When I moved to Connecticut in 1979, one of the first people I met was an
energetic woman named Rena Johnson, who made her way to New England from New
Orleans, where she was born and raised. We met as founding members
of the Connecticut Songwriters Association. Rena did not sing or
play an instrument, but she wrote many well-crafted songs which she asked me to arrange
and produce. One was a song about fond memories of her childhood in New Orleans and the delta country. We
performed it in 1980 in New London, where I played guitar, and a vocalist
from Westerly, RI, Gail Armstrong, did the singing.
Fast forward, September 2005: Life
being as it is, I lost touch with Rena in the 1980's and hadn't had any
contact with her for more than 15 years, but I always remembered that song.
In September 2005, I was at the Independent Music Conference in Philadelphia
watching images of the tragedy in post-Katrina New Orleans unfold on
CNN. Seeing the faces of the affected people and the destruction of
their homes and homeland, I thought of Rena's song and how touching
it would be if they could hear it, but I had no idea how to reach Rena or if she
was even still with us, as I knew she was in ill health and would be about 70 years old by now.
I arrived home from Philadelphia the Tuesday following
the hurricane, and that evening, my phone rang, with a call from a local
senior citizen residential facility. It was a voice from the
past saying "Remember that song I wrote ? " As she saw the
events unfold, Rena thought of me as I had thought of her, and we were both
connected by the same song. I thought it would be a
great opportunity to use the song to raise money to help the relief efforts and
Rena said to me "Take the song and run with it" . In a 4-day period,
I created new tracks for the song from 25-year old memory ( I later found
my 25 year old lead sheet to check that it was right).
I thought it needed to be sung by a capable female
vocalist who would be able to come up with a memorable delivery, and I found
Denise Levasseur, an accomplished artist who was willing to contribute her
talent to the effort on short notice. Denise had just been named a
finalist in the Connecticut Idol competition.
A complete CD single was done in time to be presented that weekend at
one our benefit concerts, with copies available for folks who wanted to make
a contribution to help out with the relief efforts.
PROCEEDS ARE DONATED BY L.U.N.C.H. TO HELP
HURRICANE RELIEF EFFORTS
( Lyrics )
You can get the song on
from the CD
"Dare to Dream"