A Song for Social Justice

Have you ever forgotten you wrote a piece? Obviously, this doesn’t apply to you if you don’t write music to begin with. But perhaps you’ve forgotten something else fairly significant that you did. Well, I have.

A couple of weeks ago, my mother said to me, “You know, given everything that is going on in the world these days, I think you should share that piece you did.” “What piece?” “You know, that one about the homeless girl.” Instantly, images of rehearsing with my husband and a few people from church entered my mind. I could not believe I had forgotten we had done that! And then the thoughts: How long ago was that? 2008? That was six computers ago! I think I have a copy of the CD somewhere, but my computer doesn’t have a CD drive. I think John’s external CD drive still works. You want me to do what? Put this up online? What was the NAME of it? And as usual, when I can’t figure out the word for something I start rotating through the alphabet to see if something triggers it. A, ab, ac, ad, ae, af, ag, ah, ai, aj, ak, al, am, an, ao, ap, aq, ar, as, at, au, av, aw, ax, ay, az. Nope. B, ba, bb, bc…. and so on until I get to S. Right! S… Say a Little Prayer, I think it was?

“You mean ‘Say a Little Prayer’?” “Yes, that’s the one. I think you should put it up on your website and all the things you do.” “Really?” “Yes, I think it would be meaningful right now.” “OK, I’ll see if I can find it.”

So, I did. The history behind the song goes like this:

Back in 2007, my family and I moved back to Rhode Island. My husband had just finished his required in-person classes in seminary and was looking for a church to pastor in New England. We moved in with my parents for what turned about to be about 6 months. In that time, he did find a church – just 15 minutes away – a tiny church in a tiny corner of southern Rhode Island that no one can find without the specific correct address. About 2 weeks after we moved back to RI, before he was hired by the church, I got a letter in the mail, addressed to me using my maiden name and my parents’ address, from someone I went to school with during my undergrad years. She was doing a project to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, creating a collective CD of song with themes addressing homelessness. Did I want to submit a song?

Of course I did! But, I didn’t have a song to submit. I quickly wrote one and put together a demo to meet the deadline for consideration. They liked the song, but I needed to make a better recording, which they gave me time to do.

In the meantime, we started at the church we are now at, and lo! Behold! This tiny church was amazingly and surprisingly gifted with a number of skilled musicians. I spoke to them and asked if they would like to partner with me in making this song and getting it onto the CD. They eagerly agreed.

I wrote the lyrics and the music and played the piano. Joining me in my ad-hoc band are: my husband, John, on guitar; Michelle Cole, on vocals; Everett Brown, on violin; Mary Audette, on flute. Believe it or not, Everett and Mary were also on the New England Christmastide albums which I had on cassette and wore out playing them so much in high school. And here they were, in this tiny church tucked in a tiny corner of southern Rhode Island no one can find without the specific proper address!

Putting this song together was one of those “God-incidences.” I am not one to believe in coincidence. There are just some things that taken too many twists in order for the right moment to happen, and this is one of them.

If I had still been living in Indiana, even if I had gotten word from my parents about what came in the mail, and even if I had written a song, I wouldn’t have had access to the musicians I needed to make it happen. Remember, I got this letter just a few weeks after we moved back to RI. I was almost still in Indiana.

If my husband had not yet found a church to pastor, or if we had ended up at a different church, there’s a good chance I would not have been able to make a good recording. There’s no guarantee a church would have musicians skilled and ready to do a project, and I wasn’t yet connected to a musical community in Rhode Island.

Back in 2002 when my husband was working on his own music, he bought a mixer and recording machine. We brought that back to RI with us. If we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t have had the technology or knowledge to do the recording ourselves, nor the money to hire a professional to do it.

The day we did the final recording, one of the band members had a kidney infection and didn’t know it. If the recording had been delayed, it wouldn’t have been finished in time for the deadline.

I’ve been asked if the song is autobiographical. No, it is not. I had a nice, financially comfortable, solidly middle-class upbringing. However, the lyrics about a 13yr-old homeless girl praying to God about her troubles, are based on bits of stories I have personally heard, along with my imagination.

If you would like a copy to download, there are two choices: You can get it by becoming a patron here. Or you can purchase a download here. Either way, in keeping with the original purpose of writing the song, $1 will be donated to my local chapter of Habitat for Humanity for each new patron who joins my Patreon community and each purchased download.

Twelve years later, I’m still happy with how it turned out. I hope you find it as meaningful as I did writing and recording it. Without further ado, here is “Say a Little Prayer.”

2 thoughts on “A Song for Social Justice”

  1. The song lyrics deeply affect the listener and the music enriches the words. I also found myself visualizing Michele singing and Everett and Mary playing. impactful. Thank you

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