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Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor Writes A New Song For A Troubled America

Old Crow Medicine Show
Courtesy of the artist
Old Crow Medicine Show

First, a pandemic, then economic collapse and now there are mass demonstrations over police brutality and racism.

In times of upheaval like this, music can be an escape. Maybe a way to reflect or try to make sense of things. This is what led to a new series we're launching today. For the Morning Edition Song Project, we've been asking musicians to write and perform an original song for us.

"What I really wanted to do was to write a song that felt like 'God Bless America,' but I also wanted to have a little 'This Land is Your Land,' too," says Ketch Secor, the lead singer of Old Crow Medicine Show and the first guest in the series.

"I think we, as songwriters, got to keep adding to the canon of songs about America because we need to update it," he says. "These are troubling times and we need new songs about our country to inspire unity."

When we approached Secor some weeks ago, we asked him to write a song about the pandemic. The demonstrations sparked by the police killing of George Floyd hadn't started yet.

The song Secor wrote is called "Pray for America," and he hopes it speaks to this moment as well.

"You know when you write music, you're trying to make universal statements. Great songs like 'Blowin' in the Wind,' they're not about particular vantage points, they're not about any particular side or affiliation," he says. "Great songs are there for all to enjoy, and for all to see themselves in. So writing a song about COVID-19, if it's any good, it ought to be able to translate from a global pandemic to a cry for justice."

Listen to the full interview, including a conversation with Old Crow Medicine drummer Jerry Pentecost about navigating Nashville's country music scene as a black man, in the audio player above.

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David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.