Friday, 12 February 2010

Behind The Song: First Black President

This song had it's roots in a pro-life song called 'Neverborn' which I tried to write but ended up scrapping maybe 4 or 5 years ago. All that remained was the title (which I'm using as the name for this project) and a desire to one day write a song reflecting my concern for the plight of the unborn.

Fast forward a few years. Feeling increasingly convicted to try again I set myself a goal of writing 4 songs from the point of view of the unborn over the 6 week school summer holiday - just to see if such a thing was even possible.

First Black President was an idea I had floating around for a while. I was so struck by the irony of Barak Obama's extreme pro-choice position when groups like Planned Parenthood are actively targeting Black majority areas and engaging in what some campaigners are calling a black genocide.

But this song is not about Barak Obama. It's about the millions of children (of whatever ethnicity) who never got the chance that he did to do anything with their lives.

 The opening lines were inspired by a testimony I read of a man who's partner had had an abortion years before. He remembered very little but when asked how old his child would have been if it had not aborted was shocked to find he knew the answer without a second's thought. It was only then he realised how much guilt and sorrow he had buried in his heart. I was also thinking about an article that talked about historical figures who would have been prime candidates for abortion today beacuse of their parental situations. While many such articles are grossly incorrect the point is still valid - who knows what a difference one small life might mean?

The song was written in a week. Early every morning I would run to my church's offices, arriving usually before anyone else, wash, write for a couple of hours, then run home again. Then at the weekend I demoed the song at home.
In the lyrics I wanted to capture the amazing and the mundane. A child who doesn't grow up to be the President still has the right to life. I was inspired to write a song in 'swingtime' by listening to Chris Spring's songs Skinny Water and Pilot Song. The old time signature bars in the chorus are either 5/4 or 6/4 depending on whether you're hearing it as a very slow song with a fast melody or more upbeat. I hear it slow. I expected to rewrite the music as I was worried that the chorus was too complicated and the verse was too simple. But they grew on me. Anyway, I had other songs to get on with.

While playing the song I often segued into singing The Bourgeois Blues by Leadbelly. I was really interested by the juxtaposition of Leadbelly's account of institutional racism in Washington , D.C. with the modern reality of a Black President in the White House. I would have like to sample the song but didn't have the time or technology to do it, so what you hear is my pathetic approximation.

My favourite line is "covered in glory 'cos I gave my life" as it was an unintentional double meaning (an American soldier's coffin is often draped in 'Old Glory' - the American flag).

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