And this was only the first of many references to Occupy Wall Street on my new album Heliotropism. In fact, much of the album is influenced and inspired by my time at Occupy Wall Street. Here are some more of the instances that give a nod to the Occupy movement...
"I've heard heartbreaking fireside stories
while occupied hearts were pried open."
This line references a powerful night that I spent with Occupy Raleigh on December 4, 2012. It was one of the last dates on my Zombie Music tour and I played a set of music for them, at their new location, by fireside. To close I unveiled a song that I had never previously played (I'd written it just a day or two after the occupation of Zuccotti began, but the appropriate opportunity to play it there had never presented itself). The song called for the participation of volunteers to share their testimony - what it was that brought them into the Occupy movement. I only anticipated that three people would share but after the last sing-along refrain, the crowd asked for more. Perhaps as many as a dozen people shared their stories - we laughed, we cried - and it was a very moving night together.
The first part of the performance was captured on video and I released the audio on my Live At Occupy Raleigh album, which is now available as free download on my bandcamp page!
"I awoke before dawn at a park in Manhattan
to show police who has the real power."
One early morning during the occupation of Zuccotti, OWS organizers received a notice from Brookfield Properties, the owners of the park, threatening to shut down the occupation the following day. OWS spent the entire day cleaning the park and developing contingency plans to respond to forcible removal by NYPD.
The following morning, occupiers like myself who had attempted to sleep through the rainy night at the park were awakened at 5a to anticipate a move by the police. By 6a the park was as full as ever with protesters, union workers, students (etc) ready to defend the occupation - and all the media we would need to document the occasion!
The police eventually stood down and the occupation continued.
"I've skied and snorkeled and walked on water
paralyzed by the cold,
And I've walked among a people more frozen still,
apathetic and under control.
But I've also seen a rare breed of wild geese
and a tree house hostel on fire -
singing and dancing and occupying,
subverting and resisting empire."
I'm talking about a different kind of people, a different kind of community. The Occupy movement presents a new way of looking at the world, at our fellow human beings, at the principalities and powers. That was the real takeaway from OWS. And that's what I've chosen to write about in so many of the songs on Heliotropism. All of the lyrics highlighted above come from only one song. But there are quite a few more songs yet to talk about...