Music Heals and Unifies America During Crisis

Posted in News on September 26, 2001

In times of crisis, anger, and grief, the American people seek the comforting and unifying power of music to ease the collective pain of the nation. The phenomenon was especially evident after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania when songs of patriotism, hope and platonic love surged in popularity for radio and television broadcasts and public gatherings.

"Music is a means of communication that helps express our emotions and fears," said Al Bumanis, a music therapist and spokesperson for the American Music Therapy Association. "Music is a healing experience, and historically, music has been used in major life events, from prehistory on -- that's how people cope with these events."

"On a more negative note," Bumanis added, "that's also how people march into war. Music is a powerful societal influence. A case can be made that music is a powerful influence in the life of every human being. Music therapy is a profession that's based on that power."

It was during an international crisis that Lee Greenwood wrote "God Bless the USA" to deliver a message of concern and pride to his country and the world. His song has become a contemporary patriotic anthem, resurfacing repeatedly for America's milestones in the 18 years since the song was composed. "I wrote it on a piano in the back of my bus shortly after the Soviet Union shot down a Korean airliner in the fall of 1983," said Greenwood. "This was an atrocity that had to be answered." 
Lee Greenwood

Greenwood said lingering feelings of remorse from the Vietnam War 20 years earlier, as well as an overwhelming sense of national pride were among his emotions when he composed the song. "It was a way of saying we are sorry for blaming the military for Vietnam," he said. "We should have welcomed the soldiers home. We needed to heal this nation about Vietnam."

"God Bless the USA" originally reached the Top 10 on the country music charts in 1984, and again rapidly climbed the music charts after the recent attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The song also was on the country charts in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War.

"The song is being used at burials, memorials, Thunderbirds air shows, boot camp, Eagle Scout and Boy Scout gatherings, even pageants," Greenwood said. He performed it in person at the "Prayer for America" ceremonies at Yankee Stadium on September 22. "It's just amazing how people say it gets their emotional level up and makes them feel good about who they are�Americans," Greenwood said.

Music became a rallying point in efforts to raise money for the families of victims in the terrorist attacks, as dozens of musicians and actors came together for a two-hour telethon, "America: A Tribute to Heroes," on September 21. Watched by more than 60 million people, the telethon has generated more than $150 million in contributions.

Mariah Carey

Paul Simon

Among the patriotic and stirring selections in the telecast credited entirely or partially to BMI songwriters were John Lennon's "Imagine," performed by Neil Young; "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Paul Simon; Faith Hill's rendition of "There Will Come A Day," composed by Bill Luther and Aimee Mayo with Chris Lindsey; "Hero," performed by Mariah Carey, a song which she co-wrote with Walter Afanasieff; "New York State of Mind," written and performed by Billy Joel; "I Believe In Love," sung by the Dixie Chicks, written by Natalie Maines and BMI's Marty Stuart; "Fragile," written and performed by Sting: and "Safe And Sound" written and performed by Sheryl Crow.

"I believe every artist there participated out of a feeling of helplessness and concern for our country," said Crow. "I wanted to play 'Safe and Sound' because it was a song that was written out of my own concern for the future of our world. Because of this, I felt it could be a song of healing."

Sheryl Crow

Dixie Chicks

Faith Hill

One of the songs performed in the telethon, "El Ultimo Adios" (The Last Goodbye), written by Emilio Estefan and Gian Marco, was recently recorded by nearly 60 artists from several countries, to be released on a CD in both English and Spanish. Participants include Juan Luis Guerra, Gloria Estefan and Luis Enrique. Proceeds from the CD are designated for the American Red Cross and United Way.

"We share the pain of the victims and their families and pray that they be comforted through this most difficult time," Gloria Estefan said in a message posted on her web site. "But let's also move forward with renewed hope that we can become a better world, more united and more understanding in the knowledge that we all are one and we are all connected!"

 Michael Jackson went into the studio after the terrorist attacks to record his new song "What More Can I Give." The lyrics include the phrase "�to help the world's citizens find solace in the wake of the attack on America and to create a sense of global unity in the face of mindless violence and mass murder." Jackson is donating all proceeds from the recording to help survivors and families of victims of the attacks.

As radio programmers searched for music to reflect the emotions of their listeners, many previously released songs took on new meaning. Sara McLachlan's "Angel," and Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" were among them. The New York radio audience requested such songs as Ray Charles' arrangement of "America the Beautiful," Don Henley's "New York Minute," Don McLean's "American Pie," and Jeff Buckley's rendition of "Anthem," written by Leonard Cohen. Among rock radio listeners in Los Angeles, Alien Ant Farm's version of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" has been popular with young people angered by the attacks on America.

Songs such as Bette Midler's 1989 version of "Wind Beneath My Wings," written by Larry Henley and Jeff Alan Silbar, and "Only In America," performed by Brooks & Dunn, written by Kix Brooks, Don Cook, and Ronnie Rogers, were among previously released songs that helped fill the emotional void of the grieving nation. Brooks & Dunn opened concerts with "Only In America" throughout the summer, but audiences began to interpret the song differently after September 11, said Brooks. "In times like these, songs take on special meaning," he said. "Songs like these really hit home right now. Everybody is looking for a flag to wave."

Some writer/performers are updating and re-issuing patriotic songs that were popular years ago. Aaron Tippin again shipped to radio stations his previous anthem from the Gulf War era, "You've Got To Stand For Something" (co-written with Kenny Beard and Casey Beathard), coupled with a new patriotic song titled "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly." The latter song was co-written by Tippin, Kenny Beard and Casey Beathard more than two years ago.

"The song hadn't made it on to an album yet," said Tippin, "but we thought it might be an inspiration to people at this difficult time. The situation now is reminiscent of Saudi ten years ago. This song is an opportunity to speak to people - I hope it will be an inspiration to the soldiers, the men and women about to be (soldiers) and the Americans at home -- and help our country heal." Net proceeds from the single are being donated to the American Red Cross disaster relief fund.

Charlie Daniels has released a new version of his 21-year-old hit, "In America," (co-written with John Thomas Crain Jr., Joel Di Gregorio, Fred Laroy Edwards, Charles Fred Hayward, and James Marshall) and shipped it to radio stations. "We may be black, white, Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative or what have you on the outside," said Daniels, "but once you get past the superficial part of the people of this country, we all have one thing in common, we are Americans and damn proud of it, and when you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us. God Bless America."

BMI Songwriter Julie Gold

Julie Gold performed her humanitarian hit "From A Distance"" at a sold-out benefit for the Red Cross just days after the September 11 disaster. She was joined at the BMI Benefit Showcase by Jo Davidson, Michael Kroll, Mary Anne Marino, Mieka Pauley, Tina Shafer, Itaal Shur, Sylvea Tosun, Jane Kelly Williams, and Peter Zizzo. This special showcase was the first of several planned by BMI to raise money for relief efforts. BMI is also contributing with other music industry organizations, including the Recording Academy,


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