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Brush with Death Inspires Both Music and Reflection

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Brush with Death Inspires Both Music and Reflection

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Brush with Death Inspires Both Music and Reflection

Brush with Death Inspires Both Music and Reflection

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This week's staff song pick comes from News & Notes producer Christopher Johnson. He has chosen Sly and The Family Stone's Thankful N Thoughtful, a song about a near-death experience that celebrates life and struck a personal chord for Johnson.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Now to this week's staff song pick of the week. It comes from NEWS & NOTES producer Christopher Johnson. The song is called "Thankful & Thoughtful," a buried treasure by Sly and the Family Stone.

(Soundbite of song, "Thankful & Thoughtful")

CHIDEYA: Sly's lyrics described in coming face to face with his own mortality. It's an experience that Christopher says he can relate to.

(Soundbite of song, "Thankful & Thoughtful")

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: I want to share something I almost never talk about with anyone. There was a time when I thought, for real, that I was going to die.

(Soundbite of song, "Thankful & Thoughtful")

JOHNSON: It was back in 1998 when I was a grad student. After hours and hours of digesting critical theory, I figured it was time for a late night bike ride. I was going fast and free. I was dreaming how my girlfriend at the time was coming back home from the Peace Corps. So, in my mind, I was seeing my graduation and our future. What I wasn't seeing was the red traffic light.

(Soundbite of song, "Thankful & Thoughtful")

JOHNSON: There's that moment right before an accident where you can almost hear the switch click and you feel all your control and all your sense of safety draining right out of you, like old oil into a pan. By the time I saw the car coming, I realized there was nothing I could do about the headlights and the two tons of steel that were flying right at me. In that split second before impact, I made a very heavy (unintelligible). I said good-bye to everyone I love and everything I love because I was sure it was my time to go.

(Soundbite of song, "Thankful & Thoughtful")

JOHNSON: Here's what I remembered next - screech, crack, spin, glass, flip, spin again, asphalt. At the hospital, they pulled glass out of my back and I got stitches where my head bounced off the windshield. I wasn't wearing a helmet, and the doctor said I was very, very lucky to still be here.

(Soundbite of song, "Thankful & Thoughtful")

JOHNSON: Today, I have an icky left leg and I'm still terrified by screeching tires. I think about the accident every time I hear "Thankful & Thoughtful," but in a good way. I know that when Sly wrote the song, drugs and success were wreaking havoc on his life. Maybe it all got so bad one day that he thought he was about to die. He sure sings this one like a true believer.

(Soundbite of song, "Thankful & Thoughtful")

JOHNSON: I asked Sly's sister and band mate, Rose Stone, about the song. She said their mother inspired Sly's lyrics.

Ms. ROSE STONE (Keyboardist, Sly and the Family Stone): That's how that song came about. It was just him and her having an intimate moment, and her just telling him, you know, you could have been dead, you could have been this, you could have been that and you should be thankful that you're here and you should be thoughtful. Tell the Lord, thank you, Lord.

JOHNSON: I love this song for lots of reasons. But mostly, I like it for Sly's lesson. We're not here forever, so think hard about why you're glad to have the chance you've got. And then, as Sly would say, kick back and let the light shine. Will do, brother, will do.

(Soundbite of song, "Thankful & Thoughtful")

CHIDEYA: That was NEWS & NOTES producer, Christopher Johnson, with his song pick of the week, "Thankful & Thoughtful" by Sly and the Family Stone.

(Soundbite of song, "Thankful & Thoughtful")

CHIDEYA: And that's our show for today. Thank you for sharing your time with us. To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcast, visit npr.org/news¬es. To join the conversation, visit our blog, News & Views. Just check out the link at the top of our Web page. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Tomorrow, "Good Times" actor John Amos gets serious.

(Soundbite of song, "Thankful & Thoughtful")

CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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