Once upon a time, more than 30 years ago, there lived three young women who attended The Catholic University of America. Late at night, when their brains buckled under the weight of René Descartes and Saint Thomas Aquinas, they turned to music to unwind.
Within the concrete walls of 109 Zimmerman Hall, the tenor voice of Jonathan Edwards soothed our worries and helped give meaning to our lives. The turntable situated between the room’s two barred windows in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C., spun folk and rock inspiration from all the great modern philosophers—Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and, yes, Jonathan Edwards. (Not to be confused with the 18th century theologian of the same name).
Jonathan Edwards’ album, Jonathan Edwards, had been in the record collection I took to college. It had come out in 1971, with just one song, “Sunshine (go away today)” having made the top 40. Everyone knows that one song, but few, I’d say, know the other 11. We played that album until there were no grooves left. Whenever the pressures of college life bore down, on us and our friends across the hall, 109 Zimmerman became our shanty.
Six of us went to see him at The Cellar Door in Georgetown in 1979 and managed to get back stage. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Buy me a glass of wine and I’ll tell you the story.”
Anyway, last Friday night, we three girls from 109 Zimmerman got together again—for a Jonathan Edwards show in Annapolis. While sipping cranberry juice, club soda and iced tea, we went back in time. We reminisced and sang. We laughed and lapped up Edwards’ stories, some of which we had heard, as others caught us up on the songwriter’s life and adventures of the last 30 years. We marveled at his still-smooth voice and his wailing harmonica, agreeing with his own characterization of his musical genre – “hard folk.”
One roomie’s husband, who graciously tolerated the reunion, picked up our dinner check.
We didn’t go backstage.