The truth is out there
Sixteen years ago, I spent this week in Roswell, New Mexico to mark the 50th anniversary of the Roswell Incident.
When I first performed the song about the incident, I had no idea what the reaction would be to my six plus minute song about a flying saucer crash. I thought that I might be laughed right out of the folk realm.
Instead, people were moved to tears or argued vehemently that the flying saucer was, in fact, a weather balloon, or asked me about my father. I had to tell the latter crowd that my late father was an attorney in Philadelphia and remind them that the lyrics state the narrator was 12 years old in 1947 and I wasn't that old.
One live performance of the song in Roswell landed over the end credits of a whacky indie film that made it's way around the world on the film festival circuit. A producer in Stockholm played the sequence over and over again and the song morphed into a pop Swedish hit called Min Pappa.
On occasion, I'd perform for retirement communities and, invariably, older men would come up and tell me stories of experiences they'd had while in the armed forces near Roswell at the time. One man was scheduled to work at the Roswell Air Base in early July, 1947, but plans were scrapped at the last minute. Another was flying from coast to coast with plans to stop at the air base for refueling but was denied permission to land (early July '47.)
Something happened. That's for sure. But what, exactly, we will probably never know.
In Roswell, I met Jesse Marcel, Jr., (son of the military officer charged with original debris clean up) and played the song for him, his wife and a couple of daughters in their hotel room. I was nervous because I quote him (as a child) directly but relieved when he told me that he was moved by the song.
All I intended to do was to retell the story of The Roswell Incident in a folk ballad form and, of course, that's what I did. Alleged flying saucer allegedly crashes in New Mexico desert, some people saw some things and this is what they said. Because the actual events may never be clear, another story emerges—the effects of government secrecy and suppression of information upon our individual, personal lives.
Listeners are moved to tears when they hear my song not because of a weird event but because of the wedge of silence that is driven between father and daughter (and the emasculation of the father) by the enforced secrecy the government demands on his experience. Maybe some are moved by the fact that we'll never know the truth of what happened because all of the eye witnesses and the news media were silenced.
In light of current events and news, I re-wrote this post to make that point. A great deal of blood, sweat and tears has been shed in the name of ensuring rather specific freedoms for citizens of the United States of America. While freedoms regarding privacy are couched in early 19th century concerns, freedom of speech is a democratic ideal firmly rooted in our Greco-Roman model.
When I wrote the song, believe me when I say that I never expected to actually perform it in Roswell, nor could I ever in a million years have imagined that it would become a hit in Sweden. That being said, I could have imagined a day when our privacies and freedoms would be less reliable, even in light of what we know about secretive and repressive governments and societies.
“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”The moral of my story is to go ahead and do whatever creative endeavor calls to you no matter how scary or unusual it may seem.
― Thomas Jefferson
Tell the truth. You never know what's going to happen and there is no way of guessing what other people might think.
Click here to listen to the song, read more and see photos.
My favorite version? It's on Ephemera.
“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”____________________________________________
― Thomas Jefferson
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