrical expression, and open doorways to further reflection. Take a listen to each of them (and to the albums on which they are recorded, too), and see what doors may open for you.


Read other stories in this series:

Asking Questions, Telling Stories: Music for Times of Change

Music for Unsettling Times: Conversations and Questions

Music of Resilience

Songs of Hope

Songs of Hope, Gracias a La Vida

Songs of Friendship

Music in Times of Change

Music for Reflection

Three Feet or So: Music and Creating Positive Change in the World

Music: The Power of Connection


Kerry Dexter is Music Editor at Wandering Educators. You may reach Kerry at music at wanderingeducators dot com.

You may find more of Kerry's work in National Geographic Traveler, Strings, Perceptive Travel, Journey to Scotland, Irish Fireside, and other places, as well as at her own site, Music Road