Reflections on 1969- “There’s Nothing New Under the Sun”

So 50 years ago this summer I was 17 and living at home in Birmingham. My parents had gone off with my brother and my cousin for a caravanning holiday in Scotland and I was working nights in Cadburys to build up the college fund.

It was 1969 and I maintain, the best year for popular and rock music ever; the Stones were top of the charts with Honky Tonk women, the Beatles with Get Back and Fleetwood Mac with Albatross. Of course there were some dreadful musical memories too such as Sugar Sugar by the Archies, the somewhat pornographic Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus and arguably ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra which seems to have become a song of choice for many funerals! There’s nothing new under the sun.

So the other week I was preaching at St Andrews in Redruth  on that wonderful set of readings that included the lines from Ecclesiastes about there being nothing new under the sun and musing that in 1969 Richard Nixon was president and now there was Donald Trump. Woodstock set the standard for large music festivals and now they are common-place. Neil Armstrong made ‘one small step for man’ and now we have a space station orbiting the planet and entrepreneurs are working on taking folks on holiday in space. Charles de Gaulle resigned as French president famous for saying “NON!” a couple of years before to the UK entering the Common Market following years of negotiation and now…… well the less said about that here the better! There’s nothing new under the sun.

That summer I joined a sponsored March from Central Birmingham to the Lickey Hills in aid of Medical Aid for Vietnam and these days teenagers and others are still Marching for Climate Change and so on! There’s nothing new under the sun.

History seems to prove than humankind does not learn from its mistakes and maybe it has to be allowed to make them in order to learn and that goes also for Rectors, Curates, Readers and anyone involved in ministry! No amount of PCC meetings that declare “we did that once…. It didn’t work!” or “we don’t belong to do that here!” will help. 

David Bowie was the soundtrack to the Moon Landing encouraging us all to look up and the Edwin Hawkins singers sang Oh Happy Day when Jesus washed my sins away reminding us that there is always a chance to start afresh- putting off that those bad habits and learning from mistakes of the past. Blue Mink Sang “Melting Pot” in which they appealed for all races to be lumped together to produce a “get along scene” and on that Sunday at St Andrews the epistle was from Paul explaining that in Christ there was no Greek no Jew, so slave nor free, make nor female etc.  There’s nothing new under the sun.

(Final paragraph)

Maybe we should focus on the Hollies, “He Aint Heavy, he’s my Brother” I suggested in my sermon and remember that at the heart of all we do is looking after one another- the whole of humankind in Christ.

I had a rare email commenting on the sermon a few days later from someone much moved by the mention of that song because it reminded him of his long departed brother- we don’t know the power of what we drop into sermons.

Back in 1969 I was very much a ‘born again’ atheist- very anti organised religion and especially anti the Billy Graham evangelistic movement – but I don’t think I ever really lost God in that time and God certainly did not lose me but popular culture and the words of songs kept me in touch but it took nearly another decade for me to head back to church.

 The top 100 for 1969 can be found at:


The road is long, with many of winding turns
That lead us to (who knows) where, who knows where?
But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him – yeah
He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother

So long we go, his welfare is my concern
no burdon is he to bear, we’ll get there
But I know he would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother

If I’m leaving at all, if I’m leaving with sadness
that everyone’s heart isn’t filled with the gladness
of love for one another.

It’s a long, long road, from which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there, why not share?
And the long doesn’t way me down at all
He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother

He’s my brother – he ain’t heavy – he’s my brother …

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