I hadn't really thought about it when I set up the writing appointment. It was with Dave Mallett on January 15th. That was also the day the U.N. coalition had set as the deadline for Saddam Hussein and his Iraq forces to withdraw from Kuwait.
Dave Mallet is a well-established country-folk artist whose last four LPs have been for Flying Fish Records. He made three previous ones for Neworld Records, all seven being comprised of Dave's original material. His most well-known song to date is probably "The Garden Song" (" ... inch by inch, row by row"), recorded by John Denver, Paul Stookey, Arlo Guthrie and Kermit the Frog. Dave grew up on a farm in Maine and has a very direct and down-to-earth style of writing that is most effective. It is shown in a brilliant light on songs like "Summer of My Dreams," recently recorded by Kathy Mattea; and "Red Red Rose," which Emmylou Harris has just cut. Both are likely candidates for singles. Dave would be a real highlight on a Homefront Performances concert. (I'll work on it.)
Sitting in a small basement-level writer's room at Forerunner Music here in Nashville, Dave and I talked at length about the Mid-East Crisis. Pondering with the rest of the world what would happen next. We did write a song that day. A song I'm very proud of and will most likely debut in my show at the Rudyard Kipling down on Oak Street in Louisville on February 16th. Pleased with our first collaboration attempt, we said our goodbyes. Dave went home to pack for Seattle. I went by my publisher's office to check my irons in the fire and then home to watch the news.
The next day I had another writing session. This time with Carson Whitsett. Carson's credits would take the rest of this story and then some to list, so I'll just say Carson's last hit was "Dear Me" for Lorrie Morgan. We were both bummed out about the gulf crisis and struggled around for a few hours drinking coffee and showing each other melodies and ideas that didn't thrill either one of us. We were about to give it up when Carson came up with a beautiful little piece of a melody on the piano. I started hearing some words that fell into place and we both perked up. Unfortunately, our allotted working time was up, so we departed, with plans to resume the next morning.
Upon arriving home, I made a brief call to Randy Branch, a musician friend of mine in Birmingham, about stopping in on my way south in a week or so. Randy told me about his new son, born on New Year's Day. I happily congratulated him and we made plans for my visit.
Then he asked, "Did you know it's started?"
I answered, "No, what?"
"The missiles, they've fired on Iraq!"
We quickly said goodbye and I ran to turn on the T.V.
Suddenly music didn't mean a thing. Suddenly everyday living, everyday jobs, everyday anything seemed small and unimportant. Most of us over twenty-five had seen it before: the talks, the protesters, threats from evil dictators, the fear, the tear-filled faces of servicemen and women and their families, the solemn faces of the president and other high-ranking officials telling us that all reasonable attempts of diplomacy were at an end.
We'd seen it all before, and yet, with total disbelief, we watched as another war involving the United States and its allies had begun. My heart pounded in my chest as the adrenalin rushed through me. Here we are, headed into the 21st century and still having to resort to devastation of lives, homes, existence. I was angry at the world. I was sad for mankind. I cried. And like millions of other people on this earth, I spent that night worried, anxious, watching. Thinking "God, please let some good and peaceful end come out of all the death and destruction."
I'd been asked to write something for the Louisville Music News. I was already late with it, and had no idea what I'd write about. I called Carson the next morning and postponed our day of songwriting. My heart just wasn't in it. I wrote this story instead.
Psychologists tell us that singing songs and chanting protests helps relieve the anxieties that attack us in times like these. They are right.
So to all my fellow musicians, singers, songwriters, and citizens of the world, let me close with these words: Pray for peace, think peace, act for peace, sing for peace, and try to write a song that will lift mankind's spirit.
(Alan Rhody is a Louisville native and a successful songwriter-performer who has lived in Nashville, Tenn., for the past thirteen years.)