I've had some tough years, but 2020 may have been one of the hardest. Not at the beginning or even the middle. A month before the great toilet paper stampede of 2020 my boss was selling N95 masks so none of the panic or lockdowns were surprising.
The virus caused me little to no stress, it was the election. No, I'm not a domestic terrorist. I'm not a dumbass either, but this post isn't about the election.
I always wanted to make a patriotic song, but I don't have much control over the creative process. Whatever comes, comes,
On election night I started playing with chords and samples, chopping them up, moving things around and I knew I had a "beat on the machine."
Back in the day I couldn't shut equipment off because I didn't know how to save it so a "beat on the machine" is like a pan on the stove. Some sort of portal is open and I can't just stop and pick back up where I left off. With a patriotic beat on the machine and a bunch of election chaos I finally saw it.
About 15 years ago my Grandpa used to have a post it note on his mirror that said, "1. God, 2. Country, 3. Family, 4. Me". I never understood it as my list was the exact opposite because my head was in my ass and I've only ever thought about myself.
During the three days making this beat I was destroyed because I finally realized what this was. I walked around my whole life with a piece of paper protecting me and my rights and I took it for granted. The Bill of Rights isn't just something you learn about in school. It's something to tremble before.
The people governing themselves is a crazy idea in the history of the world. This American experiment is just that, an experiment. My entire pampered life of safety and freedom I took for granted, because I didn't really understand it.
Finally, I understood why my Grandpa had that post it note ordered in that way. The freedom I have was paid for in the Revolutionary War, The Civil War, the World Wars.
We aren't subjects of the king. This isn't The Confederate States of America. I'm not writing in German.
This beat felt right. It felt important and I had no clue what to do with it. The chorus was weird and for a year it sat on a huge pile of unwritten or unfinished songs as just a beat.
Every few months I'd try and write to it and nothing came.
A couple months ago I sat down when I realized it was Nov 3 again one year later chills went down my spine. How would I write to something like this and what do you say in such a divided environment?
I wanted to span American history in the first verse somehow and did my best. I had to look up how to say "versailles" and I'm not even sure I said it right or how much America had to do with it. I'm a song writer, not a historian.
Mentioning "Bleeding Kansas" was important to me because I"m from Kansas and love Kansas. My Great Grandfather Harry was born in 1889. He died when I was 2. I don't remember him, but my family still talks about him all the time. My Great Grandmother Gertrude died in 2005 so the memories of Harry have lived on.
Once they babysat me and I wouldn't fall asleep. "Sing him a song" Grandma said as Harry held me. "Ooooo say can you see..." He had a booming voice and sang in my ear scaring the daylights out of me. "Harry, not a song like that?!" "Why would you sing that!?" Grandma shouted as I instantly started crying. Of course I don't remember, but I've heard the story a million times.
Harry's Grandfather and Great Grandfather fought for the Union. One lifetime connected me to the civil war. One of them was shot in the neck and if he wasn't found and his life saved, mine wouldn't exist. Abolition IS in my bones.
We've been trying to form a more perfect Union. It has never been perfect, never will be, we're people. Our founding fathers got the sovereignty of the individual right though.
Don't miss the reality and beauty of the forest because you're diverted by the ugliness of some of the trees.