This is the story of a friend of mine.
A man I'm proud to call a friend.
His name is Nolen Brown.
Nolen is a modern day philosopher.
The oldest son of a Southern Sharecropper, he has worked hard to enjoy a comfortable retirement
for him and his wife, Omega.
My friend Nolen is a songwriter...a great songwriter.
Nolen and I belong to a local songwriters association and he is the best songwriter in our group. He has
helped many of us hone our skills, even helping to co-write some songs where he saw a 'diamond in the
rough'. In my opinion, he is too good to be at our level, but he always shows up, supporting the good and
the not so good alike. Nolen is an inspiration to us all.
I met Nolen a few years after the loss of his son. Although his son had passed away, you can tell that he is
never more than a thought away from Nolen's heart. Although Nolen isn't wealthy, you could call him
rich. He is well loved and has many friends. He has a gift that he shares with anyone who will listen.
His gift is his song.
Nolen has the ability to write lyrics that can touch your soul. He can write lyrics and create melodies that
can make you laugh out loud or make tears flow like rain. He has spent many years capturing his life's
experiences, putting them to paper and sharing them where they touch everyone around him in a positive
way. He has hundreds of songs, and from where I sit, most could be hits if the right person were to hear
Nolen sings of life and generally writes in the first person. His phrasing is unique, every word necessary
and never too many words. He has written songs about love, loss and loss of love. He writes songs that make
you sit back and realize things don't necessarily need to be the way they are, perhaps they could be better.
I call these songs revolutionary songs. He calls them protest songs, probably because he wrote some of them
during the 60's when he was first honing his story telling skills as a Contract Writer for Acuff-Rose Pub.
(now Opryland Music) in Nashville, Tennessee. Those were times of great change and his songs capture that
social consciousness. Some of his songs can move you to inspiration and wonder, amazed at the experiences
that make up our lives and connects each and every one of us. I wish everyone could hear Nolen's songs. The
world would be a better place.
Nolen is a very humble man. He doesn't search out the spotlight, but he is always accommodating to play
one of his songs that will endear him to you. The first time I ever heard Nolen sing was about two years ago
and he immediately made me sit up and pay attention. I remember it vividly. Like a first kiss or a school
boy’s infatuation, you can close your eyes and the moment is etched upon your soul and time is captured
for eternity. The song he sang that night was, "Lord, Help Me Make It", which was a top 10 finalist-
Gospel Category- in the USA Songwriting Contest 2001 with over 30,000 entries. He told the small audience
there that night that it took three years for him to write the song, because it was inspired by the loss of
his only son, Jeff, who had taken his own life. I sat there in silence thinking of my two children and how
precious they are to me. I don't live in fear of losing them, but that night, and that song, touched me so
deeply that I said a silent prayer thanking God for the blessings I have.
LORD HELP ME MAKE IT
WAS THERE TO SAY MY LAST GOOD-BYE
I TURNED MY HEAD UP TO THE SKY,
AND CRIED, "NOW LORD, I CAN'T TAKE IT".
TO LET (HIM/HER) GO IS SO HARD TO DO,
EVEN THOUGH (HE'S/SHE'S) THERE WITH YOU,
SO LORD HELP ME MAKE IT.
GIVE TO ME A CHAIN OF STRENGTH,
STRETCH IT OUT AND ADD A LINK,
I KNOW IT'S GONNA TAKE IT.
HELP ME TO ENDURE THE PAIN,
TILL THAT GREAT DAY WE'LL MEET AGAIN.
YES LORD, HELP ME MAKE IT.
MY LORD, HELP ME MAKE IT.
SO MANY TIMES MY LIFE YOU'VE BLESSED
NOW I MAKE ONE MORE REQUEST OF YOU
OH LORD, YOU'VE NEVER LEFT ME.
THIS MOUNTAIN OF GRIEF I'LL HAVE TO CLIMB,
IF YOU'LL JUST HELP ME ONE MORE TIME.
MY LORD, WON'T YOU HELP ME?
REPEAT CHORUS (C) 1999 NOLEN BROWN
The songwriters group gets together for an open mike night about once a month at a local hotel. Nolen
is the bright spot of the evening. Although he has hundreds of songs, most of which are great, he never
tries to show up the other artists. He plays his song with little or no fanfare, always downplaying his
performances; yet, he still is the bright spot of the evening. Nolen always brings something fresh to the
group each month.
Occasionally, the group is asked to perform for benefits and fund-raisers. Everyone can count on Nolen
to be there. Earlier this year, a local group was looking for Saturday afternoon entertainment to add
ambiance to their event. It was during this early spring afternoon that Nolen and his song touched someone
and they touched him back. This is that story.
I thought I might not go to the event. But, after a great deal of back and forth discussion with myself,
I decided to check it out. Nolen was already there when I arrived. I didn't know what he was going to play,
but I knew the audience would be pleasantly surprised. I believe they let each performer do two songs that
afternoon. Nolen took the stage and his first song was a relatively new song entitled,"The Grass Beneath the
Swing", written by Nolen, Omega and Robert Eaton.
THE GRASS BENEATH THE SWING
SHE USED TO COME TO ME AND SAY,
"DADDY, TAKE ME TO THE YARD AND SWING ME.
MAKE ME GO REAL HIGH, WAY UP TO THE SKY,
"DADDY WON'T YOU SWING ME?"
AND WHERE HER FEET WOULD DRAG THE GROUND,
THE GRASS WAS TORN AWAY THERE FROM THE LAWN.
AND I WOULD SMILE AND TELL HER MOM,
"I GUESS WE'LL GROW SOME GRASS WHEN SHE GETS GROWN”
AND THAT ONE SPOT WAS ALWAYS BEAR.
GRASS COULD NEVER GROW RIGHT THERE.
HER LITTLE FEET KEPT IT SWEPT CLEAN.
THERE WAS NO GRASS BENEATH THE SWING.
WE'LL, I'M THE ONE WHO BOUGHT THE CAR,
AND I'M THE ONE WHO TAUGHT HER HOW TO DRIVE.
AND HOW I LOVED TO HEAR HER SAY,
"DADDY, LET ME TAKE YOU FOR A DRIVE".
AND I'M THE ONE WHO TOOK THE CALL,
THAT CUT INTO MY HEART JUST LIKE A KNIFE.
SOMEONE DRANK TOO MUCH,
VEERED INTO HER PATH AND TOOK HER LIFE.
NOW THERE'S GRASS BENEATH THE SWING.
AND I KNOW THE HEAVEN'S SING.
NOW SHE'S EARNED HER ANGEL WINGS.
AND THERE'S GRASS BENEATH THE SWING.
MY MIND REPLAYS HER CHILDHOOD DAYS,
AND I STILL SEE HER SMILE.
THOUGH GOD NOW HOLDS HER IN HIS ARMS,
HE SHARED WITH US A WHILE.
REPEAT 2ND CHORUS
(C) COPYRIGHT 2000/Nolen Brown/Omega Brown/Robert Eaton
It always amazes me how a good song, an emotional song can touch you so deeply in three minutes.
You can feel the authors pain or joy and the feeling becomes your own. You see, every author needs
a reader and every performer need an audience. Each, as important as the other.
One lady, Carolyn Wintjin, was in the audience. I'm not sure why Carolyn was there that day, or why
Nolen had picked out those particular songs that day. After all, like I said, he has hundreds that he
could have chosen to play and I'm sure they all would have been well received. But as it turned out
Carolyn and Nolen had a common life's experience. They both were survivors of children that were now in
It took a number of months, but Carolyn contacted Nolen. She had remembered him and his song that touched
her that day. Perhaps time, now her adversary, motivated her to reach out. Whatever the reason, she
contacted Nolen by e-mail, September 11, 2002. In her letter, she wrote:
Congrats on being in the top 10.
I will not ask you how you lost your son, and there are no words to describe your feelings except in a song.
I lost four sons and a four-month-old daughter in a fire in Colorado in 1971. I now have a daughter
named Courtney, age 15, and she is a gift from God. I used to ask why, but I have learned you just have to
trust and believe in your faith. I have learned that I have cancer and have been given a year to live.
You know God is the only one who really knows, and he doesn't need any more bosses in Heaven and Hell
won't have me. I thank God every day for each and every day he allows me to spend with my family. Now,
I know why your songs went straight to my heart. Always remember friends are hard to come by and
acquaintances come and go. Hope to see you on the 26th of October. In my book, you are already #1.
My family enjoys your music, so keep it coming.
In an earlier e-mail Carolyn had requested a CD of THE GRASS BENEATH THE SWING if he had one and wanted
to get it from him on October 26, when the group would be performing there again. Nolen didn't
wait until the 26th of October. He mailed her a Demo CD with 20 of his songs on it (not of his sing-
ing, but by professional demo-singers and musicians in Nashville). I have heard the CD and if Carolyn
is like me, and I suspect she is, she has found a friend. And friends like Nolen are hard to come by.
By: Johnny Wessler
The above was submitted to CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE MUSIC LOVER'S SOUL which has yet to be published.