When I first met Obama two years ago at his very first fundraiser in New York, I asked him to inscribe a copy of his book for my 10-year-old daughter. He wrote in bold letters: “TO EMMA — DREAM BIG DREAMS — BARACK.” I sensed then that he was someone special — someone we both could believe in.
On election eve, after his electrifying speech in Grant Park, the lyrics for Song For the Ages came pouring out of me. I wanted it to be an anthem that would both reflect our history and also project our hope for the future.
The reference to Abraham Lincoln and the lyric “a time for dreams of better things to come,” with the Bush era finally behind us, were all carefully chosen to mirror the mood of the moment.
I wanted to capture the energy of that night because part of me knew that it would not last. The hard cold confrontation with reality would engulf us all soon enough, as it has. Layoffs, bailouts, a shrinking global economy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a troubled Middle East and social security and healthcare systems in crisis are evidence enough.
As we are now in the thick of it, we need all the help we can get to sustain this hope which Obama initiated. Music is one of the most powerful social tools we have for collective change. As noted eloquently in the latest book I’m reading, Oliver Sacks’ “Musicophilia,” music can move us to the heights of emotion and can persuade us to take action. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It even occupies more areas of our brain than language does. We are a musical species!
Just think of the role that music played during the Civil Rights Movement. Songs like “We Shall Overcome,” “Amazing Grace” and “The Times They Are A-Changin'” became anthems which called people to action. Music seeps into the cells and pores of our beings, energizes us as a nation and motivates us to go out and create change. Can you imagine how different the outcome of the marches on Washington, Selma (AL) and the myriad of Vietnam War protests might have been without music?
While no one yet knows what impact the Obama presidency will have on the world, it is so important that we put our bodies, minds and spirits to work to help make this administration a success.
If Song for the Ages plays even a small role in helping to inspire people to take action, to do what they can as individuals, I will be humbled and immensely grateful to have had this opportunity to contribute to the energy of this extraordinary moment in this historic time.
Rondi Charleston was born and raised in Hyde Park, Chicago. She is a singer/songwriter, as well as a former producer, and Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist for ABC News’ “PrimeTime Live.” Song For the Ages is currently climbing the Adult Contemporary and Hot AC charts. Her new album, “In My Life,” will be released April 7th. She lives in Westport, Connecticut and NYC with her husband and daughter.
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