The conversations these days are familiar but somehow more intense, perhaps more desperate. They are the conversations that take place over coffee, over lunch, in the studios, on the phone, in the writing rooms, in the conference rooms. They are the conversations about the music, about the artists, about the songs. We’ve all had them. We’ve been having them for years and yet now, somehow, right now they have escalated. They are filled with fire and fury and passion.The conversations these days are familiar but somehow more intense, perhaps more desperate. They are the conversations that take place over coffee, over lunch, in the studios, on the phone, in the writing rooms, in the conference rooms. They are the conversations about the music, about the artists, about the songs. We’ve all had them. We’ve been having them for years and yet now, somehow, right now they have escalated. They are filled with fire and fury and passion. Now that we’ve arrived here at the pinnacle of our success, why do we feel so empty, so hollow? Why is it all so safe? Why is it all the same? Why are we not taking chances? Why are the chances we take disregarded? Why is the tail wagging the dog? Why does this community feel fractured? Who has backed this wonderfully creative community into a corner and held it ransom? Who’s not speaking up? Who’s not being heard? What happened to our first love?
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I am honored and humbled to stand before you this morning and participate in the celebration of the glorious and meaningful life of our friend and companion, Maggie Cavender. My comments about the anxious murmuring that lies right beneath the surface of our community are not meant to set the stage for any personal or political agenda. I mention them, rather, to serve as a reflecting pool, if you will, of a life that made a difference; a life that helped to shape the lives of others; a life that helped bring respect and dignity to the most significant link in our creative chain; a life that had passion and energy and opinions and agendas; a life that had compassion; a life that had reason.
As I have come to understand and appreciate the meaning of the word, Maggie Cavender was truly a “Character.” She had her own unique look; that slight frame, stylishly adorned, upright and graceful, more often than not billowed in smoke and always, always topped off with what must have been one of hundreds of hats. She had her own unique aura; at once both mysterious and approachable; both irreverent and humble; both forceful and gentle; the servant leader, the cantankerous sweetheart. She carried herself in her own unique way; at ease with and always available to both industry leaders and struggling songwriters. And most importantly, and perhaps the essence of what I would humbly put forth here this morning, Maggie had her own unique voice.
The sound of Maggie’s voice alone, spoke volumes. It possessed the edge of experience; the experience of the south, of high society, of good and happy times; the experience of struggle, of turmoil, of real life; the experience of good habits and bad; the experience of argument and the experience of peace-making.
The sound of Maggie’s voice was immediately identifiable. If Maggie would have been a singer you could have picked her out in the middle of twelve-in-a-row. The sound of Maggie’s voice demanded attention. Yes, it had a roughness to it; yes, at times it seemed stern and harsh. But regardless of the texture, the words that crossed her tongue were filled with benevolence, with wisdom, with passion, and with spirit. There was a vision in Maggie’s voice: a vision with which all of us in this room, and many, many more had to deal. And thank goodness, she spoke up.
Maggie made us mad. She frustrated us and argued with us. In most of the conversations I had with her I could actually see the wheels turning in her mind before she responded. She was guarded and protective. She was smart and cunning. She liked things her way. She had opinions and yes, she had an agenda. And it has been my experience that her agenda was this; making life better for people like you and me, lifting us up and giving us a voice, a purpose and a deserved dignity. And it was her energy, her spirit, her zeal and her agenda that inspired many other notable and wonderful people in this town to fashion, create and organize the platform upon which we all stand and demand respect and recognition. The Nashville Songwriters Association International is as vital and effective an organization as I have ever encountered. It was Maggie Cavender’s dream that started it and her spirit is indelibly etched into its very fiber. May that never cease.
So in that spirit and in honor of our dear, dear friend, I challenge each of us, as we wallow and wander in our current crisis of identity, to speak up, to have opinions, to rail against the powers, to be robust, to not put up with it, to have an agenda and to get after it, and to do it with dignity, with class and with honor.
So, dear Maggie, do go gently into that good night. You have fought the good fight. Rest now in God’s everlasting arms. You have shown us so much and cared about us deeply. You have been and always will be a treasure to your family, to those of us gathered in this room and to this entire community…because you let the world know that it all begins with a song…and yours, sweet Maggie, was a beautiful one. Amen.