Song of Katrina


josepharthur.jpg“I picture you in the sun wondering what went wrong,
And falling down on your knees asking for sympathy,
And being caught in between all you wish for and all you seen,
And trying to find anything you can feel that you can believe in.

May God’s love be with you
May God’s love be with you.”

Sometimes, you hear a song and connect.

This is the story of one such song, and the cities it’s trying to rebuild.

You’ll find memorable music in unexpected places. Like on a radio in another country. Or playing on a friend’s stereo.

Or the at the end of a really good sitcom. (They still exist.)

scrubs.jpg“Scrubs” does an exceptional job of pairing laughs with the right soundtrack. In fact, it does it so well, one fan site, “Scrubs”: My Own Personal ‘Net Thing, tracks the tunes episode by episode.

Lucky for me. One ep that I loved was “My New God” which aired in January. The closing montage (so over them) featured a moving song about the search for meaning, for love.

Thanks to the site, I found a new favorite, “In the Sun” by Joseph Arthur. (lyrics)

(Hear/download a live version from Arthur’s site.)

It’s the kind of song that gets me excited about music again.

Some of you have already discovered in on television, on entirely different shows. It was on an April 2004 episode of “The L Word” and, most notably, in the post-Super Bowl “Grey’s Anatomy” in February. That version featured Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Chris Martin of Coldplay.

The song has legs. (It’s like all those Moby songs popping up in every show and commercial for two years running.)

I even found several versions by Stipe on iTunes. But I didn’t make an important connection.

Until yesterday.

By chance, I stumbled upon a documentary called “In the Sun” on the Sundance Channel site. Peter Buck, guitarist for R.E.M., told Stipe to listen to the song. He did — and turned it into a crusade.

inthesunfilm.jpgThe 41-minute film explores the ongoing efforts after Hurricane Katrina to rebuild New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, despite scant media attention and government help. And it shows how Stipe and other musicians recorded versions of “In the Sun,” with all proceeds going to Mercy Corps, which assists in global relief efforts.

(View the entire film or select segments for free. Look for “Watch Video” on the right sidebar to launch the player.)

The movie, which premiered on the cable channel in April, reminds us of the struggles of residents, relief workers and construction firms in not only overcoming sheer obliteration of buildings, but also the interference from bureaucratic mismanaged governments and selfish insurance companies.

Arthur, who penned the song, talks about how he recorded his most recent album in New Orleans and how this is his chance to give back something.

I think about New Orleans a lot. I’m fortunate to have seen the city in better days, to hear jazz in the clubs and on the streets. To dine like royalty in some of the country’s finest restaurants.

My friend Joseph still lives there and updates me on the slow comeback of the city. A 10-plus-year resident, he will help rebuild it.


Another friend, André, spent the past week down there on business. It was his first trip, and even after more than nine months, it seems little has been accomplished. (See his photos of the devastation.) He says that if people want to help, go down there and spend money in the shops, restaurants and hotels.

That’s a great idea. He also wants to return and help with the rebuilding efforts.

Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and caused $75 billion in damage in 2005. It almost wiped out an entire region. And thanks to bad leadership and planning, the crisis continues. But you can help.

inthesunep.jpgYou can purchase one or more of the songs from iTunes, and all proceeds will go to Mercy Corps via Stipe’s special In the Sun Foundation. Versions include Justin Timberlake and of Black Eyed Peas.

Or if you want to skip the tunes, you can give directly to Mercy Corps (select “Katrina Rebuilding”).

What can one song do, anyway?

“In the Sun” gave me more than a renewed excitement in music. It gave me hope.

” ‘Cause if I find
If I find my own way,
How much will I find?
If I find
If I find my own way,
How much will I find


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