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Ryan J. Davis

Ryan J. Davis

Posted: March 12, 2008 12:15 PM

Barack Obama, The Musical...


When Joe Drymala and I first began working on what would become Street Lights over two years ago, Barack Obama was barely known to us. Like many other Democrats, we'd both flipped out over his 2004 convention speech, but we figured he was probably a nice, smart young candidate with a bright future in 2012 or beyond.

Something happened last year, though. As Obama began to campaign, we began to listen, and so did the rest of America. And at some point, Joe and I became positively obsessed. Throughout 2007, we had many hours of conversation about the Obama campaign -- could they do it? Would he flame out in Iowa? Would he get crushed by the mighty Clinton machine? Joe and I had met on Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid (I was a videographer, and Joe was a speechwriter), and we were terrified of getting our hopes up. But we began to hope anyway.

Meanwhile, Joe was now writing Street Lights full throttle. And I noticed that every time he'd come to me with a new song for this new musical, I'd hear echoes of Barack Obama. His campaign themes, his biography, his message, all started to emerge within the music and the lyrics. Nothing was directly based on Obama himself, but everything Joe was writing for Street Lights seemed inspired by his candidacy and the movement that was blossoming around it.

So, earlier this year, when we decided to produce a benefit concert for the Obama campaign, it seemed only natural for us to perform some of the Street Lights songs for the very first time.

They were a smash. And one song in particular, "Miracle," kept coming up in conversations with audience members afterward. Sung from the perspective of a talented but underprivileged inner-city teen, it seemed to encapsulate the hope, idealism, and against-the-odds determination of the Obama campaign.

I suggested that Joe rewrite the lyrics and re-arrange the music as a song about the Obama campaign itself. What we decided was, we didn't want to do a song about Barack Obama the man, but about the movement he has inspired, sung by people who are powering his campaign all across the country. (And Joe's girlfriend Cassie had the smartest idea of all, suggesting that Joe sample the Stevie Wonder "Barack Obama" melody.)

So we got some friends together -- many of whom had sung in the February concert, but some who had not -- and recorded it over a weekend in March. I was lucky enough to have captured a lot of our rehearsal and recording process on camera, and so we took some of that footage and made a video.

So here it is. If you like it, check out more songs from Street Lights at the Street Lights myspace page, www.myspace.com/streetlightsmusical. Download the MP3. Share it with a friend. And please visit www.barackobama.com if you haven't already. This campaign is doing some amazing things across this country -- things that Joe and I had once thought would never be possible in American politics. What we learned the hard way on the Dean campaign is, cynicism almost always wins...almost. Sometimes, though, the country is ready to believe in the future. Sometimes hope beats fear. Sometimes the better angels of our nature push this country forward.

We can change America. Yes, we can.

Follow Ryan J. Davis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ryannewyork