“Let the music keep our spirits high
Let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal its secrets by and by, by and by
When the light that’s lost within us reaches the sky”
Before the Deluge, Jackson Browne
Before the Deluge is a song from Jackson Browne’s third album, Late for the Sky. Released on Asylum Records, September 13, 1974. It reached number 14 on the Billboard Pop Album charts. I personally believe that Late for the Sky is a masterpiece. Before the Deluge, the last song on the record, it tells the story of my, “The Boomer,” generation. It points out our dreams, ideas, illusions and eventual fall from grace in a metaphorical way. It is ultimately the story of our failure to live up to even a few of our seemingly high ideals.
But, you may notice that I called this episode of my column, “After” the Deluge. This is not the story of a failure to live up to high ideals, but instead, it’s an example how to live up to the highest ideals. The last weekend of June, I was scheduled to perform at the 6th Annual Red Lodge Songwriter’s Festival in Red Lodge, Montana. It is a 3 day multi-venue festival in a beautiful mountain town which is the gateway to the northern and probably most scenic entrance to Yellowstone National Park via the Beartooth Highway. Unfortunately the week before the festival the area was devastated by what has been called a 1000 year flood. Heavy wet snowfall in the Beartooths followed by torrential rain turned streams into rivers of trees, debris and houses. Red Lodge had a significant portion of it’s homes and business flooded when Rock Creek, which flows through town, went out of its banks, clogged a bridge with debris, effectively creating a dam which spread the already flooded area even more, out roads, houses and flooding entire neighborhoods. It was a massive blow to this town of less than 3,000, whose economy is largely based on Yellowstone tourism. Last I heard there is no projected date for reopening the Beartooth Highway.
The entire town worked tirelessly to clear debris, minimize street closures and got the town back into good enough shape to have the festival in 8 days. It was amazing to see the spirit of this small town and their determination to not be beat down by this disaster. Other than a few businesses being closed and street closures the town continued almost as if nothing had happened. A true example of the western spirit and an inspiration to myself and everyone who attended.
The Red Lodge Songwriter Festival is run by an executive committee, headed by Mike Booth, festival partners, sponsors and an amazing bunch of volunteers who saw to it that this sold out festival was a complete success. I can safely say they worked their tails off. What an inspiration it was to be a part of what by itself is a great festival and all the disaster cleanup work put in before our arrival made it an extraordinary festival.
The laudable goals of the this and its two sister festivals is to; #1 promote the craft of songwriting and share the creativity of songwriters with our fans, #2 promote tourism in our host communities and #3 support music education in our local schools and colleges. Red Lodge and it’s sister festivals; Yellowstone Songwriter Festival in Cody, WY and the Whitefish Songwriter Festival in Whitefish, MT share these goals.
In this era of streaming music, where the artists who write and perform the songs they have written are poorly compensated for the use of their life’s work by tech companies with billions of dollars in income. These companies such as Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon, YouTube and others make huge profits off the backs of songwriters while giving us but a pittance for the use of our music. But festivals like Red Lodge, it’s sister festivals and many other similar events across the country attempt to put the music first and compensate the artists fairly. These festivals are the conduit for artists to find new fans, sell merchandise and even procure slots in others festivals, house concerts and venues. Without events such as Red Lodge we would be much poorer both financially and inspirationally.
I want to simply say thank you to the folks who make these events possible by their donations, hard work and perseverance on behalf of myself and all the artists lucky enough to participate. THANK YOU!!!
I would encourage fans of great songwriting to attend these festivals. They are not just in Montana and Wyoming. Texas has the Dripping Springs Songwriter Festival and the Corpus Christi Songwriter festival to name a couple. Almost every state has something similar. If you are a fan of music, as I suppose you must be since you are reading this on the Americana Highways website where it is hosted, I highly recommend you seek out these festivals which celebrate the folks who create the music we hear and count on to inspire and entertain us.
I also want to give a huge shout of the town of Red Lodge, Montana. They did not let disaster drag them down. Instead they used it to lift each other up and to inspire every one of us that attended as performers and as audience. THANK YOU RED LODGE! You give me hope for the future of mankind. You all are you truly heroes. Showing me that things don’t have to fall apart After the Deluge.
I would love to see your comments, complaints, corrections and suggestions. As they say, hit me with your best shot. I welcome every single one; positive or negative.
Randy Lewis Brown may be a over-the-hill, baby boomer, curmudgeon who is also an award-winning Northeast Texas-based singer-songwriter and self-proclaimed “performing philosopher”. Despite his years, and an early bedtime, he remains stedfast in attempting to decipher the intersection of spirit, faith, science and the human condition. Always trying to maintain a sense of wonder and whimsy in his occasionally clever folk-Americana songs and stories. He also hopes to continue to be hopeful even when it appears there is none.