Who was the most successful singer last year in terms of income, making more money than any other singer on the planet?
That’s easy, right? It had to be Beyonce’. If that were your guess, I would’ve guessed the same. However, we would have both been wrong.
Oh, then, it’s gotta be Rihanna. Another good guess … and another incorrect one.
Harry Styles? Carrie Underwood? Sam Smith? No, No, and No.
Okay, how about Blake Shelton or Kanye West? Taylor Swift or Katy Perry? Keep guessing.
This is getting more difficult. Wait a minute! Some of the old acts still draw in lots of cash from record sales and touring. I got it! Paul McCartney? No, but that was another good guess. Mick Jagger? Nope.
Do you give up? Then let me give you the answer. According to Media Mass, the highest paid singer in the world last year was Gordon Lightfoot. Yep, Gordon Lightfoot! Remember the title of his first greatest hits collection (he’s had more than one)? It was called Gord’s Gold. Apparently that was prophetic.
So, you have to be wondering how this is possible. Admittedly he churned out hits prolifically from the late 60s to the mid-80s. Only a handful of songwriters could match him in importance. Dylan. Paul Simon. Carole King. Allen Toussaint. But very few others came close to being so important as songwriters for that entire generation. Still, it’s been a long time since the 80s, and Gordon Lightfoot is 79-years-old. What gives?
Let me mention a couple things. First, he just keeps doing what he’s good at. The man tours constantly. And he has legions of fans (mostly in my age range) who keep turning out to hear him. (I’ve seen him six times... so far.) He keeps singing If You Could Read My Mind, Sundown, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and his host of others – and we fans keep showing up and singing along. There’s a lesson there. If God gives you a gift, use it. And don’t fear that it will diminish with time. I watched Charlie Rose interview David McCullough this week. McCullough has written yet another magnificent historical book about past presidents. He’s 83-years-old, but that doesn’t mean his skills as a writer have lessened. Instead, his wisdom and understanding of history and of his craft have increased. So, he keeps doing what he is gifted to do, and we keep reading with thanks. We have a President who is 70, and early conjectures are that his three of his top four challengers in 2020 are already in their 70s. Long story short: Do not fear that your age limits you. Gordon keeps writing songs and performing, and his music is as good as ever.
Second, Lightfoot diversified. He writes and sings music, yes. That’s his gift. But, he also has opened restaurants, owns a football team, has developed a fashion line, produces Vodka, and now has released a line of fragrances. Seriously. A person can now drink Pure Wonderlightfoot on the rocks while wearing an aroma called Gordon Lightfoot Seduction. I’ll probably stick with Diet Ginger Ale and Tom Ford Noir, but I could do those other things were I to choose. What’s the lesson for us in that? I think it’s that a balanced person should not be obsessed with only one interest or issue. We used to hear the phrase “Johnny one-note.” It was always used to convey the truth that one note, however well performed, does not constitute a melody. For your life to sing, there has to be balance. There has to be work time and leisure time, professional investment and volunteer activity, time for the world and its concerns as well as time for self, family, and friends. One note does not make a song. Just listen to any of Gordon’s melodies, or just take a look at his life.
Jesus said to His disciples: “I have come that you might have life, and have it in its fullness.” (John 10:10) A full life is just what it sounds like – a blend of a wide variety of notes (spiritual, personal, professional, recreational, relational).
In one of his many great songs, Lightfoot wrote:
Will you be one who passed through but never saw,
Never knowing, never feeling anything?
Will you live your whole life through, never knowing what to do?
Will you be one who passed through but never saw?
Why settle for that when we can have life, the real, full, and abundant thing? So, here are a couple of suggestions for finding that: First, do not let age discourage you from continuing to do what you are gifted to do. If God provides a skill, it has no expiration date. Second, do other things as well. A diversity of interests keeps life fresh and invigorating. Make your own music!