I post this video on the Fourth of July, American Independence Day for reasons both obvious and personal. Like the country, it is a collage of pieces made up in real time by ordinary people some of whom did and do extraordinary things. It is itself, imperfect with production flaws the occasional bum notes that inevitably happen but which smooth out over the run time. Bits are borrowed such as the photos, melody and the lyrics, some recent and some traditional, origins unknown, the voices of the past still resonating in imagination, truthful, tender and evocative, some known and hopefully treated with due respect and affection.
There is a moody slow pace like summer in the South, an old dog sleeping in the master's chair waiting for the family he is part of to wake up and take him outside before the thundering fireworks send him scurrying back to the porch. But here at dawn, only the birds are singing, some close, some distant, some insistent, all searching for the morning meal.
Of the productions I've done of late, this is my personal favorite. I recorded it for a friend in a different part of the country who asked me to write a protest song for a group called The Hoping Machine, a group that goes to activist events and sings to stir the passions of those aggrieved by current events. I found at that moment that I did not wish to agitate, not that I did not share their grievances but that I believe at this time it is more important to remember what we share, what we care about in concert, what we love about the American experience, what a gift and a responsibility this land is and to whom it truly belongs.
So I sat at my piano and spread before me the lyrics of a traditional American folk ballad, a more recent but much loved song by an American icon of activism whose family I count as distant but much loved and respected friends, and a pop song from a poetess now past but whose song has itself become part of the American folk legacy. I improvised the piano part and in real time chose and sang each verse as my hands tentatively traveled the keys like a lone hitchiker hoping that at the end of recording, it would make sense, not have too many bad notes, and would express my deep abiding love for my homeland. There is nothing false in this. It is as authentic as my emotions and average skills can make a performance. That is to say, it is real.
So is the American experience, It is a love song, a hymn to our republic and our shared if sometimes tumultuous lives. May we continue to receive and merit the blessings this common but splendid love makes possible and share them as possible in common purpose. God bless America,. This land is our land.