Saturday, August 9, 2008

Answered prayer brings me Nirvana

On St. Dominic's feast day yesterday, I had a remarkable answer to an unspoken prayer when Patrick Campbell-Lyons, singer and lyricist of the U.K. group Nirvana, e-mailed me out of the blue.

You can see him on piano and vocals in this lip-synched clip of Nirvana's gorgeous "Pentecost Hotel" (which sounds slightly sped up) from a German TV show. In England, Nirvana are known primarily as one-hit wonders ("Rainbow Chaser," 1967), but collectors of "popsike" revere their baroque-inspired artistry.

Back in 1994, I interviewed Patrick and the other half of Nirvana, composer Alex Spyropoulos (not in the above video) for articles that appeared in New York Press and Goldmine. Unlike Kurt Cobain's group (whom Patrick and Alex sued over infringement of their name, resulting in a settlement), they were and remain one of my favorite bands.

Nirvana's music helped me at a time when I was suffering from cyclical depression (which included my entire 20s), a fact I shared with Patrick and Alex. They were joyful people, not burned out like many of the 1960s hitmakers I had interviewed, and they gave me encouragement at a time when I sorely needed it.

One fact I noticed about Patrick seemed incongruous to me at the time: He was Irish Catholic and retained a noticeable fondness for the faith of his fathers. Although he did not seem particularly devout, there was no mistaking that he had internalized his faith. He spoke of it with genuine love, not just within the context of, say, recalling a schoolboy fear of ruler-wielding nuns. As with another Irishman whose music I admired at the time whose faith was similarly integrated into his person— Pierce Turner—I couldn't quite understand how anything more than the most superficial, cultural Catholicism could coexist with creativity, let alone what I considered hipness.

That is why, once I received faith in Jesus—and healing from my depression—in 1999, and even more so after entering into full communion with the Church in 2006, I wanted to tell Patrick the wonderful news that I had joined him at the heart of the Communion of Saints. But by then, I had long since lost his e-mail address.

Over the years, I searched for Patrick's e-mail address online many times—at least since writing an August 2001 article where I mention wishing I could track him down. My most recent, fruitless attempt was only last week, when his song "The Hero I Might Have Been" was one of the first records I put on my newly unpacked turntable. So it was a real joy when the songwriter, who is now living in Spain, wrote me yesterday to say he rediscovered my Web site after many years of being out of touch—especially when he wrote that he was happy that I seemed I was in "a good place."

I do believe very strongly that this unexpected grace came as a result of the prayers being made for me as I prepare for my August 19-21 hospital stay. Many thanks again to you for remembering me.