Five years ago, we were still in our little Red House in the village of Cambria, CA. Ray would soon be moving to a place of her own, 30 minutes down the road, and I’d be headed further south to start a new life in the Ojai Valley. But as 2015 got underway, we still had our studio set up in the dining room, ready to roll. So, when news reached us of the killings in Paris at the satire magazine “Charlie Hebdo,” we were able to act quickly. Ray had gotten an accordion for Christmas, and she’d already cooked up this lovely set of chord changes and melodies. It sounded “French” to me — like some kind of sweet street music. I asked her if I could try to hang some lyrics on it, and she said Yes, of course. And so, a few days later, this tune went up online.
It’s a little thing, perhaps, in the face of such a large tragedy. But it’s what we do. And I think a song can help us somehow to “feel” our way into the meaning of events that so often seem to have none. These days, it’s important for us to use whatever “tools” we can to retain our perspective, keep hearts and minds open, and maintain our connection with that which makes us human. Which I’m pretty sure is *not* our capacity for violence — though that has certainly been made plain enough — but is rooted instead in our ability to look beyond anger to the pain behind it, as well as the pain it causes, and find compassion and understanding for both.
Five years on, as the world seems only to descend deeper into chaos, and “liberty and justice for all” starts to sound like a corny bumper-sticker from the Model T days, the truth is: that *is* the prescription. “Liberty and justice for all” — for everybody — is our only way out of a future too grim to imagine and too inhuman to bother attending.
This is a song to help remind us of our debt to one another — and our connection, as members of one family. “Je suis Charlie” — yes, definitely, as are we all. Or we are — all — lost.