Making the final cut in this short “new beginnings” series of articles for Easter, it’s Ray Stevens with “Everything Is Beautiful”.
Ray Stevens had an interesting, and somewhat unusual, trajectory for an artist who’s picked up two Grammys.
First and foremost, he was a “proper musician” who studied music at college. In the late 50s and early 60s, his skills as a songwriter, session player and arranger got him his start in the music business.
Alongside working for others, he started developing material of his own and soon developed a reputation for comedy records. I suspect none of them would make it past record label executives today, but songs like “Bridget The Midget”, “Gitarzan” and his inspired re-working of Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood” using a chorus of clucking chickens were undoubtedly popular.
In the 70s, Ray Stevens would have one of the biggest hits of his career with another comedy song, “The Streak”, which poked fun at the then-popular…goodness knows why…trend of disrobing in public and running around to show people what you’ve got.
He also had a massive hit, and picked up another Grammy, in 1976 with a bluegrass-inspired re-working of the old Johnny Mathis hit “Misty”. I could never work out whether this record was intended as Ray Stevens’ heartfelt tribute to a much-loved song from his childhood or as a merciless send-up of an old classic. He played it with a straight face…but I’ve always wondered…
But in the late 1960s, Ray Stevens took a little break from comedy and embarked on the more serious phase of his career. 1968 saw the release of the very powerful “Mr Businessman”…one of my all-time favourite songs.
And a couple of years later, today’s song… “Everything Is Beautiful”.
Many people think this is a old song that Ray Stevens just parcelled up and had a hit with. But he wrote it himself…with the exception of borrowing a little piece of the hymn “Jesus Loves The Little Children” to set the scene.
“Everything Is Beautiful” reminds us that we don’t always need to go “out there” to look for something to make us happy. If we change how we think about the things we already have in our lives…even if, on occasion, they infuriate us, disappoint us or let us down…then everything we could want is already within our grasp.
Ray Stevens put it better, though…
Everything is beautiful, in its own way
Like a starry summer night, or a snow-covered winter’s day
Everybody’s beautiful, in their own way
Under God’s heaven, the world’s gonna find a way
That’s a good enough message, especially at Easter, but Ray Stevens isn’t finished…
There is none so blind as he who will not see
We must not close our minds, we must let our thoughts be free
For every hour that passes by, you know the world gets a little bit older
It’s time to realise that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder
“Everything Is Beautiful” was released in 1968. The Vietnam war was polarising public opinion. There were riots in America’s big cities. It was the year Martin Luther King was shot and the civil rights movement lost a charismatic leader.
I read an article many years ago that said something like “When times are good it’s easy to be nice. It’s when times are hard that you really find out what sort of a person you’re dealing with.”
I’ve always found that advice to be true, by the way…without exception. Just wish I could remember where I read it so I could give proper credit for the idea…
Anyway, Ray Stevens had that covered too. He advised us not to judge people on superficial traits, but to understand who the person was inside…to consider their own good qualities and not to blind ourselves with snap judgements and stereotypes…
We shouldn’t care about the length of his hair or the colour of his skin
Don’t worry about what shows from without but the love that lives within
We’re gonna get it all together now and everything’s going to work out fine
Just take a little time to look on the good side my friend
And straighten it out in your mind
And if there was ever a sentiment to end this short series of new beginnings-themed articles for Easter, it’s that one.
Just take a little time to look on the good side, my friend.
There’s goodness in the world and there’s goodness in your heart. All you’ve got to do is find them.
Here’s Ray Stevens with some advice on exactly how to do that in his Grammy award-winning song, “Everything Is Beautiful”…
If you’ve got this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here…