John Lennon, Merle Haggard, and Jesus
I don’t know if you suffer from this problem, but I constantly get songs from my childhood stuck in my mind. Specifically, old country music songs show up.
One particular song meanders through my mind. Old Hippie, by the Bellamy Brothers, will hang out for days. I sing it in the shower, while shaving, driving, or whenever.
The song tells the story of how a former hippie, now thirty five years old, deals with his transitioning life. The song says, “He’s an old hippie and he don’t know what to do. Should he hang on to the old? Should he grab on to the new? He’s an old hippie. This new life is just a bust. He ain’t tryin’ to change nobody. He’s just tryin’ real hard to adjust.”
One line declares that in the sixties the old hippie thought everyone was hip. I can remember asking my parents what it meant to be hip. Once I cleared up that question, my next was to ask what it meant to be sent “off to Vietnam on his senior trip.” That answer introduced me to the draft and the Vietnam War.
The song was released in 1985, making the old hippie the same age as my dad. (In the interest of full disclosure, it’s also my current age.) While my parents didn’t fall into this category, I’ve met several from their generation who, like the old hippie, were “consuming” what they grew in “a little garden in the backyard by the fence.”
The old hippie smoked his stash to rebel against pressure to conform, but he did compromise in a few areas. He loved country music, “because disco left him cold.” And while he had mostly left the party scene, he still dreamed about Woodstock and mourned the death of John Lennon. One of the song’s most poignant lines says, “he thinks of John sometimes, and he has to wonder why.”
But until a few days ago, I was unaware that there is more to the story than the original song.
Ten years after we first met the old hippie, the Bellamy Brothers dropped in on him again.
At forty five, he is still adjusting to life and trying to move on, but things still aren’t quite right.
His love of country music is tested by a new generation of singers. The radio doesn’t play Merle Haggard or George Jones anymore. Instead, “he don’t know Billy Ray from Garth.”
Marijuana appears again, this time in the line, “he just don’t trust a president that never has inhaled.”
A glimmer of happiness, however, shines through in his family life. After getting home from work he “takes some time up with the kids.” He’s trying “to teach them right from wrong, hope they don’t learn it the way he did.”
Despite his progress, the old hippie is still out of sorts. The chorus says, “Yeah, he’s an old hippie, even older than before. Wondering what to pay attention and to what he should ignore. He’s an old hippie, still adjusting to the change. He’s just trying to find some balance in a world gone totally insane.”
The Bellamys left him for another ten years.
The next time we hear about him, at fifty five, he is a new man.
He’s found salvation through Christ.
The chorus says, “He’s an old hippie, getting older every day. But his eyes are on the prize and his faith ain’t gonna stray. He’s an old hippie; he knows what his life is for. Tryin’ to get right with the man before he goes knockin’ on Heaven’s door.”
The old hippie can’t believe that he’s lived so long and is grateful for God’s love in his life. Part of the opening says, “But now he hangs out with the grandkids, instead of tokin’ on his bong. He still thinks about the crazy days, but thanks his God above, that he traded in the love-ins for a greater kind of love.”
His love for music has evolved. He still loves country and rock, but now “he’s partial to the melodies that saved his soul.”
He’s come so far that he’s not even concerned with being cool anymore: “he don’t care, and that’s a fact.”
He does care about faith and family. His evangelism is straightforward: “He’ll just tell you about the love he’s found, deep within his heart.”
Our friend found joy in the Lord: “His family is his universe and Heaven is his home.”
I don’t know if the Bellamy Brothers plan to visit their buddy when he turns sixty five. If they do, I think I know what they will find.
He will be a man faced with his own mortality: high blood pressure, prostate health, aging joints, and weakening eyes will bring new adjustments. Caring for aging parents and dealing with the death of a spouse may dominate his life. Living in a world increasingly hostile to his beliefs may stir up his old rebellious ways.
But I believe our old hippie will be just fine. He’s learned that life boils down to his relationship with Christ.
His journey was long and winding, but he got there.
I’m not a songwriter, but let me suggest a chorus for the old hippie at sixty five.
“Yeah, he’s an old hippie, but he’s trusting in His Lord. His old joints, they start to creak, his blood pressure, he ignores. He’s an old hippie, and the world has gone insane, he finds comfort in the truth that his Jesus will never change.”
Hope to hear from you soon.