Helen Tsuchiya passed away at the age of 92 on February 4, 2017. As she shared with young people through Larry’s  ‘Elders’ Wisdom, Children Song’ program about her Japanese-American Internment experience in World War II, “When you think about it, it’s my parents who really suffered. Now I want to share my story with the children so it will never happen again.”  In return the children and Larry honored her in song. As the closing verse to Be Kind To All That Live reads:

If I were to change tomorrow
I would start here right now
To help put an end to sorrow
I know we each know how

Be kind to all that live

Learn More

Join Larry Long and an all-star cast at the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua near Bayfield, Wisconsin on Sunday, July 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm, as they honor one of the world’s most influential folksingers, Pete Seeger, celebrating the many phases of his life in song, spoken word, and multi-media. Featuring Prudence Johnson, Kevin Kling, Dan Chouinard, Larry Long and the Blue Canvas Orchestra.

Learn More

IMG_2685When I suspend judgment and allow the best intentions of the people to be heard through the collective songwriting process, a power far greater than “I” takes hold.

A song has the potential to open up ones heart to love, so often concealed within the ‘busy’ world in which we live.

To honor is to listen.  This is what I try to do when I sit down with a guitar, laptop computer, magic markers, and large sheets of flip chart paper and ask a room full of people what’s on their mind.   As they speak, I let go of judgment, and write down everything they say.   After they speak, I read back everything I wrote down and ask, “Did I get it right?”   If they say, “Yes!” we move onto the next person. Within a short period of time we have the thoughts of everyone in the room written down on one large document, which we collectively distill into a song.

I’ve written over a thousand songs with people of many faiths, cultures, and complexions from around the world and close to home using this process.

Last week in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota I worked with those who live and work in a ‘faith-based’ homeless shelter called The Refuge.

Out of which, a song was born.  These are some of their thoughts, followed by their song entitled, We Are The Refuge.

“The Refuge serves 30,000 meals a year. We feed guys from jails, guys from the streets. We have Thursday through Saturday night suppers.”

“We deal with anything and everything. Those who are at the end of their rope and in need of help.”

“People come in and we give them bread. We give them a place to stay.”

“We have a Compassion House. We deal with women on the back end of domestics. Hurting and needing help.”

“Those (who struggle) mentally and (with) alcohol and meth. You name it and we deal with it. We help them look for a job, (give them) transitional housing. We help them get on their right foot.”

“They’ve pointed me in a positive direction. They’ve given me a vision to grow in fellowship, as Christians. To get my life moving forward once and for all through Jesus, so guys like me don’t stumble or fall.

“(We) can always come back. (We) have friends here.” 

“I’ve been through treatment twice. I grew up in a Christian home. Trying to reconnect and reunite (with) my faith.”

“The book of Job is my favorite. Job didn’t feel like he should be punished the way he was. He couldn’t understand why he was punished. He came out a stronger person of faith and wealthier because of it. God can show us power through hard times and good times.”

“He has a purpose. He has a plan. He is the reason for why we stand.”

“We have hope in the future.”

“Feed the hungry.”

We’re The Refuge 

Vision to grow in fellowship with Jesus

So guys like me don’t stumble or fall

We are here for a reason

Each of us we have been called

We’re ‘The Refuge’ from the storm

Through Christ Jesus we’re reborn

We are tested by God’s wisdom

We are tested by God’s love

Through each trial we grow stronger

Through the strength from God above

We’re ‘The Refuge’ from the storm

Through Christ Jesus we’re reborn

We believe in God’s power

We believe God has a plan

Each of us we have a purpose

God is the reason for why we stand

We’re ‘The Refuge’ from the storm

Through Christ Jesus we’re reborn

There are times when we are homeless

There are times we need a bed

There are times we are hungry

Upon God’s word I lay my head

We’re ‘The Refuge’ from the storm

Through Christ Jesus we’re reborn

We are children of God’s nation

We are the hope of days to come

In the power of God’s glory

We are the light of God’s love

We’re ‘The Refuge’ from the storm

Through Christ Jesus we’re reborn

 

Music by Larry Long

Words by Larry Long with Christian Thorson, Chad Dakota,

Aleisa Jopp, Lynette Price, Charlie Walker

Copyright Larry Long Publishing 2014 / BMI

 

 

 

IMG_2697Thursday, August 14th, I collectively wrote an anthem for Beyond The Yellow Ribbon in Crookston, Minnesota with eleven of their supporters at the Crookston City Hall.

They shared with me the story of how Beyond The Yellow Ribbon began and their commitment to help veterans and their families return ‘all the way back home from deployment’.

These are some of their shared thoughts:

“One of my sons was a gunner, who served in Iraq in the Marine Corp and my other son was in communication. Our youngest son struggles with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). He’s 26 years old. Beyond the Yellow Ribbon helped him get a Patriot Assistant Dog, which has really helped him through. They also helped us get to Camp New Hope.”

“My reason (to be involved in Beyond the Yellow Ribbon) is to make sure the country doesn’t react to veterans in the same way some did in my era. It was not a comfortable time when I served.”

“When I receive news of another soldier dying in war, I think, ‘It wasn’t my son, but it could have been our son. It could be your kid.’”

“There was no direction for any of us to go when we came home from deployment in Kosovo. We simply didn’t have that direction, but we do now.”

“There were things I did in Bosnia that I still think about a lot. When I came back I ended up getting a job full time and wandered through VA disability programs. It’s been eleven years. I still have issues. If we had Beyond The Yellow Ribbon
when I returned from deployment, I would have had fewer issues.”

“Beyond The Yellow Ribbon points people in the right direction.”

“Before (Beyond the Yellow Ribbon) the returning soldier couldn’t have guard duty for nine months. The soldier had no one to talk to (isolated from others who served). Gen. Larry Shellito saw this as a problem. He asked Chaplin John Morris to ‘build me a program to change this’. Change it they did. Now within two weeks upon returning (from deployment) to Minnesota we had a weekend drill (retreat) with significant other and family. We had over 800 troops gather that weekend. They bought ever motel room in town.”

“Everyone watching out for each other and what can we do to help.”

“Beyond The Yellow Ribbon covers all cycles of deployment. Before during and after. We are here for the whole thing.”

“We don’t want them (Veterans) to be forgotten and lost. We will be there for them for whatever they need.”

“We never walk past a veteran. We always thank them. We always say, “Welcome Home.” We honor those who’ve served.”

“War is hell. We are trained and assigned to disable or kill people. We use methods that us Christian people would not condone. Yet, if you don’t (use these methods), you don’t go home. “

“If you were in your car today and driving down the road and see a kid. You stop. Now you send a young man to Iraq. The first time driving a company down the road. A kid jumps out. You don’t know if the kid is wearing explosives. You can’t stop, because if you did you would put the whole unit in jeopardy. That driver does not forget it. Suppresses it and then it comes back years later to haunt him.”

“The soldier is given a mission to take the life of the enemy. They go out in the morning knowing that. He (their enemy) has a mission, too, and his job is to take care of you. Hope your training is superior to his.”

“Every soldier is our son and daughter. All those troops become a part of your family. We’re the information conduits. We cover a broad range of different professions in our group. We’re a family who takes care of our veterans.”

“Families reach out to us when their soldiers go off on missions. A lady called us, because we were the only civilians allowed to talk with the commander on the ground. Her boy was on the same mission as our son. We heard on the news that people (soldiers) were getting killed. She wanted to know if her son was still alive. Hardest phone call in my life.”

“It isn’t just the soldier that gets impacted. It ends up being us. It’s the entire nation. Either one gone or a hundred eighty-six gone. It’s all the same. A life loss.”

“If the politicians had to wear the uniforms we wouldn’t have a war.”

From these shared thoughts we collectively wrote Beyond The Yellow Ribbon.

Beyond The Yellow Ribbon

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
To prosper, to grow
We need to bring those veterans
All the way home
To be of service
To those who serve me and you
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
Beneath the red, white, and blue

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
With friends and family
Where no one is forgotten
In this community
From those who’ve been deployed
To those deployed at home
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
In body, heart & soul

It’s not just the soldier
It’s me and you
We’re in this together
Together we’ll make it through

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
War is hell! War is hell!
Forced to do the unspeakable
Some stories are hard to tell
We’re here to listen
We’re not here to judge
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons

It’s not just the soldier
It’s me and you
We’re in this together
Together we’ll make it through

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
This one thing I know
We’re standing with you
‘Til you’re all the way home
Before, during, after
We are here for you
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
Beneath the red, white, and blue

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
We are here for you

Words & music by Larry Long
with Bill Cassavant, Jamie Cassavant, Jenny Amon, Jim Buckmiller, Laurie Anderson, Staff Sergeant Mathew Metcalf, Suzanne Staver, Paula Lundgren, Tamy Kraft, Shannon Stassen.

© Larry Long Publishing 2014 / BMI

Richie Havens, Larry Long and Claire ChamberlinRichie Havens was a warm and kind person. He was a strong man, with radiant ebony skin and full beard, a ring on every finger, and often wearing a long, blousy African shirt, draped with necklaces he’d collected from around the world. The man commanded your attention the moment he walked on stage. And he kept it—seated on a stool and playing his acoustic opened string tuned guitar with a large triangular pick he rhythmically strummed like he was playing on an ancestral drum. It was hypnotic.

Richie owned every song he ever played. Be it George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun, Dylan’s Just Like A Woman, or his own redemptive version of Freedom—immortalized by his performance at Woodstock.

He walked with gentle courage and had a belly laugh that bubbled up out of his very being with an infectious smile that circled the world. I shared the stage with Richie on several occasions through the years. In Central Park at Ben & Jerry’s Folk Festival. On the dry grazing Diné lands of Arizona to support an end to the mining of ancestral land (where, in appreciation, the Hopi people invited Richie into a ceremonial gathering on top of a sacred mesa). The last time I shared a stage with Richie was at Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden, where he once again mesmerized thousands with his soulful gift of musical acoustic wonder.

Richie Havens was a star in the purest sense of the word. His light shone brightly. Not upon himself, but upon the love we all share within our hearts. He will be deeply missed.
By Larry Long
April 23, 2013

Marv changed my life. It was because of Marv that I met my future wife, Jacqueline.

When I was asked to sing at a demonstration against Honeywell, I told the organizer, Marv Davidov, that I would, but I would not be participating in any nonviolent action, which might lead to arrest. But when I saw the four McDonald Sisters sitting down on the steps of the entrance to Honeywell, I felt called to sit down with them in memory of my close friend Max Siegrist, a Vietnam Veteran against the war, who died tragically in a tractor accident not long after returning home.

The next thing I knew I was in the paddy wagon being hauled to jail for civil disobedience. The McDonald Sisters represented themselves at the trial, but I enlisted the help of attorney, Doug Hall. Doug was the founder of the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, who fought on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised in the city. He had a long ponytail with a gray receding hairline. Doug was one of those quiet warriors in the courtroom, who drew little attention to himself, but highly respected by all of the public defenders and progressive lawyers. Jacqueline was both.

When I tired to sing on the witness stand the judge stopped me in mid verse and said, “There will be no singing in my courtroom.” It was at that moment I looked down from the witness stand and noticed Jacqueline in the backroom with my Lakota, Vietnam Veteran friend, Rick McArthur, who worked at the Legal Rights Center as a field worker for the First Nation community. It’s important to note that the Legal Rights Center was located on Franklin Avenue, where the American Indian Movement (AIM) got started in response to the overreach of law enforcement against the large exodus of native people moving from their homes on the reservations into the city. The Legal Rights Center grew out of the need to represent many of these cases and Doug Hall was one of their lead lawyers.

Though the McDonald Sisters and I truly believed we were operating by a higher law than man, we were found guilty of trespassing. We had a choice of doing a hundred hours of public service or three days in the workhouse. I righteously, or self-righteously chose the later.

The only book I took with me to read in jail was Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth. For years I had tried to read it, which I successfully did in my steel woven jail cell on the first day.

Before going into the workhouse I asked Jacqueline if she would like to go on a date after I got out. She laughed and said, “Yes.” “Great!” I said, “Let’s go to Puerto Escondido, Mexico.” Without missing a beat, Jacqueline said, “Sure!”

It was on one of the best surfing beaches in North America on the south edge of Puerto Escondido, Playa Zicatela, which means ‘place of large thorns’ with a strong undertow, where I proposed to Jacqueline with a bottle of rum.

This year we celebrate our twenty-seventh year of marriage. Together, we now have three grown children and a granddaughter.

Who says there’s not love in the movement? We owe it all to Marv.

“I see change coming, and I’m really glad about it.”

Young Dylon Frei spoke these words after their victory this Tuesday over the neutrality position of the Anoka Hennepin School District regarding the bullying of GLBT Youth.  Dylon’s words inspired I See Change Coming, which we sang together on Tuesday night in celebration!

I See Change Coming

I see change a coming (repeat)
And it makes me glad (repeat)
There’s a change a coming (repeat)
And it makes me glad (repeat)
You can’t be neutral when it comes to love
That’s one thing I’ve been thinking of
Love has the power (repeat)
To make things right (repeat)
Love has the power (repeat)
To change your life (repeat)
I see change a coming (repeat)
And it gives me joy (repeat)
I see change a coming (repeat)
For every girl and boy (repeat)
You can’t be neutral when it comes to love
That’s one thing I’ve been thinking of
Love has the power (repeat)
To set you free (repeat)
Love has the power (repeat)
To be all you can be (repeat)
I see change a coming (repeat)
And it’s right on time (repeat)
I see change a coming (repeat)
Time to be kind
You can’t be neutral when it comes to love
That’s one thing I’ve been thinking of
Love has the power (repeat)
To reconcile (repeat)
Love has the power (repeat)
To make you smile (repeat)
To walk that extra mile for someone else
To make that someone smile, not just for yourself
To treat that someone how you want to be treated yourself
To love someone else!
Love has the power to set you free!

I see change a coming and it’s here right now!

Words & Music by Larry Long
© Larry Long 2012/BMI

Larry at 2011 PACERS Conference

At the annual PACERS conference, held in Camp Hill, Alabama, Larry Long was honored to receive an award from the Camp Hill PACERS Chapter award for his decades of work on behalf of people in rural Alabama.

Along with receiving the award, Larry facilitating a workshop on Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song, and was on hand to lead Edward Bell alumni and students in singing “Camp Hill” songs that were written during Larry’s residency at Edward Bell.

For more about the event, you can read the article from the Alexander City Outlook here.

[slideshow]

We’re still on a high from the Loring Theater concert. And are excited to share with you a great collections of photos from that night, thanks to Tony Nelson.

All photos © 2011 Tony Nelson.

[slideshow]