I Shall See God...
Roby Duke was a truly remarkable man. I am nearly twenty-five years old as of today, and I have been listening to Roby's music for the past fifteen of those years. I don't think I can name another artist who has stuck with me for so long in such a meaningful way. When I was a child, my dad used to play his music in the car everywhere we went. It seemed like the albums Down To Business, Not The Same and Bridge Divine were in constant rotation. This was back when cassette tapes were still common, and I remember getting very excited whenever the tape would reach one of my favorite songs, like Walk in the Park, I Shall See God, or I Come To You O Lord. These songs were such an ever-present part of my life that even as I look back now, I realize that they physically define many aspects of my childhood, like music from the soundtrack of my life. As I recall church sleepovers, family outings and long car rides, I can still hear the symphony and vocal harmonies from the bridge of I Come To You O Lord.
As a young adult, I became so nostalgic for these old songs that I began actively seeking the music on CD. Most of the albums were out of print, and I paid as much as forty dollars for some of them on eBay, but it was more than worth it, and it is a music collection that I cherish to this day. Roby had a voice like no other and a songwriting ability that continues to blow my mind. He was a demon on the guitar and an angel on the mic...
And now I have just learned that this sweet man has passed on to be with the Lord whom he praised with such passion and conviction in all of his music. He was 51 years old, far too young to leave us. I am incredibly saddened by this news, but I'll always treasure the musical footprints he has left behind. My uncle (another devoted, long-time fan) called me to tell me the (albeit belated) news, and shortly thereafter my dad called as well. The three of us exchanged somber phone calls recalling our memories of Roby as though he was a member of our own family. In a way he was. We've all been so heavily impacted by his music, his message, his humility, and the profound depth of his expression, I can hardly put it into words.
One of the greatest struggles for any lyrical songwriter is trying to properly articulate the right feelings and emotions in such a way that the melody perfectly complements the lyrical narrative. This is not an easy thing to pull off, but Roby was the master. When he sang, you knew exactly where he was coming from, and it was as though his heart would physically beat through his melodies. You knew he loved the Lord, and that he was passionate about life.
In addition, Roby has come to be somewhat of a kindred spirit to me. He was a man with profound faith, but who often expressed discontent with many aspects of the church. He loved composing, producing, and participating in the entire music-making process. In these ways, I have found incredible common ground with him and have been deeply moved by his words over the years. In other ways, I have envied him. I often fear that I take life for granted, but Roby lived with such inspiring passion. He understood who he was as a child of God, and that was what drove him. I sometimes need reminding of these simple truths, as many of us do, and what a wonderful thing it is to have Roby's music to constantly remind us.
As I write this, I am listening to one of my all-time favorite Roby songs, Take No Sorrow. To me it's one of the most beautiful pop songs ever written, and the lyrics never fail to astound me. I used to think that the song was written about his divorce, but I later read in an interview that the song was written in response to being replaced as producer for a pop music group. This might seem like a trivial issue on the surface, but it's quite profound when you actually listen to the song and consider how beautifully he captures the pain of rejection in a very universal way. This is a powerful song whether you're struggling with domestic issues, feelings of inadequacy, a recent loss or even unrequited love.
That was Roby's gift; but I think that the gift is two-fold. It was a gift from the Lord to Roby, and subsequently a gift from Roby to the world. I know that I feel blessed having Roby's music, and it pains me to know that he will never compose again in this life. He was one of the good ones. No...one of the great ones, and while I mourn his profound loss, I rejoice in knowing that he is truly home.
Roby, in your words, save a song for me......
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