Sunday, 2 January 2011

Sunday Morning Coffee with Beth Nielsen Chapman

Hi!  I hope you’ve had a great start to the New Year: it’s about to get even better!

Welcome to the first show of 2011 and the start of the show’s second year.  I’ll keep the normal format going: bringing to you artists and music I love; some old friends, many new-found but with that one key criterion - I must love the music.

Today we feature a new-found friend, singer songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman.


During December, Beth made two appearances on ‘Music in the Morning’ [1 and 2] and such was her effect on me that she jumped to the top of my list and now she shows off her talents with 10 tracks.

There is a religious / spiritual feel to many of Beth’ songs but that is not why I chose Beth but, instead, because her music touches me, caresses me, holds me.  I love her music.

We start with a song of certainty!  If I may, let me suggest that you close your eyes and let the music and words sweep in and over you.

Almost forgot.  The routine doesn’t go just because a new year has started: get a coffee, find a comfy seat, sit down and relax.

Right, now we can start.

There’s a Light

I feel so much better for listening.


Beth Nielsen Chapman, the third of five children to an Air Force major and a nurse, was born in Harlingen, Texas, in 1956.  As a Forces’ child she moved home frequently including a move to Munich.

“Chapman’s interest in the guitar was sparked when the family lived in Germany. Her mother had bought one as a surprise for her father, and Chapman became so entranced by the instrument as it lay hidden in her bedroom that she claimed it for her own. Unable to find instruction books were written in English, she began to experiment, improvising and combining chords that sounded pleasant to her ear. She devised her own unique naming system for the chords that she liked, calling them chord X, or chord dot-dot. She also learned by watching others play.” [Reference]



Now we have the beautiful ‘The Colour of Roses’ set to a video of clips from Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

The Colour of Roses

I sit with my eyes closed – not right now! – and I am.


Some might say that Beth’s songs are sugary sweet like candy floss which disappear into nothing within seconds.  Clearly I don’t share this view.  From the first song I heard I felt the benefit of moving towards peace which initially wasn’t present.  I’ll take this any time.



Up third we have a song which Beth wrote after her husband died from cancer.

Sand and Water



Beth married Ernest Chapman in 1979 having met him only 3 months earlier.

Written in the wake of the untimely death of her husband, Ernest Chapman, Sand And Water, spans the range of emotions that are encompassed in the extraordinary experience of moving through grief to rediscovery of life. It was in the midst of a 1993 tour that Beth's husband was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma and given only a short time to live. "The way that he used his time was remarkable", she recalls. "He came to accept his death, and allowed for being present in every moment. So in the midst of this great sorrow, there came time of joy for life's simplest things".

Ernest died in 1994. He was survived by Beth and their one son, Ernest III.

"During the first year following Ernest's death", Beth explained, "The only time I could connect to my grief was when I was writing songs. As a culture, we are fearful of death", she says, "but in that unbelievable moment when my husband's spirit left his body, I became aware of a powerful essence of grace which seemed to override even my sadness". [Reference]



This song appeared on Christmas Day’s ‘Music in the Morning’ but it’s reappearance so soon is a mark of of its effect on me.

I Find Your Love

I'll catch your smile on someone's face
Your whisper in the wind's embrace
Through diamond stars and songs and dreams
I find your love in everything

The sun, the sky, the rolling sea
All conspire to comfort me
From sorrow's edge life's beauty seems
To find your love in everything

I've come to trust the hope it brings
To find your love in everything
Even as I fall apart,
Even through my shattered heart

I'll catch your smile on someone's face
.....amazing grace

Where is peace?   Here.


Beth, herself, had other traumas: she had breast cancer and a serious non-malignant brain tumour but, thankfully, she has come through this and continues to write most beautifully.



One more song and we reach the half-time break.  This track was recorded live and so isn’t of the same quality as the others.

Even As It All Goes By

You could spend your whole life wanting what you don't have

So true!


Time for a break if you want.  I’m having an extra coffee and a bite to eat but I’ll be ready whenever you are.

Sitting comfily?

Let’s go again.



I close my eyes once more and immediately I’m picked up and cuddled again.

All I Have

Just love this!


We’ll go back to earlier times now.  Beth never learned to read music.  One biography remembers,

Her parents sent her to piano lessons about this time, too, "...but the teacher called up my mother and said, `You know, Beth is learning the songs by ear and looking at the page like she's reading the music but she's really not, so you just should save your money.' So I got fired from piano lessons!" It was, she said, a case of knowing a piece by ear after the second or third time she'd heard it. For that reason, she's never developed her skills at reading and writing musical notation. "I do a lot of things by ear, but if I could write stuff down out of my head, it would be really useful, 'cause now I rely on singing it into my answering machine. I have to have a tape recorder or I will not be able to remember what I just wrote." [Reference]


Memories remain with us for years.  A touching song!




Beth met Ernest in Mobile and there she had a music job.

"All the while she was both writing songs and studying song form. "I had this job playing in a bar that was in the lounge of a big hotel, four hours a night, six nights a week.
So to survive mentally, I went to the public library and dug into records from the 30s, the 40s, the 50s -- 'cause some one would come in and want to hear something by Frank Sinatra, and the next person would want to hear Alice Cooper, you know. Working as a solo performer in little clubs for so many years, I had to bring in a lot of styles, and so I studied what made a hit pop song, what made a hit country song, while I was learning the music. It became sort of my self-college education, since I never got around to going to college. I graduated from the Riverview Plaza in Mobile with a degree in popular music!" Chapman joked.

One night while she was playing there, the Beach Boys were in town. One of them, Buddy Johnson, came to catch her set. "I didn't really recognize him, I could see the other guys in another part of the lobby. He listened and said, `Play something else you wrote,' and I was like, `Okay, okay' -- and then he came up and introduced himself and told me, `You know, you really need to move to New York or L.A. or Nashville. If you stay down here in Mobile, you're not in a music center, and you're not going to be able to compete, to have people hear what you're doing, and you're really good. I encourage you to do that." [Reference]



Eighth up is another lovely, gentle and thoughtful song beautifully sung.

Since You’ve Asked



Beth has written hits for a number of artists including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Bonnie Raitt and I am not surprised. 

Her music and words evoke a depth in the human spirit which most music misses.



Our second last song is a gem!  No more.

Every December Sky

A brilliant gem!



We finish this show with a song which, I assume, sums up Beth’s religious views. 

Thank You My Lord

Despite my irreligious views I too am touched!



Thank you, Beth, for bringing us such gorgeous songs.  I have been amazed at their effect on me.

Another show finished but the first of many I’ll bring you this year.  If you enjoyed the music you’ll be very welcome here next week.

If you want to listen to the music from previous shows then visit my YouTube channel playlists.


  1. You are right! She is a very special artist...

  2. There is so much great music, so many great artists about which and of whom I know nothing.

    A vast reservoir to tap.

    I'll try to bring you some drops this year.