11/20/2012 11:22 am ET Updated Jan 20, 2013

Songs for Sandy

"What can I do?"

That's what so many people, myself included, asked themselves in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Me, I donated clothes. Then I bought water and bleach and granola bars and dropped them off at 85th Street and 2nd Ave, two blocks from my apartment -- which had electricity, heat and water throughout the hurricane.

And then, finally, I wrote a song.

I wanted to get my backside out to Staten Island, Breezy Point, or New Jersey to help. I did. Every day I told myself I would go. And every day I didn't.

Truth is, I am scared. Why, I'm not sure. Am I scared that coming face-to-face with disaster and distress will make me incredibly, painfully guilty about all my blessings? That perhaps I won't be able to enjoy my life, because how can you bear to live with so much when there are others who have lost so much? Or maybe I just don't want to get my hands dirty or look at what might happen to me one day. Whatever my truth is, I knew I wanted to do something for Sandy victims.

So I wrote a song.

I started Hope Sings, my for-benefit music business, because I knew I wanted to make myself of use to the world. Some people save the rainforest, some people build schools, some people cure cancer. I write songs. And with Hope Sings, I urge other people to write songs -- songs inspired by true stories of people who go from suffering to success.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, songwriters often reacted, in song, to events that saddened or infuriated them:

"Ohio" (the Kent State killings/Crosby Stills Nash and Young)
"Black Day in July" (the Detroit riots/Gordon Lightfoot)
"Two Suns in the Sunset" (the atom bombs/Pink Floyd)
Others here.

Nowadays, there's Bruce ("Into the Fire" - 9/11)

But not many others. Most pop songs are firmly omphalocentric. I love you I love you, I hate you I hate you, I hate me I hate me, I hate everything and everybody. I believe pop songs have lost their power to inspire change in the world. I want to put the life force of true, moving, galvanizing story back into pop song.

So, I do what I can (a phrase I turned into the title of the song I wrote in response to the Japanese tsunami/nuclear disaster). I write songs, and ask others to consider doing the same.

Hence, "Songs for Sandy." We're urging singer-songwriters to create original songs inspired by stories of Hurricane Sandy. We'll promote/sell those songs, with all net proceeds (after artist royalties) going to the Red Cross. And Hope Sings will match proceeds, dollar for dollar, up to $1,000.

If you're a writer, this is your chance to put your talents to good -- even great -- use. Details here. Submissions due by 11/26. Songs have already started coming in, and will be on sale at If you can't write or are too far away to help (or are a big 'fraidy cat like me), that's what you can do. Buy a song.