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Original music by Keith Sanford: Songs with lyrics that have weight


Kaleido-
scope

A song about having faith to see beauty

Lyrics

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Kaleidoscope

by Keith Sanford

Forests and rivers, glaciers and oceans
Particles and neurons, human emotion
Swirls a kaleidoscope of beauty so wide
Sometimes I pause and tremble inside
May I understand what I clasp in my hand
A planet in need with people who bleed
Flowers today could wither away
Now I am living, so I will pray

All of my senses, all my emotion
May they bring me closer, put me in motion
To a kaleidoscope of beauty so wide
Sometimes I pause and tremble inside
May I feel the joy, may I hope may I grieve
Give me compassion, let me believe
Even my sadness, anger and fear
Drawing me closer, drawing me near

Sometimes a fire, sometimes a light
Sometimes living water, like stars in the night
Swirls a kaleidoscope of all that’s inside me
Feelings that swell like waves on the sea
May my arms embrace, may I feel in my face
Laughter and tears and a love that is near
Beauty so vast and beauty so wide
Sometimes I pause and tremble inside

Kaleidoscope (song notes)

This is a song about having the faith to believe in a type of beauty that both touches and transcends human experience. This is a beauty woven into the fabric of the universe, but it can only be experienced as faith because it cannot be tested in scientific investigation or proven by logical reasoning, and it is so grand we never fully or perfectly comprehend it. This song is also about how emotions, both good and bad, have the potential to make us aware of this beauty and move us toward it.



Red Lines

A song about racism

Lyrics

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Red Lines

by Keith Sanford

Red lines were drawn on maps, based on types of skin
So, banks would give no money to those who lived within
With people trapped inside, old buildings fell apart
So, the children of their children had nothing from the start
Now, privileged fingers press the scales
With ears to hear yet unaware
That the needle tilts one direction
Fingers put it there

Then sights and sounds of fear, flashed upon the screens
With calls for law and order, and war on welfare queens
Five grams would get five years, with prisons growing wide
And the frightening types of people were safely locked inside
Now, privileged fingers press the scales
With ears to hear yet unaware
That the needle tilts one direction
Fingers put it there

Those fingers, some have claimed, never harm their prey
And others said those fingers, have come to pass away
But people want to keep the power they control
And the fingers keep on pressing a violence on the soul
Now, privileged fingers press the scales
With ears to hear yet unaware
That the needle tilts one direction
Fingers put it there

Red Lines (song notes)

Starting in the 1930s, the Federal Housing Association created maps with red lines around neighborhoods where black people lived, thereby designating these areas as high risk for home loans. This made it nearly impossible to buy homes in black neighborhoods, and black people were not allowed to move to white neighborhoods. Without access to funding for buying, building, and improving homes and businesses, black neighborhoods declined.



Ravens Fly

A song for children with disabilities

Lyrics

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Ravens Fly

by Keith Sanford

Some children stand on mountains high
reaching peaks up in the sky.
But, those who cannot climb are gems in valleys.
And the poet of life, found in the smiles
of children that cannot climb,
who show us the sacred things in time.
And the ravens fly, and the lilies grow,
and the poetry moves in the valleys, valleys low.

Some children struggle with their words,
and to learn from things they heard.
But, when they laugh it fills the world with music.
And the poet of life speaks through a child
that struggles to understand,
whose laughter is music for our land.
And the ravens fly, and the lilies grow,
and the poetry moves in the valleys, valleys low.

The shining trophies may belong
to the skillful and the strong.
But precious are the hands that never hold them.
And the poet of life mystically works
through differently abled hands
to touch us with something very grand.
And the ravens fly, and the lilies grow,
and the poetry moves in the valleys, valleys low.

Now, hear the poet, hear the song.
Feel the rhythm move along.
Now, hear the child singing in the valley.
And the poet of life moves in the wind;
it’s found in a humble place,
and gives us a wonder to embrace.
And the ravens fly, and the lilies grow,
and the poetry moves in the valleys, valleys low.

Ravens Fly (song notes)

Some children struggle to accomplish things that it seems most of their peers can do easily. They may have difficulty with learning, speaking, playing, or moving. They may have difficulty understanding their emotions or following social customs. These children (and I know this as a parent with personal experience) bring something wonderful to the world. They show us what is truly precious and beautiful.



Who Will Weep?

A lament for refugees aboard the St. Louis fleeing Germany in 1939

Lyrics

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Who Will Weep?

by Keith Sanford

Beyond a night of broken glass
The ship, St. Louis, sought to pass
A cargo fleeing certain doom
Nine-hundred souls, there is no room

Now children beg in a market place
They sing a dirge,
and who will weep for grace

A quota-system law that stands
It keeps the strangers off the land
The captain pleaded, night and day
Still the cursed ship was turned away

Now children beg in a market place
They sing a dirge,
and who will weep for grace

Now, hear the sounds of refugees
Their songs upon the waves at sea
Just like the little children cry
To market crowds with no reply

Now children beg in a market place
They sing a dirge,
and who will weep for grace

Who Will Weep? (song notes)

In 1939, the ocean liner St. Louis sailed a few miles off the coast of Florida with more than 900 Jewish refugees on board fleeing from Germany. Due to a recently enacted quota system, the United states strictly limited the number of refugees it would accept, and eventually, the ship was forced to return to Europe. Many passengers later perished in the Holocaust. (“We sang a dirge and you did not weep.”)



Dancing Child

A song about a faith that finds beauty in the world

Lyrics

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Dancing Child

by Keith Sanford

Shattered stones of rubble beneath her feet
Tiny child is dancing in the street
Fallen city ruins lay all around
One small drop of life in a dusty town
Far away I see a dancing child
Unadorned and poor, but still she smiled

Precious drop of life is dancing around
In a broken land it can be found
Feel the breath of God upon your face
See how this is now a holy place
Far away I see a dancing child
Unadorned and poor, but still she smiled

Who will see this dancing, this little girl?
Who will take the time to watch her twirl?
One small drop of life lights up the sky
Who will catch the splendor dancing by?
Far away I see a dancing child
Unadorned and poor, but still she smiled

Dancing Child (song notes)

This is a song about faith and the things that faith may allow us to see. Sometimes that which is beautiful is revealed in situations and places where there is hardship. On this recording, the entire drum part (which includes drums, several cymbals, and a cowbell) is something I practiced for a while and then recorded in a single take with no overdubs.



Hope and Tears

A song about the Trail of Tears in the winter of 1838


Lyrics

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Hope and Tears

by Keith Sanford

On the trail I hear them weeping.
On the frozen ground they sleep.
From the stockades to Oklahoma,
Wind is cold and snow is deep.

But, I hope in a song to be sung like a savior that says:
When the shadows fall, a light shines out a call
for compassion and sorrow.
Maybe we can be the people with hope for tomorrow.

Heavy bags upon her shoulders.
There're no shoes upon her feet.
There is a baby dying in her arms.
Nothing more for them to eat.

But, I hope in a song to be sung like a savior that says:
When the shadows fall, a light shines out a call
for compassion and sorrow.
Maybe we can be the people with hope for tomorrow.

Like a glimmer in the darkness,
Like a whisper in the night,
It's not too late to hear the calling,
Not too late to make it right.

And, I hope in a song to be sung like a savior that says:
When the shadows fall, a light shines out a call
for compassion and sorrow.
Maybe we can be the people with hope for tomorrow.

The people of the Cherokee Nation made many concessions to keep peace with the United States, and they were viewed as one of the Five Civilized Tribes. But, a previous treaty had placed them on land in present day Georgia that turned out to be valuable farmland. So, the old treaty was nullified, and the Cherokee were moved to detention camps and then forced to march to Oklahoma. Due to harsh conditions, several thousand people died along the way.


Stories

A song celebrating human diversity


Lyrics

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Stories

by Keith Sanford

I want to hear the heartbeat pushing life into the earth
I want to see the prism that gives all people worth
A chance to taste the bread and eat another meal
With people who are talking and sharing something real

I want to know the stories that lay behind the eyes
of people everywhere that share the earth and skies

I heard about a teacher who descended from the steep
And looked upon a city and then began to weep
For those who do not know the things that make for peace
Could bring a sad destruction if hate will never cease

I want to know the stories that lay behind the eyes
of people everywhere that share the earth and skies

I want to find a table and a place for drink and bread
With people telling stories, I want to hear what’s said
And then, I want to know, I want to understand
So many types of people with many different hands

I want to know the stories that lay behind the eyes
of people everywhere that share the earth and skies

In the news and in events throughout history, there are many situations where one group of people acts with prejudice against another group. It appears that it is natural for people to be drawn toward ways of thinking that affirm their own superiority and that cast judgment on others who seem different. This raises a question. How can we better embrace human diversity, and can we do this in a way that is positive, and not merely casting judgment on others for being judgmental? Maybe, we can do this, in part, by drawing from a wonderful human capability. That is, we have the capability to learn about other people and to understand their stories, their experiences, and the reasons why they do what they do.


We Bought It

A song about the history of the Panama Canal


Lyrics

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We Bought It

by Keith Sanford

Traveling down from Panama to a giant ditch
A man fell into robbers, who just wanted to get rich
They stripped his flag and beat him,
  and left him there for dead
And from the north a priest looked down
  and this is what he said

We bought it and we built it. Now it belongs to us
With power to proclaim now what is just

Then there was malaria all across the land
As steam from iron shovels, pounding,
  building something grand
This ditch is something “bully,” we will not give away
When riots flare in Panama, now hear just what we say

We bought it and we built it. Now it belongs to us
With power to proclaim now what is just

Some may want to justify, and they want to know
Who is my battered neighbor, and just how much do I owe?
So cross the road and travel, down on the other side
To keep the voices far away, and muffle what they cry

We bought it and we built it. Now it belongs to us
With power to proclaim now what is just

When talking about the Panama Canal, a famous politician said many years ago: “We bought it, we paid for it, we built it, and we intend to keep it.” Because this statement is packed with poetic punch, and because it seems to epitomize a kind of sanctimonious, self-serving claim about what defines fairness and justice, I decided that it needed to be used in a song. So, I wrote this song about the history of the Panama Canal.



Can't be Named

A song inspired by 1962 Supreme Court ruling about prayers in schools


Lyrics

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Can't be Named

by Keith Sanford

For moral and for spiritual, for training in the schools
The New York Board of Regents, they had set of rules
Take an idol for a god, and put it in a prayer
And give it to the children, for blessing everywhere

But, something wonderful is dancing just like a flame.
It can’t be owned or fully known. It can’t be named.

Some want an inquisition, and others want to shun
Some claim a special knowledge, to be the only one
They can excommunicate, and with a simple note
They claim a mighty power, for naming sheep and goats

But, something wonderful is dancing just like a flame.
It can’t be owned or fully known. It can’t be named.

I heard about a still small voice that whispered in the wind
Then I thought of galaxies that seemed to have no end
Splendor I could not explain, I heard it in a song
And always I remember, I’m always partly wrong

And, something wonderful is dancing just like a flame.
It can’t be owned or fully known. It can’t be named.

In the early Fifties, the New York Board of Regents issued a statement on “Moral and Spiritual Training in the Schools,” and they composed a short prayer for children to recite at the beginning of each school day. Within religious communities, some may have thought the regents acted with divine authority, correctly discerning the ways in which children should pray. Others may have viewed the prescribed prayer as a biased and authoritative claim to truth that ignored the beauty, diversity, and mystery of religious experience. In 1962, the Supreme Court ruled that the use of this prayer in the public-school system was unconstitutional, and subsequently, there have been many decades of political debate regarding prayers in schools. This song is one that I wrote drawing several images from this story.



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