This song is a product of the following story:
My uncle Bob was a bitter angry racist for 60 years of his life. That was the year he came to live with me. One day he used the “N” word at our kitchen table and I told him, “No! Not here, not ever. Your daughter is married to an African American man and I will not let you take the chance that one day your grandchildren are in the other room hearing you use that word. Remove it from your vocabulary if only while you are in my home.”
Fast forward a few years and I walked in after work one day and he was sitting in the living room, with his oxygen tank connected to his nose, and he was weeping. He was watching Oprah, where the great grandson of a slave owner was apologizing to the granddaughter of a slave that was born on their plantation. Of course there was not a dry eye in the house… including my house. Bob looked at me and said: “I have been so blind, thank you, son, for helping me see.”
As fate would have it his daughter was retaking her wedding vows the following month – he had of course missed her first wedding in rebellion to the “mixing of races”. This time he wanted to be there. It was my honor and privilege to take him to her ceremony, where he walked her down the aisle… again, there was not a dry eye in the house.
When athletes began taking a knee during the National Anthem, I was inspired to write the song “Someone Else’s Heart” during the one knee protest of the national anthem. I wrote it because of the empathy I felt for the Black Lives Movement. My empathy is human, it is empirical in its nature because of this story.
When I was 9 years old in 3rd grade we lived in Wilcox, AZ. Our school was an old rickety 3 floor building (it was torn down in the 80’s I think). Our basketball court was a concrete slab raised inside a retaining wall to about 5 feet and it was surrounded on three sided by chainlink and the other side was the building itself. It was a dead end that had no exit gate. I hadn’t realized this until one day…
My mother was a Jehovah’s Witness and as such, she didn’t believe in celebrating birthdays, or any other secular US holidays. Even Easter they changed to be the Passover and never would it fall on Easter Day. So I was not allowed to even be in the room when these school celebrations occured. This marked me as an outsider. The worst of which being that every morning when we recited the pledge of allegiance, I had to remain seated. I didn’t want to, but I was still young enough not to rebel, and I was afraid Jehovah would retaliate or something. Not to mention the lashing my mother would give me. She would whip with a belt while the whole time she would be saying, now remember this hurts me more than it hurts you. Ha!
So being the new kid in school – we had just move there from Safford, AZ – I was instantly an outcast and an outsider. After a few weeks of sitting during the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance, the boys in my class decided to tech me a lesson. As class was let out they screamed “get him” – after all the glares and mumbles since my arrival, I knew it was me they wanted. So I turned left and ran like hell. I ran straight out the door an onto the basketball court. Dead end. No way out. I was trapped. Those sons of cowboys and farmers were not happy with me and they were determined to teach me a lesson. The teachers turned a blind eye to the abuse.
I was once beaten so badly I woke up in the nurses office. Where my bloody nose was left unattended as the nurse treated me like a worrisome nuisance that didn’t deserve her care or nurture. When my mother arrived she was appalled by the nurse’s lack of empathy for a 9 year old boy. So she repeated the lecture I got all during that school year: “Remember all good Christians will be persecuted.”
So I know intrinsically WHY we have a RIGHT not to salute, pledge, stand or place our hands over our hearts. At an assembly of students, they played the National Anthem and when I didn’t place my hand over my heart, later those same boys tried to make me hold my hand over my heart as one of them sand the song. Hence the line in the song: “Never hold your hand over someone else’s heart.”
I post this with love, respect and forgiveness.
Sept 16, 2021
I hadn’t looked at this song on Youtube in a while and today I say that it has 10,359 views. That is a big deal for me. Woohoo… still… I miss you, John. Thank you for the lovely song.
John Prine died on the night of the 7th of April, 2020, I found out on the morning of 8th and spent the entire day writing and crying. John affected and influenced my writing my all my writing life – since 1975.
I put this playlist together starting with a song I wrote for him the day he died. There are others I wrote for him and some songs where his affect was obvious.
A song can make a difference in our life. The tunes that play in our mind, followed by the words, can all affect our choices and as such our life.
I found the start of a song in a folder on my computer from many years ago. It was a song about a relationship that came to an abrupt end after a very heated argument one night. As I read the words, my artistic mind began to wonder what would have happened if we had not called it off so quickly, what if we had given it another go… who knows…
Don’t get me wrong, this was not a regret, nor was it a fantasy, it came with the realization that sometimes we end things before we actually know it is time.
I am a lucky man to have Joanne as my wife, I want to always honor and respect the best relationship I have ever been blessed enough to live in. It was this knowing that prompted me to want to rewrite this song from the perspective of how I handle my affairs now with Joanne. I don’t entertain the option (why would I?) to bail, quit, give up or threaten to do any sort of leaving. We are far enough along in our lives and love to know this is it, this is what we want and we honor and respect that with every fiber of our being.
So I re-wrote this song, as if it had happened to Joanne and I and I gave it a happy ending this time, because I truly believe that we are all writing the story of our lives. Everyday we ad a page and those pages turn into chapters and all of that together is who we are. We are the stories we tell, we are all telling stories or writing songs.