Some time ago, I found myself at Realgrey Studios, visiting the “control room” while songwriter Gary Peck put down vocal tracks in the room adjacent. He stood quietly behind the microphones as the dark light of Canton crept through the windows. He was alone in the living room, the doors barricaded for sound, the floors gently creaking. His voice, bruised and gentle, the weight of experience alive in every syllable, filled the dim air.
The first time that I heard Gary’s songs, I was immediately drawn in. It wasn’t long before I began categorizing his gospel tunes, trying to find some famous name to compare him to. At times, I heard shades of Paul Simon in his voice; here and there were flashes of Bob Dylan…I began to wonder though, why should I compare him to anything or anyone? Why do we have to categorize those things that defy categories?
Sure, there are familiar, classic, lived-in elements to his songs. But there is also a vision of life and love and the mysteries therein that is completely unique as well. I get the feeling that this is a guy who is not beholden to genres or styles or fads or whims. This is a guy who brings a heart full of questions to the doorstep of music, and follows the demands of the song, wherever it takes him.
Gary grew up in Cleveland in the 1960s, and his life took a number of strange turns that led him across the country, to Texas, and eventually back to his home city again. His singular life deserves a more thorough treatment, but for now, I’ll give you the short version. At an early age, he discovered the Beatles and immediately knew he wanted to play music. In high school, he discovered KISS and soon after, found himself travelling from dive bar to dive bar, unrecognizable in face paint and heavy metal garb. Sometime during his college years, he discovered Jesus, forsook his rock dreams, and eventually found his way into ministry. From there, he met the love of his life, raised a family, transitioned into the medical field, saw his daughters begin new lives, and just recently aided his wife in a long (and eventually successful) battle against leukemia.
Gary emerged from it all with a few emotional scars, a new outlook on life, and a head full of songs to help him sort it all out. He has come a long way since those younger hard rock days. There is no longer a coat of face paint to hide behind. There is only a human soul, stripped of superficialities, crying out to his Maker in feeble, undiluted worship. As he did the night of my visit, he still stands alone behind those microphones, a little timid, the darkness enclosing. “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground,” he beckons, with a raw honesty that sends the darkness fleeing.