Story of a Song

About a year ago I had one of those life moments that leaves an indelible stamp. I was privileged to be able to attend the “Casa de Musica” songwriting workshop run by Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka, Don Richmond, and Cisco Ryder Gilliland in Taos NM. It’s a rough life I know.

On the last day of the workshop, I shared a song I originaly began writing in 2014, My Heart Aches. Since, I and Eliza have each recorded and released a co-written version this year.

I wrote the original first three verses in August of 2014 after Michael Brown Jr. was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, thinking about how it’d been 50 years since the civil right act of 1964 and about 500 miles from where Emmett till was lynched in Mississippi and Ferguson, Missouri, and maybe we hadn’t made as much progress as we thought (and sang about a couple generations ago).

And then it sat for a while. And then about a year later Dylann Roof killed nine individuals in a church in Charelston South Carolina, and I wrote the rest of the first version of the song.

We marched 50 years and 500 miles
From Mississippi to a Ferguson mistrial
Stepping over bodies of other mother’s sons
Singing how someday “We shall overcome.”

We marched 50 years and so many miles
With folded hands and tacit smiles
Comdemning a generation to circumstance
And “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”


My Heart Aches

We marched 50 years and countless miles
Ignoring signs, living in denial
Waiting for another to take a stand
And “Hammer out justice all over this land.”


My Heart Aches

For a country trapped in racist rhetoric – my heart aches
For those with hearts filled with rage – my heart aches
For families crying over graves – my heart aches
For communities torn apart by race – my heart aches
For my struggles with forgiveness and grace – my heart aches
For my complacency and restraint – my heart aches

Here’s a recording of the song as I played it at the workshop. What made the moment indelible on me was hearing all of the other students/musicians sitting in front of me, and the pros sitting behind me echoing “my heart aches” after each time I sang that line. Hearing two songwriters in Eliza and John I had long admired, and Don and Cisco (playing the cajon) who I had just met singing and playing a song I had written was simply awesome.

It was a decent song that captured a moment. I continued to work on the second half, updating with more specific (and recent imagery, such as children in cages) and then sent it to Eliza who took it the rest of the way to completion, making it something special.

We marched 50 years and 500 miles
From a Mississippi bridge to the Ferguson trial
Stepping over bodies of other mothers’ sons
Singing how someday we shall overcome


My heart aches

We marched 50 years and so many miles
With folded hands and complacent smiles
Condemned a generation to circumstance
And all we were saying was give peace a chance


My heart aches

We marched 50 years and countless miles
Ignoring the signs with our own denials
Waiting for some others to take a stand
And hammer out justice all over this land


My heart aches

For the children locked in cages far away where no one sees
For the helpless and the hopeless, for the homeless refugees
My heart aches
For the voices who’ve been silenced at the mercy of our greed
For the prisoners of conscience who speak out for those in need
My heart aches
For the victims of the hatred lying on the ground
In the churches and the schoolyards. From the shots that took them down
My heart aches
For the claims made on our bodies, and who we can and can’t embrace
For the children of tomorrow and the world they have to face
My heart aches

You can listen to Eliza’s recording here, and purchase from her directly here. I really like her version. Covid-19 has wiped out all touring income. For musicians such as Eliza, this is their primary source of income. So, I encourage purchasing music instead of or, better yet, in addition to streaming it.

You can listen to my version and purchase here. It doesn’t have Eliza’s wonderful voice, but it does have Linnea’s, which is pretty damn sweet. I still get chills when I hear her sing the harmony on the line “From the shots that took them down.”

Thanks for reading and listening.

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