Time Takes Its Toll On Us

Ms. Boyter assigned us a cause and effect essay.

Javen Bear

Professor Boyter

English Composition 1


Time Takes Its Toll On Us

From essays to songs to cinematic dramatizations to social media, we are lovers of art and stories. It has been this way for a very long time. I’ll bet from the first day Eve met Adam she was hearing stories from the only lips that could tell them. A story takes us somewhere; it moves us. Whether we’re hearing the reiteration of a historical event or a depiction of what goes on in a fictional reality, the story is the device someone uses to allow you to see or hear or feel as they have. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot said that songs are vehicles used to get from one place to another. Maybe the songwriter is the only one in the car, or maybe there are twenty-thousand screaming people all riding in the backseat. Either way, the song, the story, the art is what picks us up and takes us.

Artists create out of their storyline. When the storyline changes, the things they make also change. In light of this, it’s interesting to observe an artist who has had a long career, an expanded storyline. The songs that bands were writing when they were in their twenties often look and sound very different than the records they’re making in their forties. If the art is honest, then the changes that necessarily act on an artist will effect a change in the art being made.

In 1993 Derek Webb dropped out of college to join a band called Caedmon’s Call. In 2001 he married Sandra McCracken. Around 2003 Webb parted ways with the band to pursue a solo career. Then in 2014, after thirteen years together, Webb and McCracken divorced when it became apparent that he had been unfaithful to his wife and had gotten caught.

About two weeks ago my sister, two friends, and I drove down to Decatur, Georgia to hear him play at a small venue called Eddie’s Attic. He was shorter than I’d imagined and had tattoos covering a large portion of his arms. During the set Derek described what it’s like to play songs that he wrote twenty years ago. He said that it’s more like he’s covering another man’s songs than singing his own. He went so far as to claim that you shouldn’t trust anyone who still sees the world the same way they did even five years ago. The making of art, the writing of songs he said, is like two separate, oscillating objects observing and interacting with each other – the world and the song writer describing it. Over the course of time both certainly change. And thus the content and tone of the art are likely to change too.

As I sat and listened to him playing songs from his newest album on a nylon string guitar, I couldn’t help but think about the Derek Webb who played with Caedmon’s Call back even before I was born. I almost had to agree with him; the man standing there in front of me didn’t sound a whole lot like the man who made it big on the Contemporary Christian Music scene in the late nineties. I remembered the man who wrote lines like:

Peace of conscience peace of rest,

Be obtained through Jesus’ blood,

Jesus’ blood speaks solid rest,

We believe and we are blessed,

We believe and we are blessed, (She Must and Shall Go Free)

And then I heard him sing lines from his new album like:

I either sin as I resist you,

Or I do it as I’m doing my part,

So all my empathy,

To Judas and the Devil,

They were yours as much in light as in the dark, (Chasing Empty Mangers)

It seemed like the man I was watching on the stage was indeed a different man. It looked as if the last ten years had taken a hard toll and had a powerful effect. In the last ten years the world had shifted, and Derek Web had too. There is no way to live in this world and not be changed by the things that go on here. The world is always changing, and it’s children are always changing too. It follows that, for better or worse, the things they create will also have to change.

Switchfoot is a band that has been around for about as long as Webb has. They too formed at least partially as a result of the lead singer dropping out of college to pursue music. While the ideology of the songs that Jon Foreman and Switchfoot have been writing for the past twenty years hasn’t changed too much, the tone, feel, and quality certainly has. It took the band about four albums to find their voice, and since then they have consistently written songs that deal with real life and often sing like anthems. While there hasn’t been a noticeable shift in the beliefs the band holds, you can track the different seasons they have lived through in their records. Albums like Nothing Is Sound and Oh! Gravity earned Switchfoot a name for playing post grunge, rock and roll songs with passion. In 2012 the Vice Verses tour took them all over the world. During this time they wrote songs and filmed a documentary which would be called Fading West. The album has an energetic, joyful vibe that was undoubtedly influenced by the sounds of other cultures. Their latest album deals with the turmoil the songwriter sees both inside himself and in his country. Even twenty years in, the guys at Switchfoot are still figuring out who they are and what they want to sound like.

Who we are and the things we make change when our storyline changes. I’ve never heard it put better than when Pearl Bailey speaks through Big Mama, the motherly owl in The Fox and the Hound, and says, “Forever is a long time. And time has a way of changing things.”


University of California Television. “Switchfoot Unplugged 2008.” (video file), Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rcZI8xFlqY [13 October 2017].

Derek Webb. “She Must and Shall Go Free.” She Must and Shall Go Free. INO, 2003. MP3.

Derek Webb. “Empty Mangers.” Fingers Crossed. Derek Webb, 2017. MP3

Switchfoot. The Legend of Chin. Rethink. 1997. MP3

Switchfoot. The Beautiful Letdown. Columbia/Sony BMG, 2003. MP3

Switchfoot. Nothing Is Sound. EMI, 2005. MP3

Switchfoot. Oh! Gravity. Columbia/Sony BMG. 2006. MP3

Switchfoot. Hello Hurricane. lowercase people. 2009. MP3

Switchfoot. Vice Verses. lowercase people. 2011. MP3

Switchfoot. Fading West. lowercase people. 2014. MP3

Switchfoot. Where the Light Shines Through. Vangaurd. 2016. MP3

The Fox and the Hound. Dir. Richard Rich, Ted Berman, and Art Stevens. Perf. Kurt Russell, Mickey Rooney, Pearl Bailey, Jack Albertson, and Jeanette Nolan. 1981. Film.

Bebo Norman. “Time Takes Its Toll On Us.” Between the Dreaming and the Coming True. Essential, 2006. MP3

Published by javenbear

Javen Bear is 25 years old and lives with his beautiful wife Aleisha in Phoenix, Arizona. He's a graduate student in a mental health counseling program at Grand Canyon University where he also works as an admissions representative. Javen’s super-power, if he had one, would be the ability to press pause on the world and catch up on reading. He enjoys talking walks with his wife, playing guitar, and always uses Oxford commas.

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