The murder of George Floyd, on May 25, 2020, and the graphic video showing exactly how he died, set off protests around the U.S., and around the world, especially when the violent police response to so many of these nonviolent protests made it clear just how widespread the problem of police violence against racial minorities and other “disfavored” members of our society really is. In looking for a melodic “hook” to hang a song about this on, especially the words “I can’t breathe!”, I considered a variety of songs with the theme of the need to breathe, but found mostly dreamy ballads that didn’t have the “punch” I was looking for. Eventually I started looking at a song I’ve always admired: “Independence Day“, by Gretchen Peters, which Martina McBride turned into a huge hit over 20 years ago. This definitely had the “punch” I was looking for, and as I got into writing the new words, I started thinking about the other cases of victims who “can’t breathe”: those sickened by the coronavirus pandemic, which our nominal “President”, and our profit-making “health care” system, have allowed to die in huge, totally unnecessary numbers; and the climate crisis, which threatens not only the breathing, but the very existence, of humans and many other species on earth, many of which have already become extinct. All of these problems demand our immediate attention, and I can only hope that this song might provide a little more incentive to move toward some real solutions.
He was just another black man, murdered by the cops;
They thought they’d sweep it away with no fuss;
But when that video came out, the whole world started to shout
That black lives matter to us!
We’ve had police reforms, trying to change their norms,
But they’ve kept on with their killing way;
So take away their guns, take away their funds;
It’s time for us all to say:
Just let us breathe! What you give, you’ll receive.
A new world could be here where the hatred and fear have all gone away!
Give the weak a voice! A better world is our choice!
Take that knee away! Make the guilty pay! Let us breathe today!
When that virus first hit, he just told us that it,
Like a miracle, would soon go away.
Then people started to die, and the death count rose high:
We’re Number One in the world today!
With no PPE, no hospital capacity,
A “health care” business sucking our lives away;
We’re sick of “health care” for profit; it’s time to get off it:
Medicare for all today!
Now our world is on fire, temperature keeps getting higher,
Don’t know yet if humans will make it through it;
But the oil industry is choking us with its knee,
And we’re paying them billions to do it.
Pay attention to those fires, not reality deniers:
Time to make the polluters pay;
Leave that oil in the ground, wind and solar abound;
We need a Green New Deal today!
Take that knee away! …
Let us breathe today!
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