Lightning in a Bottle

from the album: 
Jimmy & Me (MP3)
Jimmy cover art
audio/mpeg icon
Audio excerpt: Verse 2 through bridge

words & music by Jimmy Webb

Favorite version: Jennifer Warnes, soundtrack from Winter People, 1989


Like the last song, it starts out rather ordinary—"all I have to do is"—and then zings you at the end—"catch some lightning in a bottle." Like it's the easiest thing in the world. I'll just take a walk out on the water. Yeah, right. "Just one little miracle has to succeed." Just a little miracle. Ever needed one of those?

I remember a beautiful afternoon about 25 years ago, sitting out in back of my Ann Arbor apartment in a lawn chair, praying. I was in a life-and-death struggle with my sexuality at the time, but on that particular afternoon, I was in a cloister of trees, sunshine and peace. It was one of those moments when I knew, no matter what turned out to be right or what wrong, what might happen or what might not, the Lord was in control of it all. He knew everything, and if He loved me—which has always, thankfully, been one of my life's bedrock beliefs—He would help me deal with whatever came to be.

So I remember praying a rather odd prayer, there in that pool of sunlight: "Lord, I know you know everything. You know the answers to all the questions swirling around in my mind. You have the calm to all my storms. You have the joy for all my pain. So I ask you, if it turns out that spending my life with another man is a real possibility, please bless him. Wherever he is, put your hand upon him and guide him, keep him safe and lead him to me whenever you think the time is right. And help me to be patient until then, Lord!" Well, that was in the mid 1980s. A few years later, after six years of pyschotherapy and two years of Homosexuals Anonymous meetings, I finally came to believe that it was the Lord who created my sexuality, and I was going to explore the possibility that I might live another way. (Especially because living the way I was living at the time didn't seem like a viable option anymore. To put it mildly.) Anyway, to make a story that could fill volumes fit into a paragraph, I met Davey in 1989. I met him on the very day I came out to my Mom, and I, like Gideon, asked God for a sign. Unlike Gideon, though, I received four signs! After the fourth, I asked Davey to spend his life with me. Thankfully, he said yes. That was over 21 years ago now. He was the one God had in mind for me, the one He laid His hand on and protected and led to me at just the right time. I have no doubts about that.

So I ask you, dear reader, how many chances do you think it took for me, a late-blooming, fundamentalist Baptist singer in the King's service to find the someone of my dreams? It actually only took one. Just one little miracle that succeeded.

Jennifer Warnes' version of this, performed over the credits at the end of Winter People is a real gem. Unfortunately, she leaves out some of the lyrics, too. But she does an extra chorus at the end, which is nice. Glen Campbell's version doesn't. So I decided to combine the best of both worlds and give you everything: all the lyrics, plus an extra chorus. This is another one of those songs that could go on just about forever, as far as I'm concerned.

Excerpt from Jimmy & Me album notes.