Some of you know, and some of you may not know, that three weeks ago the city I live in, Joplin, MO, was hit by an F5 tornado which is the most powerful tornado there is. It formed west of the city, was 3/4 of a mile wide, and carved a path of destruction 14 miles long. I was huddled in the bathroom of the house I live in with 4 cats - 3 Poindexter cats (Sif, Orion, and Thor) and my cat Echo - and my roommates - Sean and Amanda Poindexter. We listened to the radio as they said the tornado had been spotted in our vicinity. We heard it roar past. It sounded like every account I'd ever heard, a bunch of freight trains. In that moment I contemplated my life and came to grips with the fact that I might die in this bathroom with these people, and in that moment a gentle sense of acceptance and calm washed over me. Luckily, I didn't have to face death that day. My house was not in the path of the storm. If the storm had been been a little wider or if it had decided to turn 1/4 of a mile to the north it would have been. I didn't lose anything in the storm. All my loved ones and close friends were not hurt (though some lost homes and jobs). At the end of the day many weren't so lucky. As of today 153 people have died as a result of the storm, over 9000 families are homeless, and thousands more have no job. Some people have called me blessed. Others have called me lucky. I would call myself both of those things.
In the weeks after the tornado I wanted to badly to get out there, roll up my sleeves, and help. There was however a problem. I am a childhood cancer survivor and my life has been nothing but having to deal with physical limitations. For the most part I can overcome these limitations. I've gotten pretty damn good at figuring out ways to adapt to life so I can a relatively normal existence. However, when it comes to things like being out in the hot sun for hours on end, lifting debris, hauling stuff away in a truck, or doing all the other things people needed help with, adaptation is of little help. There aren't many ways to get around lifting a heavy board. You just have to lift it. So for the weeks after I felt like a slave to my own limitations, and I have always hated that. So, I decided to adapt, and find another way to help.
I tried to figure out what I was good at. I can draw. So I thought maybe I could do a special ROBOTS DOING PEOPLE THINGS that was for Joplin. I did. I offered prints. I offered t-shirts, and I got some interest, but nothing sold. I offered to donate proceeds from my songwriting to Joplin relief efforts. Again, I got some interest, but very little sold. During this time I had this little tune stuck in my head, a song that I thought could be written about Joplin, but I didn't really want to write it. I had told myself that I wasn't going to write a song about Joplin. I didn't want to be "That Guy," and besides, there were going to be so many musicians trying to write songs about Joplin, and I guarantee many of them wouldn't be doing it for the right reasons. I didn't want to be lumped into that group. I didn't want people saying, "Well the only reason Ross wrote that song was to make money and get publicity." I kept fighting it. I didn't want to do it. Thing is, sometimes a song won't leave you alone...and this one most certainly kept bugging me. So I finally wrote it.
It's called "Wounded Town." I posted the lyrics some weeks ago. I wanted to do two things with the song. I wanted it first, to be a narrative. That is, I wanted it to be told from a point of view. I didn't want it to be my reflections of my destroyed town. I wanted it to be the experience told from the view of people who lived through it. That's exactly what I did. In fact, I there are three different points of view of the song. The first verse is from the perspective of an elderly person who has died. The second verse is either a relief worker or someone who has lost a home. And the third verse is someone in the future looking at the new buildings and thinking back to the events of 5-22-11. The second thing I wanted to do is make it ambiguous. I didn't want to specifically reference the tornado or Joplin because I wanted people to feel like this could be their town. I find with songs the more accessible it is, the more people can share in the experience, the more impact it has. When the song was done I called up my buddy Aaron Moore and asked him to produce it. We recorded it on a Saturday. He provided the acoustic guitar part and the harmonies. I did the lead vocals and the ukulele. When we finished there was still a part in the middle that needed something. So I decided to call my friend Jason Stamper who added an excellent and soulful harmonica solo a week later. We finished it up Saturday.
Today I uploaded the song to iTunes. Later this week it will be available on Amazon, Napster, and Zune. It is only $.99 to download, and everything I make off downloads is going back into the community of Joplin, MO.
I invite you to download it for yourself. If you want to hear the song you can do so on this blog. Just look to your right and you'll see my Reverbnation widget. "Wounded Town" is the top song. If you like it, and want to purchase it then go here.
Above all, please please please please spread the word. The more people know about it, the more people will download, and the more Joplin will benefit. It's as simple as that.