By the 1990s it became necessary for me to seek work outside of music. Barbara, who had to help support our family in the mid-1980s, was working as a legal secretary and suggested I consider doing the same. Just as she was able to obtain work with no prior experience, I found that I could too. A medium-sized firm hired me in 1992. In 1997, we moved from the Beverly Hills Congregation to the Bay Congregation in Santa Monica, California. In 2001, I moved to a very large international law firm in Santa Monica where I work to this day.
In the late 1970s, my father and I were asked to submit songs for a new songbook that was being prepared. I submitted four songs including music and lyrics and my father submitted one song, music only. Two of my songs were accepted along with my father’s song. Karl Klein supervised the project, assisted by Vern Duncombe. My lyrics were largely replaced and the music was adjusted to accommodate the new lyrics. These two songs came out the other end as Song 191, “Make the Truth Your Own” and Song 210, “Make Sure of the More Important Things”. The melody that my father submitted was actually composed by him during the Second World War as a jingle advertising war bonds. Lyrics were added and the result was Song 19, “Happy All Day Long”. My father died before knowing that his song had been accepted and published in the new songbook.
In 1986, I was invited to join the staff of writers that arranged the Kingdom Melodies series of recordings. Over the next 20 years, I traveled back to Bethel, usually twice a year, to work on Kingdom Melodies, dramas, special material for the Gilead graduations and then later, videos. It was a rich experience. Ironically, during this time I built friendships with people who today wouldn’t meet my eyes if we passed on the street.
Some of the staff writers were and are professional musicians and no one has been more critical of the songbook than these writers. The 1982 songbook was made up of music composed, for the most part, by amateur Witness musicians from around the world, edited by a professional who was past his prime, under the supervision of a Governing Body member, an amateur musician himself, who had a random sense of taste in music. An elderly brother who served in one of the South American branch offices, wrote and edited the lyrics. The result was a collection of organizational instructions steeped in the sterile language of the New World Translation, set to very poor music. Even professional singers would have great difficulty singing most of these songs. When I withdrew my services in 2007, we were working on the new songbook that was announced at the 2009 District Convention. Although I have not seen the finished product, it will be a definite improvement owing to a more concentrated pool of talent, better supervision and the elimination of a large portion of the 1982 songbook.
I was appointed as an elder in 1975 at the age of 24 and served as such for 26 years. My wife sacrificed more than the congregation could ever appreciate as I gave more time and energy to the congregation than to her and our children. I sincerely wanted to be a force for good in the congregation and worked hard toward that end. Barbara supported me in this, but naturally, at times, it put a strain on our marriage. When our disfellowshipped daughter was married in a civil ceremony held in her backyard, we were in attendance. Gossip about this circulated and our former congregation contacted the Society with their concerns. Our current congregation supported us and there was quite a bit of back and forth with the Service Department over this. The result was that I was removed as an elder. This moved Barbara to write the Society about their draconian policy regarding disfellowshipped family members. The form letter she received in return did nothing to comfort her. It served to reinforce what I had already observed as an elder, that nobody can reason with or question the current polices of the Governing Body.