Nov 2010 Script
Jeffrey Altergott - It Gets Better (2010)
It Gets Better.
Dan Savage & Terry Miller clip from video (2010)
This is JD Doyle for OutRadio, and like most gay people I've been very moved by the news stories of the last few weeks, and in particular by the videos posted on the net as part of the It Gets Better Project. You just heard a short clip from Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller, who started the project. That video has gotten over a million hits and more importantly has encouraged hundreds, perhaps thousands of others to post their own videos, to tell their own stories, to reach out to GLBT youth with the single message. It Gets Better.
And I'm very pleased to see that this has encouraged many artists and groups to put their own messages out there in the form of music. And I was similarly driven to try with the next two hours to share these songs with you, and to kind of document the musical efforts and corral them in one place. Eleven of the songs recorded took their cue from the project and have the same title, "It Gets Better," like the opening number, by Jeffrey Altergott. Many of these songs are amazing. All of them are heartfelt. Here are two more, just called "It Gets Better."
for Trevor Project - It Gets Better (2010)
That first one was a joint effort by a group of actors from Broadway musicals, so you might expect the talent to just overflow, which I think it did. They called themselves Broadway Sings for the Trevor Project, and I hope you know that the Trevor Project is a national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention among GLBT youths. And after that track was one by singer and actor Chris Salvatore.
And here are two more, this time focused more on the attackers. By Linq is "Oh, Bully."
- Oh, Bully (2010)
That was Scott Free, and a song that really captures the persecution, called "Another Day of Cruelty." That's from his 2004 CD "They Call Me Mr. Free." For the OutRadio shows this month I'm going to try to not do much talking and to let the music tell the story. But I feel I should make a personal statement. I was a teenager in the early 60s, in a small town in Ohio. And I guess I'm fortunate that being gay didn't seem to be in the consciousness then, so much so that I had no clue I was gay, at least that I recognized at the time. I was never physically bullied and being called faggot had not yet become the style of abuse, at least not then and there. Yes, I was certainly a misfit and the climate of not being able to just be yourself I know was a form of an internal prison. Getting out of high school and away from there was definitely an escape.
My partner Jeff, who went through his teen years in Houston, Texas, in the mid-70s, did not fare as well. He was persecuted so much in high school, with the authorities doing nothing, that he dropped out in his freshman year. What a tragedy that someone who loved learning so very much could not get the education he was entitled to. His family tells me that they believe he definitely would have become suicidal if left in that school environment. For Jeff, it did get better. He went on to get his GED and on to college, to become his dream, a grade school teacher.
Another musical take on the bullying and abuse is by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. It's called "Pushed Down the Stairs" and comes from the acclaimed work "Naked Man," from 1996.
Francisco Gay Men's Chorus - Pushed Down the Stairs (1996)
I'm glad I could counter the ominous tone of the song "Pushed Down the Stairs" with a new response, as done by the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus. They are just one of many gay choruses who have been moved to make a video message in song. For the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus in Minneapolis/St Paul, it was not the first time they approached the subject. For their 2000 CD "The Rainbow Project," they commissioned a musical work be done from Tomie de Paola's children's story, "Oliver Button Was a Sissy." It's a 22 minute work definitely designed for pre-teens, with considering that audience perhaps a rosier message. Here's just a clip from it.
City Gay Men's Chorus - Oliver Button Was a Sissy (2000)
By the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, that was a snippet from "Oliver Button Was a Sissy" and I'm pleased to also share the song from their brand new video, just released this week, just in time to include in this show, called "It Gets Better." Their Artistic Director Stan Hill set lyrics to the tune of the traditional canon "Dona Nobis Pacem," "Give Us Peace."
Of course I have to express my sorrow regarding the numerous recent teen suicides. One of them, 13-year old Asher Brown lived about ten miles from me. He killed himself on September 23rd, and his parents said he was bullied to death. I attended his memorial service. I of course did not know him or his family, but just felt I had to go.
An artist friend of mine, Steve Schalchlin, has written two songs inspired by the suicide of 16-year old William Clayton, who killed himself in 1995 a month after being assaulted in a hate crime based on his sexual orientation. It's called "William's Song."
Schalchlin - William's Song (2000)
"Will It Always Be Like This" is the subtitle of "Gabi's Song" and Steve was helped out on that second recording by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. A suicide also inspired this next song, called "Not Deserted," done by a Canadian duo I like a lot, called Sugarbeach. They are Marlee Walchuck and Tully Callendar and I interviewed them for my show last February. Marlee fielded the question when I asked of what song on the album she's the most proud.
Marlee Walchuck of Sugarbeach Comment (2010)
Wow, gee, that's really a hard question. You know, for me I really love
"Not Deserted," because of the meaning behind it, and the
fact that it was connected with the suicide of Carl Joseph Hoover, the
11-year old boy who killed himself from partially from anti-gay bullying,
and then when I started to research more I realized that we'd lost by,
I believe April, we'd already lost three or four middle school children
in the States for the same reason, to suicide from anti-gay bullying,
and I was just shocked, so this song for me is like the five minutes
I could have had five minutes to talk to them before they made this
decision to this, this is partially at least what I would have said
to them. So I hope that at some point in time it gets to kids in places
where they feel they are very alone and that they are the only ones.
Cause a lot of these kids are so young sometimes that they are not even
sure how they identify yet, but the cruelty in schools can be mind-boggling,
and they're just seeing no way out, other than to take their lives,
so I guess for me the message of that one is particularly powerful.
Patty Griffin with still another suicide song, called "Tony," from her 1998 album "Flaming Red." I'm down to the last song for this first segment, and I've got to end with something more positive. And that's the video contribution to the It Gets Better Project by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. They chose the song "True Colors," and did it beautifully. Before you hear it I want to encourage you to watch some of the actual videos for these songs. Just seeing the faces of the performers is very moving and makes a connection just hearing the songs cannot do. I don't mind telling you that many of them brought tears to my eyes. And, very quickly, I've got two websites to give you, itgetsbetter.com and thetrevorproject.org. Please come back for Part 2 of my salute to the It Gets Better Project. And now as promised, the Gay Men's Chorus of L.A. and "True Colors."
Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles - True Colors (2010)
Mike Ator - Stay (2010)
This is JD Doyle and welcome to Part 2 of OutRadio, and my special look at songs inspired by, in particular, the It Gets Better Project. And I'm very proud of that first song. It's by local Houston artist Mike Ator and is called "Stay." Now, I use Facebook for a lot of networking, and on October 18th I had decided I wanted to put together the show you're listening to, so I posted the following: "Artists! I want your It Gets Better and bullying-related songs for my next OutRadio show." I was very pleased at the response I got, with a number of artists, including some I did not know, submitting songs from their catalog that might fit. But what pleased me even more is that as a result of my nudging, three artists wrote original songs. You'll hear all three of those at the beginning of this segment, with Mike's being the first.
And the second is by an artist I've been following since before he even released his first recording. He's Freddy Freeman, and I'm so delighted with his song, and I especially like that near the end he gives a dedication to an artist friend of ours, named Aaron-Carl, who sadly died of cancer a month ago. Listen for the line "This one goes out to Aaron-Carl, uncensored, unashamed, uncloseted." I'm very pleased to give the world premier of Freddy Freeman's song, "It Gets Better."
Freeman - It Gets Better (2010)
And the last original song encouraged by my request is also called "It Gets Better." It adds another creative element in that it incorporates bits of President Obama's "It Gets Better" video message. That track is by Brett Basil, who records under his band name Pink Sheep.
Now, not all of the songs I'm sharing are new, as unfortunately anti-gay bullying, gay bashing and homophobia are not new. In Terry Christopher's 2006 album "Journey of a Wordsmith," my favorite song is "Brothers In Arms & Sister Soldiers." Listen in the second verse where he shares that he has "tasted heavy metal in a high school locker or two," and goes on to tell of the suicide of a gay teen.
Christopher - Brothers In Arms & Sister Soldiers (2006)
After Terry Christopher you heard another very talented artist, Jen Foster. The song "The Underdogs" was the title track of her 2005 album. I've got to say again that some of these new songs amaze me, and here are two more examples. Todrick Hall was on American Idol last season and while he didn't make the top 12, I sure thought he should have. "It Gets Better" is the name of his contribution to this effort, and the song has an amazing video as well.
Hall - It Gets Better (2010)
And that artist is named Nhojj. Well, that's the stage name he chose, which is really adapted from his first name, John, spelled backwards. With that talent he can pick whatever name he wants. This next artist is the only one to place two songs on this show, and in a way I'm not surprised. He's Sean Chapin and it would be hard for me to think of an artist on the current scene more devoted to writing songs lyrically addressing gay issues. He's told me he's working on a trilogy of albums, he's just that prolific. The two songs I chose for this show are called "It Gets Better" and "Divided We Hate."
Chapin - It Gets Better (2010)
The impact of the It Gets Better Project has not just reached established artists. By doing searches on Youtube I found a number of songs, not done in a studio, but just done in a bedroom, in front of a video camera. What these might lack in polish they sure make up for by coming directly from the heart, to you. One I found quite moving was by Richard Ogawa, called "Hold On (The End of the Rainbow)" and after him you'll hear Alabama artist Austin Jennings, and his "It Gets Better" song.
Ogawa - Hold On (The End of the Rainbow) (2010)
Up next, two more songs with messages right on point. Kevin Habin with "Did You Hear" and Brandon Anderson with "It Gets Better."
Habin - Did You Hear (2010)
From Brandon Anderson we're going to a punk band from Minneapolis called, and I love this name, The Peter O'Tooles, and their rather dark song called "And He Cried," followed by one much more hopeful.
O'Tooles - And He Cried (2010)
Ryan States gave us that last one, called "Better When You're Older" from his excellent album from last year called "Strange Town."
This is JD Doyle for OutRadio, and I've got one song left of my two part coverage of music about anti-gay bullying and songs inspired by the It Gets Better Project. As I said the impact of the project has been enormous, and artists took the project name for their songs in eleven cases, and that's just for songs I was able to include, and a few others were close. When I conceived of this show I wondered if I would get enough material for even one hour, and I've filled two, and even had some that didn't make the cut. I gave some website addresses at the end of Part 1, and this time I'll just like to send you to Youtube to watch one video. Most of you have probably already seen it, since as I write this it's received 2.3 million hits. I can't get more than a couple minutes into the 13-minute video without my eyes misting up, because the words of Ft Worth City Councilman Joel Burns are so moving, it just tears at your heart. Between his video and the It Get Better Project, this is a cultural phenomenon we've not often seen, and I hope it's not of just passing interest.
This month for OutRadio there's a third segment, and I think it's an excellent companion piece. It deals with a benefit CD called "I Hear On The Street," whose title track was inspired by a gay teen suicide. The project is geared to raise funds for a shelter in New York City for GLBT homeless youth. I've got the CD's producer Thomas Raniszewski to tell us about it and walk us through the songs, so I hope you join me for that segment as well. Of course the closing song for this show has to be an uplifting one, and I love the song choice made by Men Alive, the Orange County Gay Men's Chorus. I would not thought of this one, but the lyrics of an old R&B classic, "Ooh, Child" fit so well, "Ooh, child, things are going to get easier, ooh, child, things will get brighter."
Men Alive - The Orange County Gay Men's Chorus - Ooh, Child (2010)
This is JD Doyle for OutRadio, with a special segment on a new CD compilation. I'll jump right in and let the producer Thomas Raniszewski give us the intro.
Thomas Raniszewski: The first song, "Stay," which is by Gregory Douglass, is a song that is a song that I heard him do I guess about a year ago when I first started working on this project. And I knew the minute that I heard it that that was going to set the mood for the entire CD. I couldn't imagine anything more appropriate for this project.
Gregory Douglass - Stay (from "Battler," 2009)
That was Gregory Douglass and "Stay," the first track on a new CD compilation called "I Hear On The Streets." I'm very pleased to devote this entire segment to this project, also because it's the perfect companion piece with Parts 1 & 2 of OutRadio this month, on music related to the It Gets Better Project. My artist friend Thomas Raniszewski will guide us through the album he produced, and this album was a natural for me not only due to the reason behind it, but also because I already know 8 of the 12 artists on it.
What was the inspiration for this project?
Thomas Raneszewski: The inspiration for the project was of course I guess it's from an artistic standpoint first is that I had this urge the past couple of years to put together another CD, and I wasn't quite sure what direction I want to take it. And I had heard that there was a shelter in New York that there were quite a few shelters in New York that dealt with a homeless gay and lesbian youth in fact that there was one particular shelter, where a friend of mine was board member and it was through him that I had my eyes opened to the problem. It's that in New York on any given night are thousands of kids walking the streets of New York, and it was then that I thought well, maybe this is that I have to create.
Something new can be channeled to this: New Alternatives for homeless youth in New York was the one that seemed to be really the one that I thought want to focus on and this was done through Gables for Cape May County. Gables is gay bisexuals lesbians of Cape May County. It's a community group, nonprofit community group, and I've been a member of Gables I guess 14 or 15 years now, and I told my friend Craig vanBaal, who is president of Gables about the idea, and he and I went to New York City. Craig and I went up to New York City, and we visited New Alternative and we made the decision that Gables would produce the CD and new alternatives would be a beneficiary of the project and also part of the money also goes to Gables, with GSANI, their GSANI (Gay Straight Alliance International) program, which as you know, GSANI International helps establish and promote gay and lesbian alliances in high schools and colleges, and so forth. So the whole project benefits gay & lesbian youth.
What's the theme that runs through the whole album?
TR: Hope. Hope, that it's not as bad as it seems to be. There's also the theme, another theme that runs through the songs it was very important in the songs that I chose for the CD, is the theme of what the kids go through. Just as much as there's hope, there's also the other side of the coin, there's despair, there's hopelessness. So hopefully what you get out of this CD is that there is hope and each of the songs reflects on what the kids go through, what it's like to be alone, to be cast out, and so forth.
I see that you wrote or co-wrote several of the songs and I want to ask about those individually. Tell me about the title track "I Hear On The Streets."
TR: Wow, and that couldn't be any more relevant right now with everything going on as far as the bullying and young deaths and so forth. "I Hear On The Streets" was inspired by a movie, and it was a documentary about the life of Jimmy Wheeler. It was called "Jim In Bold." And Jimmy Wheeler was a young high school student, who was from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and his family used to vacation in Cape May, New Jersey. Jimmy was a poet. He was also an artist, and he was tormented horribly as a student. He had a lot of difficulty coming to terms with his sexuality. He had a lot of difficulty obviously being bullied. I think at the age of 18 or 19 he committed suicide.
And in the film the family is interviewed and it was when I saw the film that I realized that they vacationed in Cape May, and the mother talks about how Jimmy, when he was in Cape May, which is where I live, felt very comfortable there, felt very safe walking around, walking the streets. And it was at a time back in the 90s when I was kind of going through a lot, and I also walked the streets at night, just going for long walks, processing things and so forth. After I saw the movie I thought, wow, what were the chances that we probably passed in the night. And that's where this song comes from.
I wrote a poem called "I Hear On The Streets," a very short poem, about that, and it wasn't until I shared the poem with my friends Emily Nyman and Lynn Berry, who are songwriters. Lynn Berry is a poet and also lyricist for her partner Emily, and we decided to make it into a song. And we wanted Skott Freedman to record the song, and he is just absolutely magnificent and Skott has the voice of an angel, the piano and voice that he has on this recording of it, and he just did a magnificent job. And that's the title track, "I Hear On The Streets."
background song "Lost and Found" by Dave Catney, a Houston
jazz artist who died of AIDS in 1993 ]
I'm pleased that you got Skott to sing.
TR: Ah, man, isn't he great.
I've been a fan of his a long time.
TR: Well, I don't think there's anything he's ever done that I haven't fallen in love with.
I've got everything he's done.
TR: Me, too, he's amazing, he's amazing. When we wrote that song, I wanted him to record that song because I felt that he was me, he was me singing it, he was my voice. He was my alter-ego so to speak, singing that song.
It looks like Emily Nyman has another track dedicated to Jim Wheeler.
Yes, while we were writing "I Hear On The Streets" she and
Lynn kept coming up with other ideas, and finally at one point they
realized, whoa, we have another song altogether here. So we finished
"I Hear On The Streets" and the two of them finished and wrote
"Poet Painter," which is absolutely magnificent, so I was
really lucky to get this song on there too.
You wrote another song on here called "Will You Know Who I Am?"
TR: Yeah, and it's my favorite song, one of my favorite songs that I've written. It was more of a personal song than it was homeless kids, although it's still fitting and has a lot of common threads in it, and basically it's about death. It's about questioning whether when someone is gone, is when they go into whatever is next, the next dimension, the next life, if this consciousness that continues recognizes the other person, if we're recognized in the same way. Which is kind of a personal issue for me, but basically that's what that song is. If you didn't know that background of the song, then it could certainly be applied to anyone who is sort of lost and looking for someone that they've longed for.
Thomas wrote it and Kathy Fowler sings it, "Will You Know Who I Am?"
Kathy Fowler - Will You Know Who I Am? (2010)
From knowing you a while I know that you don't do a lot of vocals on your own work, but you did on
TR: "When You Were Here," yeah, hey, we have known each other a long time, haven't we. I was actually tricked into doing that, believe it or not, because I always thought I wouldn't sing on any of my own songs, but when we were in the studio George Mesterhazy, who's my producer, and Bob Fowler, who is the Engineer and also Kathy Fowler, who is a singer. That's Bob's wife. When we were in the studio producing the album, we went in one night and we laid down a few of the instrumental tracks, and my goal was to have Kathy sing it, and Kathy kept telling me that she felt it was too personal for someone else to sing other than me. And we took a break one night while Kathy and George were talking, Bob asked me to come downstairs to the studio and just lay down a vocal track for my song, so Kathy could use it as a guide. They could see how it sounded and so forth. And I did it and they decided that they were going to use my vocal on it. I told them I didn't want them to and they said, no, we're going to do it, so there, oh well, there you have it. So I was kind of tricked into doing it, and I guess I sound alright, I don't know.
Raniszewski - When You Were Here (2010)
After Thomas Raniszewski's song "When You Were Here" was New York City artist Mara Levi, who contributed the song "Sweet Misery." I mentioned at the beginning that I knew most of the artists on the project, including ones you'll hear shortly such as Josh Zuckerman, Eric Himan, Namoli Brennet, Reuben Butchart, and L.A. artist Sasha Sacket, who we got to next.
And how about Sasha
TR: Sasha, oh, man, what a talent he is. Sasha, his song, "At a Time" was another that I actually got to the point that I didn't ask Sasha exactly what the lyrics meant, because to me they were perfect for this CD. The opening lyrics, as beautiful as they are, are suicidal. It speaks of suicide and despair and hopelessness once again, but he presents it in such a beautiful way that you know that under the surface of that there's this ocean of hope, and support, and that's why I like that song.
Sasha Sacket - At a Time (from "Shadowed," 2004)
And I know Josh
TR: He's a great guy. Josh Zuckerman does so much for the gay community, especially in New Jersey where's he's from. That was kind of a no-brainer to get Josh on this because the work that Josh does for the gay and lesbian community is really amazing, really fantastic. If there's a function, if there's something to help gay youth or the gay community, you can bet that Josh is going to be there giving his time.
Josh Zuckerman - My Inspiration (from "Got Love?" 2009)
Josh Zuckerman's contributed that track, called "My Inspiration" and it's also found on his latest album "Got Love?" And Eric Himan's contribution, called "Stranded," came from his album "Dark Horse."
And how did you get the track from Eric Himan?
TR: I contacted Eric Himan and I told him what we were working on, and he sent me a file of the song to listen to. Someone had told me to ask hi specifically about that song, cause I had never heard that song of Eric's before. And when I heard it, it was obviously really appropriate for this project.
Eric Himan - Stranded (from "Dark Horse," 2005)
So tell me about the Namoli Brennet track?
TR: Once again like all the others I just felt it was totally appropriate for this project. The one thing that I liked about her, and it's funny because the first thing that I usually listen to are the lyrics. And when I first heard this track, "Let Love In," before I even was paying attention to the lyrics, I was just really taken in with her voice, the quality of her voice, which is one of those voices that sort of transport you to somewhere else when you hear it, just a beautiful, beautiful voice.
To me her voice has a calming effect.
TR: Doesn't it, yes, it has a very calming effect. In fact it's funny you say that because when I first heard this, when I first heard "Let Love In" I must have played it over I just let it keep repeating, and it must have played over dozens of times, while I just thought about it, and listened to it, and worked on other things and it was sort of like a background. If there was such a thing as a background track, or a soundtrack to the creation of the CD, it was probably "Let Love In." Because it really it put me in the frame of mind that I needed to be in to really focus on a lot of the details of putting the album together.
Namoli Brennet - Let Love In (from "Until From This Dream I Wake" (2009)
This is JD Doyle for OutRadio and again I'm very pleased to be able to share this entire album with you, and to have Thomas Raniszewski be our guide. You can tell how much the project means to him by the answer to my next question.
If I gave you 30 seconds to tell me about this album and why it's important, can you do that?
TR: Yeah, this album is important because (the proceeds go) directly to kids whose very families and friends are not giving them the support they need. These are kids who are not just from New York (City), these kids are for everywhere, cause they're from South Jersey, Pennsylvania, from the Midwest. And they go to New York because they think they're going to be accepted there, because things will be easier there. When they get there they find that's not true, and they're out on the streets, they have nowhere to go. This album raises awareness for those kids, and the money goes to helping New Alternatives for LGBT homeless youth, and to Gables GSANI Project, to help those kids beat the shelter system and be self-sufficient.
Wonderful, that was about a minute but worth every second. I've got one more song and before you hear it I'm going to recap the information. The CD is called "I Hear On The Street" and you can find it at the usual suspects, such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, and so on. For info on the charities benefitting from the CD go to www.gablescapemay.com and www.newalternativesnyc.org. Go to that last site and right away you'll see a photo of a group of GLBT youth, who were homeless and now have big smiles, so you can see what good you can help these projects do. So, we're ready for the last song, and it's called "Another Grace," which is the perfect closer for the album and this show. I thank Thomas Raniszewski for this interview and he'll tell you about that song.
And the last song on here that you co-wrote was with Reuben Butchart.
TR: Yes, Reuben Butchart, he is a wonderful songwriter out of New York, and the song is "Another Grace," and he performs that with Kiki Hawkins, who is really quite a talent in her own right. She was one of the singers with Patti LaBelle. She toured with her quite often. Reuben years ago used to be with the group Antony and the Johnsons. This kind of goes back to your first question, what's the one theme of the album, and the theme is hope, and that's what "Another Grace" is about. It was written based on conversations I had with a dear friend of mine, Kevin Anderson, who died of AIDS in 1999. And during Kevin's last summer he was talking about each day that he woke up was like a grace period. Because he knew his days were numbered basically. Each day was grace period, it was like another grace that he had, another day to live, and to make the most of things. And it was sort of based on those conversations that we had that Reuben and I wrote "Another Grace."
Reuben Butchart & Kiki Hawkins - Another Grace (2010)