Somewhere to Begin

There is nothing like some good music to bring in the new year. Sitting by the fire, with a good hot toddy, I am reminded of a number of songs that provide encouragement in these dark and troubled times. These songs remind me that if changes are to come, there are things that must be done to make things better. This is a process – not an event – and has been going on for many years. We don’t always win the battles but we have to keep trying. And we CAN do it if everyone would lend a hand. I’d like to share with you a few songs for the new year.

Let’s begin with “Somewhere to Begin” by the late T.R. Richie. I first heard this song from Sara Thomsen, a wonderful Duluth singer and song writer. Written long before our current political dystopia, this speaks directly to our current situation with a call to sing, dream, and love.

“People say to me, “Oh, you gotta be crazy!
How can you sing in times like these?
Don’t you read the news? Don’t you know the score?

How can you sing when so many others grieve?”

People say to me, “What kind of fool believes
That a song will make a difference in the end?

By way of a reply, I say a fool such as I
Who sees a song as somewhere to begin.”

“A song is somewhere to begin
The search for something worth believing in

If changes are to come, there are things that must be done
And a song is somewhere to begin.”

The other verses insert “dream” and “love” instead of “sing.” To hear the song get Sara’s CD “Somewhere to Begin” or google the title with Sara’s name.

We certainly need dreams. Proverbs says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” But we need dreams of better, more just, tolerant, peaceful, and sustainable communities. We need what Martin Luther King talked about in his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963. He talks about a lot more than integration and civil rights. We definitely don’t need selfish, arrogant, divisive visions (or delusions) of “making America great.”

Nothing good can come from our present atmosphere of division and hate. We would all be better off with more tolerance and respect for differences. We could use more of Glenn Campbell’s song “Let me Be a Little Kinder,”

“Let me be a little kinder, let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those about me, let me praise a little more
Let me be when I am weary just a little bit more cheery
Think a little more of others and a little less of me

“Let me be when I am weary, just a little bit more cheery

Let me serve a little better those that I am striving for

Let me be a little meeker with the brother that is weaker

Think a little more of others and a little less of me.”

But working for change and trying to be a “little kinder” can be tough. Reading the news can be depressing. It seems like nothing ever changes for the better. The system is corrupt, money rules, the rich get richer, and the rest of us don’t matter. Greg Brown talking about this in the “Poets Game” says, “I cried out in a song…why does good change take so long?”


But there is hope. The song “Ship Gonna Sail” by Utah Phillips puts it all in historic perspective. The song uses the metaphor of building a ship to talk about those who worked in the past for peace, justice, equal rights, fair workplaces, and a better society. We are not alone in the struggle. We stand on the shoulders of others.


“Working on a ship we may never sail on

Ship gonna sail, gonna sail someday

Working on a ship we may never sail on

We gonna build it anyway”

“Sojourner Truth said “ain’t I a woman”

Ship gonna sail, gonna sail someday

Mother Jones said, “No child labor”

Ship gonna sail, gonna sail someday”

Eugene Debs said, “No more prisons”

Ship gonna sail, gonna sail someday

Joe Hill said, “Don’t mourn, organize”

Ship gonna sail, gonna sail someday

The verses go on…

Roy Orbison said, “I won’t stop singing”

Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream”

Dorothy Day said, “Swords into plowshares”

Phil Berrigan said, “No more atom bombs”

And ends with…

“They’re all gone but we are still building

Ship gonna sail, gonna sail someday

Ship gonna sail to peace and justice

Ship gonna sail, gonna sail someday.”

Sara Thomsen with the Echos of Peace Choir did a great performance of this song. They will have you clapping and singing along. To hear their version Goggle “Sara Thomsen Echo’s of Peace Ship Gonna Sail.”

Another song of hope is “We can do it” by Pat Scanlon, a peace activist from Boston. This peppy, happy song talks about organizing one person at a time to solve problems. The chorus is,

“We can do it, yes we can

We can change things throughout the land

But we all must lend a hand

We can do it, yes we can.”

Each verse adds one person and grows the “movement.”

“Cause the problems can all be solved

With dedication and a little resolve

Obstacles slowly dissolve

When we all just get involved.”

This song will get you humming along and your toes tapping! Google “Pat Scanlon and “We Can Do It” to listen to this inspiring song.

Molly Ivins, the late Texas journalist and humorist said, “Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t forget to have fun doin’ it.” As the struggle continues in 2018, I think a few songs, and some fun, are a good place to begin.