Stop Child Abuse!

One of the causes that I am most passionate about is preventing child abuse and holding those responsible for such pain to children, the most innocent in our society, accountable for their actions.

I came up with an idea to create awareness and raise funds to protect children about 20 years ago, but unfortunately, haven’t the resources available to implement my plan.

My idea is to create a compilation album/CD of songs either directly, or indirectly related to the victimization of children with all proceeds going to organizations that protect children.

The legalities of obtaining permission to use the songs along with production, promotion and distribution of the CD are well beyond my range of experience.

I’ve compiled a partial list of songs, but would welcome any suggestions for others that would fit the project.

Hell is for Children – Pat Benatar (1980)

There are two versions of Hell is for Children, the studio version, and the “live” version, which has a very unique opening. Although I personally prefer the studio versions of most songs, there’s something very powerful about the live album version which has the intro:  “Suffer The Little Children” leading into “Hell Is for Children”.

BenatarIn researching this song, I found an interview with Neil Giraldo, husband of Pat Benatar, as well as guitarist in her band and co-writer of the song along with Benatar and bass player Roger Capps. According to the interview from the website songfacts.com, the song was inspired by an article that Benatar read in the New York Times about child abuse. After the song was released, the public thought the song was written from the perspective of Pat’s personal abuse, but Giraldo said that wasn’t the case. He said “She had a great upbringing. You couldn’t get more Happy Days-like than her. She had the perfect Happy Days life.”

I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Benatar backstage when she appeared in Hershey right after her daughter Haley was born in 1985. I remember her saying that her baby was with the nanny. At the time I was working at 93.5 WTPA. It’s hard to imagine that little girl is now 30 years old!

Read the lyrics here.
Watch the video here. (Note: This “live” video version does not have the “Suffer The Little Children” intro contained on the “live” album cut.)

Luka – Suzanne Vega (1987)

Luka tells the story of a frightened boy who is forbidden to talk about what he’s going through. Again, from the website songfacts.com, Vega had this to say on a Swedish television special in 1987, “A few years ago, I used to see this group of children playing in from of my building, and there was one of them, whose name was Luka, who seemed a little bit distinctive from the other children. I always remembered his name, and I always remembered his face, and I didn’t know much about him, but he just seemed set apart from these other children that I would see playing. And his character is what I based the song Luka on. In the song, the boy Luka is an abused child – In real life I don’t think he was. I think he was just different.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn an interview with SongTalk magazine, Vega said she started with the title for the song, took months to think about how to pull the song together, then she wrote it in two hours. Vega wrote the song about three years before it was released on her second album.

Read the lyrics here.
Watch the video here.

 

The Little Girl – John Michael Montgomery (2000)

MontgomeryThis song was written by Nashville songwriter Harley Allen. There is an email being circulated around the Internet saying that Allen wrote the song after his brother forwarded him a copy of an urban legend email telling the miraculous story of a little girl who sees a picture of Jesus in Sunday school and identifies him as the man who comforted her the night her father killed her mother and himself. According to the website snopes.com, in an article published in USA Today, Allen says he and his brother have tried to track the source of the tale, without luck. He says, “if it ain’t true, it ought to be.”

Read the lyrics here.
Watch the video here.

MoorerThe snopes.com website also lists information about an album by Allison Moorer that was released the same day as Montgomery’s album. Moorer’s album included a hidden track at the end called “Cold, Cold Earth”, about a father who shoots his wife then turns the gun on himself, which parallels the story in “The Little Girl”, however in the case of Moorer’s song, it’s based on a true story…the man and wife were Moorer’s parents.

All The Girls Love Alice – Elton John (1973)

Elton John to Putin: I will show you gay people victimised under Russian lawBernie Taupin wrote the lyrics, which didn’t originally include the word “young”. It’s said that Elton added it during the writing process to better fit the melody he had created. That’s why the title is “All The Girls Love Alice”, but many people identify it as “All The (Young) Girls Love Alice”. Adding the word “young” also appears to emphasize the lyrics about Alice’s age, at sixteen…

“Reality it seems was just a dream
She couldn’t get it on with the boys on the scene
But what do you expect from a chick who’s just sixteen
And hey, hey, hey, you know what I mean”

Tragically, the song tells the story of, not only Alice’s sexual adventures with older women, but her untimely death as well…

“Poor little darling with a chip out of her heart
It’s like acting in a movie when you got the wrong part
Getting your kicks in another girl’s bed
And it was only last Tuesday they found you in the subway dead”

Sexual exploitation of children is a crime that happens around the world every day! If more people realized just how much it touches their lives, right in their own neighborhoods, involving not just strangers, but friends and family, maybe more would be done to stop this unspeakable act of abuse and trafficking of children.

Read the lyrics here.
Watch the video here.

Concrete Angel – Martina McBride (2008)

If you can watch this video without a tear in your eye, you’re a stronger person than me.

McBrideConcrete Angel is a song about the abuse a little girl goes through at the hands of the person who is most expected to protect her…her mother. Like so many children who suffer abuse at home, they try to hide the wounds. The video is an excellent example of the sadness and shame in her eyes, feeling alone without anyone to trust or confide in.

According to someone on the songfacts.com website, the little boy in the video isn’t a real boy, but rather a guardian angel, as explained by Martina McBride in an interview.

In the video, it appears as though the teacher notices the bruises, but doesn’t ask about them. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has recently passed legislation requiring more people to be mandatory reporters if they suspect evidence of child abuse.

Studies have shown that child abuse is cyclical. In many cases, a child who is abused will grow up and repeat the cycle of abuse to their own children if intervention isn’t obtained.

Child abuse isn’t something that will go away. If you suspect a child is being abused and do nothing, you are just as responsible as the person inflicting the abuse.

Read the lyrics here.
Watch the video here.

No Son of Mine – Genesis (1991)

The best way to explain the lyrics to this song is to quote Phil Collins directly, as taken from the radio show Rockline…

Collins“The chorus of the song came from improvisation while we were writing the music. I took the notion of my lyrical idea and just wrote a story around it. The story is sort of self-explanatory. It’s a household of abuse. The father is being sort of the monster of the family – he’s either abusing the son or the mother. I’m not quite sure who, and that’s deliberately left open. But it’s happening everywhere behind closed doors, and a lot of people I’ve found that have heard the song have sort of reacted as if it was written for them. It’s extraordinary, you just write something that comes about by accident, but in fact it all ends up being something that reaches a lot of people.”

The lyrics that make this song stand apart emphasize the fact that it’s not just the physical abuse that affects children. The physical wounds (in most cases) will eventually heal, but the emotional scars can have a profound impact on a person for the rest of their life.

In the song, the young man revisits his father years later, thinking that, with adulthood, things would change. Then his father proceeds to hurt him all over again…

“He sat me down to talk to me
He looked me straight in the eyes

He said:

You’re no son, no son of mine
You’re no son, no son of mine
You walked out, you left us behind
And you’re no son, no son of mine

Oh, his words how they hurt me, I’ll never forget it
And as the time, it went by, I lived to regret it”

Read the lyrics here.
Watch the video here. (This is not the official video, but it is VERY WELL DONE!!!)

The Ballad of Dwight Fry – Alice Cooper (1971)

ALICE-COOPERAlthough this song is not directly about child abuse, the undertones are there. According to Songfacts.com, “This song is a salute to the actor Dwight Frye, who played maniacal characters in many Universal horror films. Cooper dropped the “E” from the name to avoid a lawsuit.”

Cooper would perform this song in a straitjacket, as a disturbed man sent away to an institution. ‘
According to Songfacts.com, “The child’s voice at the song’s intro was actually a woman in her early 20s…

“Mommy where’s daddy?
He’s been gone for so long.
Do you think he’ll ever come home?”

The line that always made me feel uncomfortable is…

“Should like to see that little children
She’s only four years old.. old
I’d give her back all of her play things
Even, even the ones I stole”

I think the reason it disturbed me was, the way he delivered it, with such emotion.

Read the lyrics here.
Watch the video here.

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If you suspect a child is being abused, please report it!
PA ChildLine is available 24 hours per day,
seven days per week at: 800-932-0313.

National Child Abuse Hotline:  1-800-4-A-CHILD

Child Help USA website:   www.childhelpusa.org

Jenner, Gender, and Rock ‘n’ Roll

On Friday evening, April 24th (2015), Bruce Jenner, recognized as being one of the top Olympic athletes in the world, sat down with Diane Sawyer for a television interview to talk about his gender, sexuality, and issues he’s been dealing with for most of his life.

JennerJenner publicly announced his plan to transition from male to female and focus on creating a new existence as a woman. This is a brave step in a country where the LGBT community is fighting every day for equal rights, and a world filled with hatred toward anyone who is “different” from their personal expectations of gender identity.

For decades, music has been at the forefront of creating change and tolerance for those who dare to challenge the “norms” of society. There is a thin line in rock ‘n’ roll between male and female, gay and straight, masculine and feminine. One possible reason could be the willingness to challenge socially acceptable behavior by those engaged in creative fields (musicians, actors, writers, etc.)

BowieWhen David Bowie first arrived in the U.S. in 1971, he couldn’t perform live due to work permit restrictions, but the press took note of his wearing dresses at promotional events in Louisiana and Texas. Bowie is often credited with co-founding glam rock. According to Celia Philo, the graphic designer who worked with Bowie on his “Aladdin Sane” album cover, “He crossed so many creative boundaries, he understood that the way you looked was as important as the music.” Philo added, “It was the pre-punk era, his image liberated young people who were just waiting to think outside the box and do whatever they wanted with their hair color and makeup.” An example of Bowie crossing the gender barrier in lyrics is the song “Rebel Rebel” from the 1974 album, Diamond Dogs…

“You’ve got your mother in a whirl
She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl”

Lou Reed challenged sexuality with his second studio album, Transformer, in 1972, featuring his only song to hit the Top 40, “Walk on the Wild Side”, which was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson (who was the lead guitarist with Bowie’s band). Walk on the Wild Side peaked at #16 in 1973 and stayed on the charts for 8 weeks. Considering some of the lyrics, I find it amazing that the censors allowed airplay for the song.

TransformerThe photos on the back of the Transformer album cover feature Ernie Thormahlen, a friend of Reed, dressed as both a butch guy and in drag. According to Joe S. Harrington’s book “Sonic Cool: The Life & Death of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Lou was supposed to be pictured, but ultimately chickened out.

One of my favorite rock stars while growing up was Vincent Damon Furnier. Maybe it was a combination of his music and the fact that he, like me, was the son of a preacher.

Furnier of course, is Alice Cooper. Before the band KISS came along, Cooper mastered the art of makeup and theatrical performances. His showmanship is legendary.

CooperBettyDavisAccording to his 2007 book, “Alice Cooper, Golf Monster”, he said his look was inspired by Bette Davis in the movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? “In the movie Bette wears disgusting caked makeup smeared on her face and underneath her eyes, with deep, dark, black eyeliner.”

If you would like to see Alice Cooper performing “live”, he is coming to Hershey on August 11th, Philadelphia on August 14th, and Baltimore on August 26th.

Dream WeaverAnother album cover that crossed over the boundary of guys wearing makeup was the Gary Wright album, The Dream Weaver. The purple eye shadow certainly made a statement. What that statement was depended on the individual. Regardless, it was (and still is) a great album!

We can’t forget about Lola by The Kinks?

Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man

The original album version of Lola included the lyrics…

“I met her in a club down in old Soho, where you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola”

However, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) refused to play it because of the commercial reference, so Ray Davies flew from New York to London to change the lyric from “Coca-Cola” to “Cherry Cola”, and get the song on the air.

TylerThere are far too many musicians who dance the line of gender identification to list in this blog, but a few to consider include Steven Tyler who designed most of the stage clothes for his concert tours since 1970. According to Tyler, Joe Perry (Aerosmith) would come over and say “That looks great. Do they make that for men?” The design was so over-the-top.

MansonSmithChaz
Others include Marilyn Manson, Robert Smith (The Cure), and although he’s not a musician himself, Chaz Bono’s parents were (Sonny and Cher). He was born Chastity Sun Bono in 1969, identified himself as a transgender man in 1995, and underwent female-to-male gender transition between 2008 and 2010.

Going back to the opening of this blog and the transition of Bruce Jenner, is the similar transition of Tommy Gabel, the lead singer for Against Me!, a punk band from Florida that has been praised by Bruce Springsteen.

Laura Jane GraceA song on Against Me!’s 2005 album called “Searching for a Former Clarity”, include the lyrics…
And in the journal you kept by the side of your bed, Confessing childhood secrets of dressing up in women’s clothes, Compulsions you never knew the reasons to.

Gabel has pursued his transgender goal, and now “she” is known as Laura Jane Grace. Here is a link to a January 2015 MTV interview with Laura Jane Grace.

WhiteSinger Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs), while performing at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival on April 11th (2015), took a stance on transgender equality by dedicating the show to transgender people.

 

There are several rock musicals which explore gender issues. One of the most well-known is the 1975 cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, starring Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Frank-n-FurterHere’s a link to Curry singing the song “Sweet Transvestite”.

To rephrase the question I posed in my previous blog, The Politics of Rock ‘n’ Roll, if a musician you like takes a stand on LGBT issues, comes out of the closet, or announces they are transgender, does it cause you to reevaluate your decision to listen to and/or continue to enjoy their music? Does their transparency help you to open your mind to being less judgmental, or entrench you deeper into your belief structure of gender and sexuality?