Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.
Brian Free & Assurance’s current radio single, “I Want to Be That Man,” was co-written by Ricky Free and Lee Black. Neither are newcomers to the group’s music; Free is tenor/manager Brian Free’s son, while Black co-wrote a song that was on the group’s debut project. In fact, that song, “Flood the Altar,” was Lee Black’s first professional cut. He co-wrote the song with Sue Smith and David Moffit—both of whom remain good friends and co-writing partners to this day.
Lee Black co-wrote “I Want to Be That Man” with Brian’s son, Ricky Free, last summer. Brian’s father (Ricky’s grandfather) had passed away several months ago. Black and Free started talking about that loss and about their own families. Ricky and Kelly Free were expecting their own first child in a month or two. “I was just thinking about my own kids,” Black adds,” wanting to pass on to them things that had been handed down to me. We were thinking about these things, talking about heritage and leaving a legacy. I don’t remember how it happened or how that title even popped out, but it started from that standpoint.”
When Brian Free first heard the song demo, he didn’t know who wrote the song. The song’s message of faithful fatherhood stirred his heart, and he knew he had to record it. As he says when introducing the song live:
When I first heard this song, I immediately thought of my father. My father passed away almost two years ago. My mom passed away a few months after that. But Dad was a great example for me, growing up, and my brothers—a wonderful Christian man that I’ll never forget, and I know I’ll see again. In this day and time, men, fathers, and husbands—more than ever, it’s so important that we understand the legacy we leave behind, and what we do on a daily basis with our children—the things they see, the things they hear. The things that we do, how we respond. I’m far from perfect; I make many mistakes. I’m a work under progress. But tonight I can truly stand here and tell you that I want to be a man that would be an example to my sons.
When he checked the lyric and found out that one of the co-writers was his own son, he was even more deeply moved.
Brian Free & Assurance picked the song as the debut radio single from their current record, Nothing But Love. “It really surprised me,” Black recalls, “because it feels so much like a Father’s Day or Promise Keepers kind of song.”
Cross and Heaven songs are always safe picks for Southern Gospel radio singles, Black observes. “My wife kids me that I’ve written ‘Settled at the Cross,’ ‘Beneath the Cross,’ ‘At the Cross’—you name the preposition and I’ve written it! There’ll never be enough cross songs.”
A song about faithful fatherhood is an unusual pick for Southern Gospel radio, but early feedback indicates the song is resonating with listeners and reviewers as deeply as it did with Brian Free. It has only been on the chart for two months, and is already at #13 (December 2012 chart).