Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Joe Bonsall's Perspective

Interview by ~Mary

You may know Joe Bonsall not by name but by description: onstage spokesman for the Oak Ridge Boys. With top 40 hits such as “Elvira,” “Sail Away,” and “Dream On,” the country-gospel group was embraced by America as they traveled from coast to coast, singing about love, God, and the good ol' USA.

You would think with three decades of performing under their belt, there would be just a little male diva present in their DNA. However, reading Bonsall’s book From My Perspective sheds light on a different persona altogether. He is your average, down-to-earth guy in some aspects, yet poised with life experience and wisdom that far exceeds the ordinary. His humor, generosity, and patriotism come alive between the pages of this collection of personal essays. He demonstrates that there is more to this tenor than just talent. May I present, the real Joe Bonsall.

MN-Your chapter titled "Being Joseph" prompts me to ask for the sake of the interview, Joe or Joseph?
JB-I answer to ALL things-Joe, Joseph, Joey, Ban-Joey, POP POP, Daddy, Honey Take Out the Trash. But Joe works fine.

MN-Your perspective (referring to your book) is incredibly balanced and wise as it relates to life, death, and everything in between. Do you credit your upbringing, life experiences, and faith in providing that wisdom?
JB-In the chapter I called “Stones” I allude to the fact that every life experience is a stone that eventually becomes the mountain that is you. I believe that we are a constant work in progress on every level, and we draw upon all of these things as we journey through life. You may not even realize what a profound effect something may have on you even while it is transpiring. A moment . . . a whisper . . . a word . . . a song . . . a fight . . . a Bible verse. Everything matters! No experience is wasted even if it is subliminal. So my experiences come from everywhere at once. My mom was a huge influence as has been my faith and my many experiences, but it is the overall journey that provides the impetus for my writing.

MN-Speaking of your upbringing, the love and respect you have for your parents, GI Joe and Lillie, is touching. What is the one ongoing family tradition you are most proud of?
JB-Pure unadulterated love and devotion from my mom, Lillie Bonsall, toward her husband and toward her children and toward her country and God. She never put herself above these four. She taught me that I could succeed in America by telling the truth, by honoring God and by remembering that this is why guys like my father did what they did, so do not blow it. I miss her every single day!

MN-Your book From My Perspective proves that American patriotism is alive and well on the Tennessee/Kentucky state line. Unfortunately, pride and allegiance isn’t always found in our homeland. What is the secret to reigniting a sense of patriotism, especially as it relates to our youth?
JB-One of my great writing heroes was Stephen Ambrose. He was among the first to get WWII veterans to open up and talk about their experience. His books such as Citizen Soldiers, D-Day, and Band of Brothers have been very meaningful to me. He was speaking at a book fair in DC when this question was posed: “Mr. Ambrose, it is true that during this time men and women rose up and did extraordinary things to preserve our freedom. Giving the seeming loose attitudes of today’s youth do you think that would happen again today?”

Without hesitation author Ambrose almost shouted, “Yes I do sir!!” This was even before 9/11. I never forgot that, and the proof resides in our military today—young people giving their all for our freedoms. There will always be those who do not get it, but when push comes to shove and freedom is on the line? The job will get done!

MN-Nature is an ongoing thread throughout your book. How important is it for you to stay connected to nature?
JB-I love to write about the importance of getting away from the race and enjoying and honoring God and the beauty he has created. I, in point of fact, may even overdo the subject a bit, but to me, it is imperative to do so. I have been so blessed to have a little piece of land where I can go and sit by the creek, take long walks, listen to the birds sing, or just sit on my porch and watch the moon rise above the tree line. As I have gotten older I find more and more that these are the moments I live for!

MN-With the holiday season fast approaching, is there one memory that stands out that sort of defines the season for you?
JB-I always remember that even though our family had very little, my mom and dad made our little Philly row-house living room look like Disneyland. To this day I am still not sure how they did it, but they sure made Christmas morning special for little Joey and my sister Nancy. To this day a set of blinking lights on a pretty tree can take me back to childhood and those precious memories.

MN-Complete this sentence: "Today, Joe Bonsall is . . . ”
JB-Very happy and very blessed. Still feeling good and still singing pretty darn good. My writing is a constant work in progress, and I am very thankful for the opportunities that have been given me to write and to continue writing. I love my family, I love my Savior, and I love America . . . Sounds like my mom doesn't it? I guess it does . . .

For more information about Joe Bonsall, visit Joe

To see this interview and others in the November issue of The Wordsmith Journal, visit The Wordsmith