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He Gave His Best PDF Print E-mail
Written by R.W.Cothern   

April 15, 1953

At the tender age of seventeen, John Phillip Sousa began his musical career. His poverty-stricken life had been hard spun. Only his honest drive and patient determination removed the many obstacles between him and success. In 1880 President Harrison made him Master of the great Marine Band at Washington where he composed and played his own music for the Nation's elite for the following 12 years. His motto was: "Only the best is good enough." At the end of his last enlistment he organized his own private band, selecting the best musicians from all over the world: England, France, Germany, and Russia decorated with medals for his great achievements, as he toured the world with his great band--Sousa's band.

With all his opulence and glory, he had his sad and lonely hours, and it was on the deck of his ship in mid-ocean one lonely night that he walked back and forth under the brilliant stars and composed "Stars and Stripes Forever." a martial strain that will be played by America just as long as the flag waves in our land.

At Atlanta, Ga. one of the old man's last engagements, he gave wings to his music, as he played many old sacred hymns, and lifted his vast audience to tears, "only the best is good enough for the soul of the troubled South" he said. Returning to Washington with his trainload of musicians, he was seen shedding tears of joy, as he looked out in the moon lit night, and watched the sleeping landscape flit by his window. "The best --I gave them my best,” he said when asked if anything was wrong. Soon, at Reading, Pa. the old master passed away. He left his indelible "footprints in the sands of time."

Footprints that perhaps another, Sailing o'er life's solemn main

A forlorn and ship-wrecked brother, seeing, shall take heart again."

Rich, sweet, soothing harmony has been a blessing to man from time immemorial. It always lifts up, and inspires to higher things. God put these talents in man just as if He put the red in the rose for his deserving glory.

Not everything we hear is music and not everything we see is art. We wish composers would remember Sousa's motto: "Only the Best is good enough." The 'Lord's dear people, especially, should write and sing their own music. They need the best. None but the best will do.

I love to think that heaven is a place where we will not only SING harmony but LIVE it as well. All we do here is colored with imperfection, but when we sing with that great choir of the angels, the song of victory, through the blood of the Lamb, I believe old Sousa will smile and say "this is what I so long tried to express with my poor mortal hands--this is perfect."

R. W. Cothern

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.