Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Behind The Song: The Eglon Song

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I was reading the ESV translation of the Bible in the garden one day when I came to Judges 3 and laughed at the explicitness of their translation of King Eglon's demise at the hands of Ehud the judge. When my children asked me why I was laughing at the Bible I told them the story. Wide-eyed they asked me if that “was really in the Bible!” After all, isn't it rude to talk about poo? Evidently the Bible writers were not so squeamish! As we talked about it, I started singing the refrain to a “here we go around the mulberry bush” type tune and improvising verses.

And that would have been the end of it, had they not pestered me at regular intervals to “finish that song,” even asking me if they could sing it at church! So I kept working on it and gave it a new tune set to a chord progression influenced by an old jazz standard. The 'universal playground chant' makes an appearance in lines like “King's flabby belly” and the little intro chords (E6 & Eb6) were inspired by Ry Cooder's playing on 'Jazz' and 'Pecos Bill'

I struggled for a long time to find a fresh way to say “a long time ago in a land far away” and came up with

“back in the day when the Bible was thin”

on the drive to a romantic getaway with my wife. It remains one of my favourite lines from any song I've written.

I had a momentary pang of conscience that a good children's song should have a moral, a life lesson to impart. But the feeling quickly passed and was replaced by the joyous affirmation -

“if you're wondering what this song is really all about...”.

That being said I did refer to commentaries while writing this song just as I would with any song. My one regret is that I didn't managed to include a reference that, like me, Ehud was left-handed.

The song is dedicated to J.I.Packer - ESV Bible General Editor and jazz music fan, and, of course, my children.

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