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A  Songwriters perspective on American Idol

American Idol Myths

The Kelly Clarkson story

Songwriting Tools and Techniques

 

Bill Pere - Song Analyst and Music Business Coach

Songwriting that Gets Results, Combining Arts, Education, and Community Outreach
Song Development - Music Production - Music Business Mentoring  - Recording -  Workshops - Artist Development

THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG

The Crib in the Creche
(A Prayer From Me)
 

 The Crib in the Creche
(originally released on "You'll See a Much Brighter Day", and re-mastered for release on "
Christmas Eve on the Poor Side of Town")

( Lyrics  )   ( listen - purchase)     Bill Pere

--
Many people regard this as my best song, or at least consider it their favorite. Here is the story:

Thirty years had passed but I never forgot the faces of those two men. It was 1959 and I was a young child  looking forward to a cup of Ovaltine and a warm house after playing outside in the streets of the Bronx, which were covered with a still-white December snow. As I came to the top of the stairs I heard my father's voice.

"Another one?" he said , the words emanating from the kitchen.

"I  just couldn't let him go by without doing something" came my mother's reply.

As I approached the kitchen with curiosity, I was greeted with a strange odor that conjured up images of sweat and garbage. Turning the corner, I passed my father leaving the kitchen and saw my mother standing there with a bologna sandwich. It took me a moment to realize that the threadbare, tattered coat which had its back to me was actually draped over a tall, thin stranger, standing there in the kitchen. He turned around, and at that moment, for the first time in my 7 years, I looked into the face of poverty, the eyes of homelessness, the soul of hunger. In those eyes, showing through the emptiness, was a glow of gratitude.

Walking through the streets of the city, it was not uncommon to see hungry and homeless people on the streets, but in truth, I had never really noticed them, at least not as real people. They were part of the city's background -- until now. My mother had seen this homeless man walking past our house and had invited him in for some food. She gave him a sandwich, packed another for him, and sent him on his way with her ever present smile.

A week later, my mother took me to a church supper, in celebration of the holiday season. On this frigid night, amidst the warmth of fellowship, someone brought in a homeless man whom they found lying outside, shivering in the cold.      The people there, my mother in the midst of them, were quick to help, bringing hot cocoa, food and a blanket. As the man sat, I looked past him and saw the large figures of the creche scene which sat in the corner of the room. It almost looked like the figures were surrounding the man, who smiled as best he could to show his appreciation for the kindness being shown him. I saw that same look in his eyes as in the face of the man my mother had fed in our kitchen. From then on, I began to take notice of people's words and actions toward others who were less fortunate than they.

Fast-forward thirty years -- It was early December 1989, and my 5-year old son had just come in from playing in the still-white Connecticut snow.

"I have a new song", I told him. "It's for Grandma."

And I played it for him while he had his cocoa. The intervening years had seen me become a songwriter, move to Connecticut, and be inspired by the music and social conscience of singer-songwriter Harry Chapin. For the last week, my mother had been hovering near death in a New Jersey hospital. I reflected on her life, searching for something to capture in song, that I would be able to keep with me forever, and share with others after she was gone.

As I sorted through all the memories and experiences, I kept coming back to that December in 1959. I hadn't consciously thought about it since childhood, but I realize now how it provided a context for the rest of my life; a backdrop against which all experiences and questions of right and wrong were viewed. "The Crib in the Creche", the story-song of that homeless man outside the church on a freezing December night, was written in two days, but in truth, it took three decades to write.

My mother died two days before Christmas, 1989, never having heard the song that she inspired. Since then, the song has been sung every year in concerts and churches, with church choirs, with children, with assorted ensembles, and recorded on two of my CD's.

David Crosby, the great singer-songwriter from Crosby, Stills and Nash, said at a September 2003 concert as he presented a new song he'd recently written, "the greatest thing for a songwriter is to be able to play a new song for an audience and have them 'get it' " . That's an experience my mother has given me many times. She couldn't sing a note and knew nothing of writing songs, but she created symphonies of kindness with a life simply lived, and she taught me two of the golden rules of songwriting -- One is "Show, don't tell " -- My mother never preached or lectured or spoke much about what she did. She just showed by her actions what she believed was right. And secondly, in trying to write songs that are memorable and which touch people's hearts, the songs that most affect life are the songs that most reflect life

( Lyrics  )   ( listen - purchase)     Bill Pere

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