A Musician Chooses Real Harmony
“Awake!” interviews a well-known musician in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Hans, why did you become a musician?
It fascinated me to hear music even as a child. At the end of the 1950’s, I was thrilled by the guitar music of instrumental groups like The Shadows and The Ventures. I started taking guitar lessons at the age of 11.
Later I became interested in classical guitar music and began to study it when I was 18 years old. In 1971, I sat for my final examinations, which qualified me as a music teacher. For three years I taught juveniles and gave lessons at a conservatory. Only then did I start playing “easy listening” music professionally.
It was more by accident that “Verde,” an instrumental that I played on the guitar, became an overnight hit.
What role does music play in your life today?
I still love playing and listening to music—and I earn my living with it. But something quite different now occupies first place in my life, as you well know.
How did that come about?
In January 1977 a new drummer, Val, joined our group. As soon as we learned that he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we agreed not to get involved with his faith, as religion is a personal matter.
We went on a tour and soon realized that his views on morals, tobacco use, and religious festivals differed from ours completely. This led to lively discussions almost every day. Val used the Bible for his answers, and this made my interest grow.
What did you think about religion formerly?
Somehow, I always believed in God, but I never went to church voluntarily. I felt that you could only understand the Bible if you studied theology. My church, however, was never able to give me a stable foundation for faith, and its clergymen disappointed me.
On the other hand, Val really was able to answer my questions. For example, earlier discussions about where Cain got his wife never ended successfully. The explanation that Cain married one of his sisters satisfied me.—Genesis 4:17; 5:4.
Val presented me with a Bible, and I immediately started to read it. I also read Bible publications that he got for me, and then I started pestering him with questions. I told my wife, Birgit, the marvelous things I was learning, and to my delight, she took part in our regular Bible study. That was at the end of 1977.
The Bible study was very rewarding, then?
Yes, indeed. It opened my eyes to the answer to an important question that I had often discussed with friends. We had never reached a satisfying answer. Each of us worked out his own philosophy of life.
Uppermost in my own mind was the fact that you are born, you work, you attain something, and then you die. But is that all? What purpose is there to life? Some young people, for instance, fall sick early in life before ever having lived to the full. Of course, many people sustain themselves with the vague hope of something continuing after death. But that is cold comfort. Besides this, I observed that humans had no way of settling the hostilities existing between the superpowers as well as among individuals.
I was deeply stirred by discovering how much a person could learn from God’s Word, which was written for our benefit. It offered, not a vague hope, but a firm and well-founded one. Studying the Bible helped me not to become desperate over world problems. In fact, it showed me how to cope with them.
Since Val lived far away, he later arranged for us to be visited by a couple, Gerhard and Barbara, who lived nearby. He was a musician like me. I had occasionally met Gerhard while I worked in a studio, but now I was amazed to see how he had changed.
What changes do you mean?
I remembered Gerhard as a pop musician with long hair, who had a haggard look on his face, took drugs from time to time, and otherwise led a loose life. He had now changed completely, almost beyond recognition. He seemed calm, balanced, and his appearance was clean and orderly. This impressed me very much.
Right away we studied the Bible for three or four hours a week, using the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. Since I did not smoke, did not use drugs, did not lead an immoral life, I thought that I would not need to change my life much. However, as I got to know God, I understood that Christians are no part of the world alienated from him, and this sharpened my conscience.
What was it that made Jehovah’s Witnesses so appealing to you?
I still recall our first visit to a Kingdom Hall. The people there were so different from what I was used to. They welcomed one another and radiated love and friendliness—and harmony.
I became even more aware of this at the “Victorious Faith” International Convention held in Munich in 1978. Here too those in attendance were considerate and listened carefully to the program. Right after the convention, I had to make an appearance professionally before a quite “normal” Bavarian audience. During the evening some of those present, while under the influence of alcohol, ended up having a fight with knives.
Something else was different about Jehovah’s Witnesses. The world makes a lot of fuss over celebrities. Wherever I had appeared formerly, the word spread quickly: “That’s Ricky King!” But that was not the case here. Incidentally, it means a lot to me to be addressed by my real name. I use my stage name, which is registered in my passport and with which I can transact business, only in connection with my profession.
In time I recognized that further changes were necessary. Music had been my life. Everything revolved around it, and my wife adjusted herself to this life-style. But now I learned not to be so completely absorbed in music, that it was not the most important thing in life. We made further progress and were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1979.
From your own experience, can you tell us something about the influence that music has on people?
Yes. Music appeals to emotions and inclinations and can intensify them. Some kinds of music have a refreshing, relaxing effect on people and put them in an amicable mood. This kind of music emphasizes melody and harmony, not the beat or the rhythm.
But I have also seen hard rock create an aggressive and violent mood in listeners, who ended up in a brawl in front of the stage. The pounding rhythm of such music moves people to give vent to their feelings.
What do you think should be taken into consideration when choosing music to listen to?
I have thrown records in the garbage upon learning that they promoted spiritism and devil worship. You can normally recognize such records by their covers or their lyrics.
It is a mistake to underestimate the influence of the song’s lyrics. Writers seem to have something to suit every kind of taste. Young music groups often compose songs based on their own personal problems. These appeal strongly to youths, who often know the words by heart. The lyrics may encourage them to taste the “freedom” of drug abuse, alcohol excess, or immorality. This permissive trend has lost some of its force today, since the enjoyment of “liberty” to the full has obviously brought problems of its own.
Music for entertainment and for dancing can arouse wrong desires too. The performer sings about happiness and tenderness that many listeners may feel is missing in their partner. The artist often comes to be identified with what he is singing about. Some professionals I know are for this reason real favorites with women.
Once someone is submerged in this world of fantasy, it can lead to his idolizing the performer. It may begin quite harmlessly by a person’s asking for an autograph as a souvenir. But some come to view the artist as their ideal, and by putting him on a pedestal, they make him into an idol. They may hang the star’s picture on the wall and begin to dress and groom themselves as he does, thus relinquishing their own personality. And Christians need to keep in mind that adoration belongs only to God.
How do you manage to combine professional and Christian obligations?
If I still had to earn a living by touring with a group, I did not want to continue as a professional musician. When I formerly had to travel for weeks on end, I noticed that the pressure from the world was becoming stronger, and I was becoming weaker. I realized how urgently I needed the weekly Christian meetings and association with my fellow Christians! Now that my situation has changed, I am able to handle the additional responsibilities as an elder in the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I now compose and write at home. The recording follows later in a studio. Sometimes I make stage appearances at gala performances, which means that I am away from home for a short time. Naturally, at Christmas and New Year, as well as at Carnival time, I do not appear on stage, although musicians have their greatest income at those times. To be constantly on the go, playing almost every evening, would damage my priceless faith.
I am very glad to have found the Biblical hope of a righteous new system, and I desire to pass it on to as many people as possible. I go regularly from house to house within the neighborhood, carrying the Kingdom message. Since I can organize my own time, I often conduct Bible studies with interested persons at midday. My wife and I were delighted to be able to help a family of four to find the Bible truth.
How do you view the future?
Whenever I used to think about the arms race, hunger, environmental pollution, and other problems in the world—and thought that there was no true hope for a change—I asked myself whether life had any purpose at all. I now have a different outlook on things, knowing that God has everything under control. As Psalm 37:37, 38 shows, the future of those on God’s side “will be peaceful,” but “the future of wicked people will indeed be cut off.”
The words at Revelation 21:4 still thrill me: “And he [God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” This will mean the end of sickness and death, yes, of all evil “former things.” Then, earth will become a peaceful paradise.
As the study of the Bible brought true harmony to my life, so God will bring all creation into a universal harmony of peace.—A conversation with Hans Lingenfelder.
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My life as a musician began to change in 1977
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Hans (guitar player at center left)—next to his wife, enjoying Christian fellowship