(Every artist has a soundtrack that reveals their musical journey. But what is the one recording that proved to be a transformative moment? In this ongoing series, GRAMMY-winning and -nominated artists will reveal their answer to the deceptively difficult question: What recording changed your life?)
"The Living Years"
Mike & The Mechanics (1988)
"Many records have affected my life, but one that stands out the most is 'The Living Years' by Mike & The Mechanics. It was a worldwide hit in 1989, including number one [on] Billboard in the U.S. I was 15 years old that year, and remember how moved I was by the song the very first time I heard it. I played it over and over. The vocal was incredible, the lyrical depth utterly brilliant, and I guess a kids choir on those end choruses helped tug at the heartstrings quite a bit too.
"The song spoke into some deep themes such as forgiveness and the place of a father in our lives. The story goes that the writers Mike Rutherford and BA Robertson had both lost their fathers that year, and both also had sons born to them. So the song is about redeeming any regrets they had in their relationship with their lost fathers by getting it right with their sons. One reason it struck such a chord with me is I'd lost my own dad at the age of 7, and still had lots to work through in that regard. It's interesting how music has a way of probing around in those secret places of our hearts where not much else seems to reach us.
"This record taught me a great deal about the importance of authenticity in a song. The writers weren't coming from a hypothetical place — this was a real story, straight from the heart. I've noticed the same on my own creative journey. The songs that seem to connect the best aren't just clever ideas; they've come from somewhere real, somewhere raw. Perhaps the best teacher of all is my hero King David in the Bible. What a songwriter. You could hardly find a more raw and real collection of songs than the Psalms. They have it all: angst and joy, pain and hope, confusion and peace.
"The lead vocalist on 'The Living Years' was Paul Carrack. As it turned out, Paul lived in the same little English village as me. Around the age of 20, when I was just starting out full-time in music, I got to hang out with him a bit. He was a huge encouragement, and it made a big mark on where I was headed with the songs and my heart to affect people through them. He even guested on my first record, with some backing vocals. I always felt like this was the kindness of God to me: Here was the singer of my all-time favorite song, just a stone's throw away and generous enough to input into my life at such a key time.
"Coming full circle, a few years ago I was part of an evening [performance] with the London Community Gospel Choir at Abbey Road Studios in London. Up onstage with the choir after me was Paul, singing a brilliant version of 'The Living Years.' It was the first time I'd ever heard it performed live. I was reminded once again what a powerful song it is, and what a meaningful one it has been to me."
(Matt Redman won GRAMMYs for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance and, along with co-writer Jonas Myrin, Best Contemporary Christian Music Song for "10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)" at the 55th GRAMMY Awards, marking the first GRAMMY wins of his career. The song is the title track on Redman's 2011 album, 10,000 Reasons, which topped Billboard's Christian Albums chart.)
(Paul Zollo is the senior editor of American Songwriter and the author of several books, including Songwriters On Songwriting, Conversations With Tom Petty and Hollywood Remembered. He's also a songwriter and Trough Records artist whose songs have been recorded by many artists, including Art Garfunkel, Severin Browne and Darryl Purpose.)