The founder of Up With People sits down to talk about the group’s Super Bowl appearances, the great love of his life, and his quest to create inclusive community. And, he says, he’s “still becoming”
It’s hard for me not to be biased when it comes to talking about musician Paul Colwell. I love this man. Everyone in the small community of Vashon loves him. A talented musician, he’s been using his musical skills to reach special education students who need his kindness, who need his ability to listen.
He’s truly a soul teacher.
We recorded this interview on November 27, 2018. Hard to believe it’s been over a year, but sometimes life interrupts our plans. I’m glad to be back.
There’s a moment you don’t want to miss on this podcast. It has stayed with me all year, even during the four-month break Soul Teachers took from September through December of last year. It’s the moment when Colwell sings one of the songs originally produced by Up with People: “What Color Is God’s Skin?”
Why is this significant?
That song brings back a flood of memories. Me lying on our puke-green living room carpet, listening to our ancient record player spinning out that tune. Our family listening to and singing that song back in the 70s. My three sisters, the Denlinger Trio, singing that song.
That song meant something to my father, especially. He had a strong conscience when it came to race. That song expressed exactly the belief he held — that no one should be judged by the color of his skin. I saw that in the friends he made, in the way he sternly condemned racist language.
So it’s just crazy to me that I finally got a chance to interview the song’s writer and composer. And that he agreed to sing that particular song for me.
Somewhere, my father is smiling as I write this. He’d have been so excited to meet Paul and listen to him play. Earl Denlinger would have whipped out his harmonica and played along with him.
You’ll just have to imagine that as you listen.
Can you hear him playing it, off in the distance?
But here’s what’s even crazier. That amazing artist — Paul Colwell, founder of Up with People, composer and writer — I got a chance to work with him for eight years at Vashon High School. It’s where he met me, befriended me and introduced me to his beloved wife, Catalina Quinn.
But none of that matters, really. What matters is that you get to listen to Paul’s performance at the end.
Wow! My family and I have sung that song many times across our lifetime.
And now you get to hear it, too.