Barbara Tilsen and I drove to the Children’s Music Network conference last weekend. We talked almost the whole way – 7 hours and 7 hours back. We’ve been friends for many years, something like 35 and have sung, shared and organized together. Barb is a wonderful singer, songwriter, community activist and spirit. And when these days do you ever get that kind of focused time with someone you love?
One topic of our conversation was how the world changes. I had been talking the day before to my friend Maia and one thread was about how small we are. How in the great wash of history and time and place, we are tiny. That’s no cause for alarm, but it does take some getting used to, especially when we all walk around being the center of our own universes. The idea of ripples came up, the small ripples we make. i carried that image into the conference, which was filled with its usual connections and strong singing. After attending a powerful workshop with Reggie Harris.on racism, music and change, the chorus to this song began to crystalize. I grabbed Tom Pease, sang him what I had, and said in my dreams i would work on the song with him and Reggie. We corralled Reggie, who was joyfully up for the challenge. And we began.
I’ve written here before about collaborative songwriting, and the opportunities and difficulties it offers. This particular session was a great exploration of that idea. The three of us worked and thought and changed and sang. A while later we were joined by Dave Orleans, whose insight was helpful. After an hour or so, we had a chorus and a verse. As in the best of collaborations, I can’t remember exactly who did what, nor do I care. I do know though that Tom came up with the line we’d been struggling with in the chorus, “When your heart is brave.” Something so simple went through a number of permutations until finally coming to rest.
We moved out into the rest of the evening. The next morning I added a verse.
Barbara and i left after lunch for the long drive home. Almost immediately I shared the song, and we began to crank out verses. We came up with four. I texted Tom and Reggie, and Reggie added one more.
It was too many, but great to have so many to choose from. Barb stayed at my house and the next morning we added a bridge, and then decided to record it. Why not? Not a finished recording, but a documentation of where it is right now. Will the song go any further? I don’t know. But here it is.
Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of Barb tp put in here. Above it’s tom, me, dave, and reggie, taken at the conference.
I’m including the lyrics and the discarded verses. Maybe they will find their way into the song yet.
Thanks for all my songwriting friends in this little venture. And of course, the Children’s Music Network for providing an amazing place for connection and creativity for years.
You Can Make a Ripple
You can make a ripple, ripple in the water
When your heart is brave
But it takes a lot of ripples
a lot of other ripples
To turn into a great big wave.
Stand on the edge of the deep deep water
You gotta take a breath
Cause the world needs people who can jump right in
Even when they’re scared to death
Tide gonna rise in the deep deep water
You can’t wait too long
Cause the world needs people who can swim upstream
Even when the current’s strong.
You can throw a stone in the deep deep water
See how far it goes
Cause the world needs people who can make a splash
watch how the circle grows
We’ll roll on 3x over the sea.
You can drill a well where deep deep water
Flows the whole world round
Cause the world needs people who can look inside
And let the walls come tumbling down
You can feel us all getting stronger
Than we’ve ever been before
As the waves of love push our boats along
And we land on that distant shore.
We’ll roll on 3x over the sea.
© Reggie Harris, Dave Orleans, Tom Pease, Stuart Stotts Barb Tilsen 2018
Float on the surface of the deep deep water
Where everything is set
But the world needs people who can look beneath
And let their feet get wet.
As if there’s no mistake and let the bubble break
When things are getting worse. Let the bubble burst.
Until the daylight’s gone see what’s going on.
You can hear songs across the deep deep water
Powerful and true
Cause the world needs people who can sing along.
there’s a part for you
Dave Orleans added a verse
You might feel that one small person
Is powerless day-to-day
But a whole lotta drops can make a mighty torrent
That’ll wear a (that) mountain away