American Culture

TunesDay: "Fired up!" This is the music that should be on stage with Obama tonight

What is it with these wild, out-of-control visitors to the Gulf Coast bearing German names? First we had Katrina, three years ago tomorrow; now Gustav is threatening an unwelcome arrival. But we still haven’t gotten Katrina’s mess cleaned up, 1,095 days after she roared through and forgot to turn the water off. Miles of inundated neighborhoods in New Orleans still lie in empty ruins; residents are still stuck breathing formaldehyde in FEMA trailers; crime engendered by a rising homeless rate is still rising. It’s still a disaster.

Enter the Bergevin Brothers. We’re talking Jon and Joe, but they’ve got a funky, jazzy, rootsy gospel groove that could make Jake and Elwood Blues get down and gator. They’re making music for continuing Katrina recovery, with a campaign boost lagniappe for Barack Obama. Actually, Obama was the inspiration for the brothers’ recording, Seven Songs for America and One for the World, featuring Rev. Pat Wright and Seattle’s Total Experience Gospel Choir, lead singer Jake Bergevin, and Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron on the 5-star-rated YouTube hit, “Fired Up, Ready To Go.”

It’s guaranteed to keep you boogie-in’ all the way to the polls and then some. (Personally, I think it’s a far more captivating tune than the celeb-sponsored “Yes We Can.”)

Co-producer Jon Bergevin is in town for the DNC from Kirkland, Wash., hawking newly pressed CDs and making connections for extending the musical message into the fall campaign season. While augmenting Obama’s campaign, album proceeds will go to Pastor Wright’s “Seattle Artists” foundation to rebuild the lives and homes of Katrina victims in Mississippi and Louisiana, on this third anniversary of the hurricane.

Before you read another word, however, go to Bergevin Brothers and have another listen.

I had a chance this morning to catch up with Bergevin, composer and pianist on the album, who shared its unexpected genesis with me. The history behind the lead song is an inspirational grassroots story that ties right into Obama Message Central.

Back in December, Jon’s brother Joe heard Barack speak in Seattle. He shook the senator’s hand afterward and said to him, “I think you’re going to get the job done.” Barack replied, “With your help I will, with your help.” Those words stayed with Joe, and the seed of an idea germinated as he watched Obama on television a few weeks later talk about Edith Childs, one voice who energized others when she started chanting at a campaign stop in South Carolina, “Fired up, ready to go!”

Joe had a title. He sketched out some lyrics and basic chords, then called Jon for help with composing and arranging. A mere 10 days later they had amassed a high-octane collection of musicians and technicians and entered a Seattle recording studio. Every bit of the project was donated — testimony, Jon says, to “Barack’s unifying message and ability to bring people together.” The huge response to the song, including enthusiasm from Obama himself, prompted the brothers to expand their effort into a full-fledged album.

Jon’s 1,300-mile road trip from Seattle to Denver led to a seat next to Childs in the Pepsi Center last night, the first face-to-face meeting for the composer and the woman whose spontaneous outburst inspired the song that sparked the project. This morning, he shared the music over breakfast with the South Carolina delegation, Childs’ home state. “The response has been just phenomenal,” said Bergevin, who can’t wait to see the album’s impact grow as the campaign ramps up.

You can order the CD online at Bergevin Brothers Music, or, if you’re in Denver, you might be able to connect with Jon in person before he hits the road for Seattle on Friday. He says feel free to call his cell phone at (206) 818-2632.

With New Orleans and a number of Mississippi towns still in shambles, three long years later, and Gulf Coast residents poised to evacuate again, what better reason have you got than to help out and score some great homegrown music in the process?

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