“With beauty, dignity and grace, Give US Your Poor draws attention toward places where the inclination is too often to turn away.”
– Russell Hall, No Depression
“. . . No one who encounters this package is likely to remain unmoved.”
– Don McLeese, Amazon.com
click to play
click to play
From idea to action, from concept to compact disc, from compact disc to concert stage, Give US Your Poor is an example of the power of music to effect positive social change.
Two years in the making, the fund- and consciousness-raising Give US Your Poor CD was created by Appleseed Recordings and the national Give US Your Poor organization at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School. It brings together established musicians, socially committed actors and currently or previously homeless musicians in a collection of mostly exclusive new recordings that address the ongoing crisis of homelessness in America. There are frequent collaborations between the stars, who donated their time and music, and their formerly or currently homeless brethren on songs that often reflect on existence without guaranteed lodging, food, and the simple necessities of human existence. Almost all of the profits raised by this release are being donated to organizations benefiting the homeless.
There is a broad spectrum of artists, genres and styles represented on Give US Your Poor that makes the CD a moving, engrossing, and enjoyable, as well as educational, experience. Among the high-profile performers:
• Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger join together for a second time (they also share a track on Appleseed’s new Sowing the Seeds label compilation) to perform the folk classic, “Hobo’s Lullaby.”
• Jon Bon Jovi represents the “arena rock” camp, pairing up with the formerly indigent Mighty Sam McClain on the rousing, gospel-inflected “Show Me the Way” (not the Peter Frampton song).
• For the AAA/Starbucks crowd, there are new tracks from the latest sophisticated, jazz-influenced and popular female singer-songwriters – Madeleine Peyroux and Sonya Kitchell – and from their more established musical sisters, including Bonnie Raitt (performing a rowdy version of “Walking the Dog” with bluesman Weepin’ Willie Robinson), Natalie Merchant, Michelle Shocked, and Jewel.
• Other contributors include bluesman Keb’ Mo’, the famed political/gospel a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, acclaimed “kid’s music” rocker Dan Zanes, newly revived indie band Buffalo Tom, opera singer Mario Frangoulis (performing Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home”), and actor/activists Tim Robbins [PARENTAL/ AIRPLAY ADVISORY – Tim’s track contains a profanity) and Danny Glover.
• The CD’s final track, “Here and Now” by Mark Erelli, was chosen for inclusion from among 775 original compositions by musicians submitted around the world to the Sonicbids Independent Artist Homelessness Songwriting Contest.
• You will also hear music by and read about those whom society has tried to ignore, such as teenager Nichole Cooper and 11-year-old Kyla Middleton, formerly homeless military veterans Michael Sullivan and Weepin’ Willie, and outspoken poet/advocate Julia K. Dinsmore, whose two contributions are read by Danny Glover.
• One of the musicians most deeply involved in the Give US Your Poor recording project is Natalie Merchant, who listened to many of the demos submitted for the CD and chose to collaborate with not one but six veterans of homelessness on Nichole Cooper’s autobiographical song “There is No Good Reason.” You can watch and listen to Natalie talking about the project and recording the track by clicking on this link. Participant Danny Glover has recorded a PSA about the CD/film project that you can watch by clicking this link.
Although the Give US Your Poor booklet contains quotes about the project by various participants, 28 pages can only hold so much. Here are a few additional comments about homelessness and the recording of this CD by some of the musicians:
“Sometimes you’ll see the Average Joe walking down the street and noticing a homeless guy on the street asking for money or just being cold and sitting there wrapped in a blanket or a newspaper. More times than not, you’re going to see that Average Joe walk around him, look away, look down, look up . . . avoid him. It’s fear of the unknown. That homeless person, first of all, is a person. That person fell on some hard times. Homelessness doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t know if you’re black or white, rich or poor, Catholic, Muslim, or Jew. It doesn’t know if you’re a great novelist or former CEO of a company. Homelessness is the classic case of not judging a book by its cover. And to remind someone not to judge a book by its cover is the greatest contribution I can make."
– Jon Bon Jovi
“I have dreamed of raising awareness and reaction to homelessness for most of my life, and am honored to finally be a part of the Give US Your Poor project, where music speaks for us all!”
– Madeleine Peyroux
“I think it’s really important to bring up the subject of homelessness and poverty in music because a lot of people don’t know how hard it is. And people just – they think badly of poor people and of homeless people . . . And just the truth needs to get out there that it happens to a lotta people and it could happen to anyone.
Interviewer: What was the hardest thing about being homeless for you?
Just not having anything. . . . You’re not secure at all. You don’t know what’s gonna happen next. You don’t know where you’re going. . . . It’s that you have no home. . . . You know, people are den animals. And when you don’t have a den, you don’t feel right, and you feel embarrassed and ashamed. . . . It was hard.”
– Nichole Cooper
The 28-page booklet accompanying Give US Your Poor not only contains “the story behind the stories” of these songs and performers, but also presents an array of heartbreaking and infuriating statistics:
• In the course of any given year, 3.5 million Americans are homeless.
• Homeless shelters in 27 major cities turn down 37% of individuals and 52% of families due to overcrowding.
• 41% of all homeless are families
• One out of four homeless is a child under the age of 10.
• 43% of the homeless work.
The September 2007 release of the Give US Your Poor CD attracted widespread media intention, including a segment on the ABC Evening News, and was further bolstered by a November 16 benefit concert at Boston’s historic Strand Theatre. Among the CD’s contributing artists to perform at the show, attended by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and other dignitaries, were Natalie Merchant, Mighty Sam McClain, classical crossover vocalist Mario Frangoulis, Boston-area alt.rockers Buffalo Tom, and poet Julia Dinsmore. Joining them on stage were some of the currently or formerly homeless musicians who took part in recording the album. Danny Glover and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith sent special video messages encouraging the audience to get involved in their communities. The VH1 cable channel sent a camera crew and broadcast an excerpt of the concert.
One sad note since the CD’s release: 81-year-old bluesman William Lorenzo “Weepin’ Willie” Robinson, whose rowdy duet on “Walking the Dog” was one of many highlights of Give US Your Poor, died on December 31 after a cigarette he was smoking set his nursing room home on fire. No other residents of the facility were injured. Robinson, an Army veteran and former sharecropper, spent years without a home, living on the Boston streets, until local musicians, including Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, performed benefit concerts to help finance his move into an assisted living facility. Despite his poor health, “Weepin’ Willie” performed in local clubs regularly until the end of his life and appeared at the Boston Music Awards a month before his death. Jim McCarty, who helped look after Robinson’s career and wellbeing, described his appearance on Give US Your Poor as “a wonderful swansong opportunity.”
The Give US Your Poor organization is currently completing a documentary film about the making of this CD that will include interviews with participating musicians and in-studio recording footage. To read more about Give US Your Poor, please follow these links: www.giveusyourpoor.org and /www.giveusyourpoor.org/moviecd/cd.php.
Give US Your Poor’s mission is to create a revolution in public awareness, dispel myths and inspire action towards ending epidemic homelessness in the United States. It works to affect change at the policy level, engage volunteerism and contributions at the individual and corporate levels through media and education, and to funnel support to partner homeless organizations. Give US Your Poor, established in 1999, is part of the University of Massachusetts Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies. Most of the profits from this CD, donated by Appleseed Recordings and Give US Your Poor, will go to the Give US Your Poor Campaign to End Homelessness, a not-for-profit organization. CDs are available to homeless organizations at cost for use as fundraising tools.
The independent, internationally distributed Appleseed Recordings was founded in 1997 for the purpose of keeping traditional folk music alive, giving voice to significant new musicians, and providing an outlet for worthy projects such as Give US Your Poor. Appleseed donates a portion of its profits from many of its CDs to environmental, human rights, and other progressive organizations.