Hey, it’s me – I’m made in America! Granted, I contain a lot of foreign parts, but they were imported decades ago, back when foreigners were allowed in. I’m American! It’s Made in America Week!
This week, don’t listen to foreign music – Listen American! Every song I write, every single note, was composed here in America. Sure, some of those notes and words were used before, somewhere else in the world, but I put them together, proudly, right here in the good old USA.
If everyone would just listen to American music this week, American Songwriters like me wouldn’t have to sell so many t-shirts and mugs to make up for lost revenue in the recent shift to music streaming. I used to get $2.25 every time one of my CDs (made in the USA) sold, and I used to get $0.66 every time someone downloaded a song from Apple (American!) or Amazon (American!). I made a decent hard-earned dollar and paid my bills!
Did you know that YouTube (American…) pays me $0.000026 every time someone listens to one of my songs? It’s hard to count that many zeros. Try this: Last month, 71,154 people enjoyed one of my songs, and I got $1.85. That ain’t a gallon of gas or a cup of coffee. If every red-blooded American listened to my songs once this week (300 million or so) I would make $7,800! American Songwriters could make money from Americans listening to American songwriting, if only we all listened til our ears bled!
Until America is made great again, and our elected officials change the laws so that American songwriters can make a decent wage again, here’s a little something we can all do:
If you’ve been really enjoying someone’s music on Spotify, Pandora or YouTube (the artists don’t have to be American), pay them something. You could pay for a download, or buy their CD. Just buying one song for $0.99 gives that artist the monetary equivalent of 38,461 listens on YouTube! It would be downright patriotic to put one of your hard-earned American dollars towards the music (and musicians) you love.
And remember, if you live in the USA – every deed you do, every thought you think, is Made in America!
During the 60’s we spent every Christmas day at my grandparents’ house in Los Gatos, CA. Cousins from out of town were sometimes there with their moms and dads. It was noisy and fun. When Grandaddy picked up the phone to call his siblings in Denmark, we all had to be very quiet. It was so expensive to call overseas, we were made aware of how extravagant it was. He spoke first to the operator, and when the call finally went through, he spoke a strange language, loudly, into the phone. He smiled, he laughed. My mom remembers him crying. When he hung up, things returned to normal noisy celebration. He was just Granddaddy again.
He came to United States as a boy, by himself, in 1921. He was not a refugee. His mother, father, brother and sisters continued to live in Copenhagen, while he, at the age of 14, decided to go to work onboard steamships, first as a cabin boy and then as a doctor’s assistant. When he was 16 he jumped ship in San Francisco, and lived the rest of his life in the Bay Area. He was an illegal immigrant.
His life as an American was ultimately successful. He fathered a large family, and became a respected businessman. He was a funny and engaging public speaker. A warm grandfather. That’s the man I knew.
After he died in 1979, his sisters gave me a box of letters he’d written to Copenhagen from the time he left home. In them, his homesickness is laid bare. He loved his siblings, and his mother especially. He wanted so much to see them. But during the 1920’s he was illegal – he could not travel outside the U.S. He fell in love, married, and soon became a father. He earned U.S. citizenship and dreamt of bringing his young family to visit Denmark, but the depression of the 1930’s descended and there was no money. Then came the war. When the Nazis invaded and occupied Denmark, communication became censored and sporadic. His letters to Denmark are full of worry.
It wasn’t until 1947, two years after the war ended, that he was able to book passage on a freighter to Europe to finally see his family in Copenhagen again. He’d found success with a truck leasing company during the war years, and had enough money to bring his whole family, and mountains of food and clothing for his war-deprived siblings. They docked in Rotterdam, and took trains through the bombed-out cities of Europe to his old home of Copenhagen. They stayed for 4 months, until business called him back to the U.S. In the coming years he was able to visit Denmark again a few times, and every Christmas he treated himself to a phone call.
Why did he leave Denmark as a boy? A restless nature? A spat with his father? A yearning for opportunity? We don’t really know.
I recently took a Lyft ride in LA with a Bangladeshi immigrant. 35 years in the U.S., a citizen, owner of 2 successful liquor stores, proud of the Bangladesh community in L.A. He taught his children Bangla, they enjoy talking with their cousins in the old country, but they are fully American. He said he loves to travel ‘home’ every year, but that he doesn’t fit in there anymore. He’s too American now. But, he says, every hour of every day he thinks of home. It’s a constant ache. He is never fully at home in America.
I imagine my grandfather suffered similarly.
We are born somewhere, we grow up somewhere, it becomes a part of us. Why do some people emmigrate? Why do some people stay when opportunity is scarce, or danger imminent? Even within a country, people could move to a new region or state to find work. But then there’s home. While economic opportunity (or lack thereof) or escape from danger are powerful motivators for moving, home is a gravitational force. If we leave home, it will still, like gravity, tug at us.
If my residence was based on economic self-interest, I should be in LA or NY. The job opportunities are much better there for my line of work. And I’ve spent a few months living in each of those cities, but they’re just not home to me. I even tried living in my Grandfather’s country, Denmark – I loved it, yet I felt more comfortable when I got back to the U.S. If circumstances forced me to, I could learn to live somewhere else. And it would become a kind of home to me. But I would always miss where I came from.