Lost and Found
A few days after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I picked up my guitar and wrote a song. I just had to. The numbness and shock were wearing off, reality was setting in, and my emotions were about to erupt. As I strummed my instrument, an image appeared to me, and the lyrics began to pour out onto the page.
I pictured America as a large sailing ship, traveling across the centuries, a capable captain at its helm. As the verses unfolded, the captain morphed into a slackard; the sailors were worked to the bone; chaos and panic ensued. And then the unthinkable: a golden, glittering rock with evil motives rose up from the depths and positioned itself directly in the ship’s path. But I refused to give in to despair. The final verse leaves room for hope. (I’ve included the lyrics at the end of this post.)
Political protest songs may be a dying art. I haven’t heard too many lately, not like in the old days, but maybe that’s about to change. Joan Baez’s “Nasty Man” went viral last spring. David Crosby recently put out a call for new protest songs. He did admit, though, that when it comes to writing songs about Trump, it’s hard to use that many swear words in a song. (I managed to write one without a single profanity; it’s called “Nothing Rhymes with Donald.”) I think Bob Dylan might have given up on changing the world. Or maybe he realizes that by consistently performing “Blowin’ in the Wind” as an encore for fans young and old (something I saw him do in 2016), he’s keeping the flame of protest alive.
I love songs like Blowin’ in the Wind, songs that get to the heart of the matter and make a difference. A few years ago, when I worked in a high school in South Tucson, I met a tenth grader with a severe attendance problem who told me he stayed home instead of coming to school because he’d rather work in his garden. He said it put him in touch with the universe. “Did you know that we’re all made out of stardust?” he asked me. Pretty astute for a high school kid.
I told him about Joni Mitchell’s song, Woodstock (“We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get back to the garden”), and about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s show, Cosmos. He looked them both up on YouTube that night. The next day, he came to my office and told me he’d enjoyed the song and had watched two episodes of Cosmos. I may have made a difference in his life; I’m positive that he made one in mine.
The lyrics to my song about the ship, “Lost and Found,” are below, and the video of me performing it is at the end. I like to think that, for the next presidential election (or maybe sooner), the majority of Americans will be like the fish in the last verse, swimming together to right a terrible wrong.
Once I took a trip on a great sailing ship
Oh, once I took a trip on a great sailing ship
I was lookin’ for liberty from sea to shining sea
Oh, once I took a trip.
The anchor was raised, and the boat started moving
At the ocean I gazed, and the view was improving
The captain was in control, he said he had an honest goal,
Oh, the anchor was raised.
The ship it did sparkle from stern to bow
A majestic and stately sight
The deck in the middle was the color of wheat
Its flag was red, blue, and white.
All of us knew that the ship had been stolen
A long time ago from its original owners
It isn’t a mystery, it’s written down in history
All of us knew.
The voyage was rough and the passengers worried
The captain relaxed while the sailors scurried
Confusion was in the air, not a compass anywhere
Yeah, the voyage was rough.
We’re all gonna die! the passengers wailed
Our captain’s a criminal, he should be jailed!
Our hull has lost its polish, our deck has been demolished
We’re all gonna die, we’re all gonna die!
Just then a surprise poking out of the ocean
A beautiful rock just like a magic potion
The part that we could see was as gold as gold could be,
A total surprise.
The rock promised treasures so wondrous and great
The passengers chanted with glee
And that rock grabbed the ship like a thief in the night
And boldly attempted to flee.
Some of the waves just drifted away
Others got angry and decided to stay
Sayin’ “Maybe if we stick around, we’ll eventually wear the rock down,”
Some of the waves.
But the fish in the water, they started to wonder
“Can we save the ship? ‘cuz there’s power in numbers”
And they turned that ship around just before it hit the ground
And what was lost was finally found
The fish in the water
Yeah, the fish in the water
All the fish in the water.
I was born near Buffalo, New York into an incredible family. My mom is very wise and makes the best meatballs in the universe. My dad is word-smart and musical. He was the only kid in his class who knew how to spell “mosquito,” and he’s played trumpet on street corners and for British royalty. I probably inherited my dad’s love of words and music. At the age of three, I learned how to read, but my favorite activity was singing Nat King Cole songs to strangers in the supermarket. I once wrote a song about my parents, mentioning my mom’s meatballs in the chorus. I’ve lived in Buffalo, Vancouver, and Tucson … and over the years I’ve been married (twice), divorced (once), raised a family, recorded music, and had a career as a school psychologist. I just retired so that I could devote more time to the things I love.
Written for Rage Against the Machine Month. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here. But first, leave a comment and let Lori know what you think about her words and song, and be sure to visit her over at Loristory when you’re done.
Featured image via www.hdwallpapers.com