This is the third in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released January 2012.

Pelham, New York, 1960s

They’re in the front seat, he’s got the radio low

And the moon hangs over Idlewild as the planes touch down

He is talking but she’s not listening

She is thinking of her father, who died when she was young


In the mid-1960s my little world and the much larger one around me were both coming apart at the seams. You don’t see the correlation until much later – years later – but it’s there, and from the distance of decades it takes on its own kind of symmetry. From that distance another thing becomes visible: how much things have changed, and how little. Families still fall apart, hate still spawns more hate, the names change but the troubles don’t.

My father was a journalist; his beat was the Civil Rights movement. After John F. Kennedy was assassinated, my father, in a state of grief and anger, locked himself in the basement. As a small child, I found that terrifying.  Not long afterwards, the family of Medgar Evers, the slain civil rights leader, came to stay at our home in Pelham, New York, so that his widow Myrlie and my father could work on her memoir. During their visit there was a snowstorm, and their youngest son, Van and I built a snowman together in the front yard. It was the first time Van had ever seen snow. He was momentarily transported beyond his grief by the magic of it.

On our black and white TV in the kitchen, I watched Kennedy riding in the back of a limo – shot, fatally wounded, and falling into his wife’s lap, over and over again. In my front yard I played in the snow with a little boy who saw his father gunned down in his own driveway. The political is personal; the personal is political. We think we’re walking on the moon, but we are dancing in the dark.

We shoot our rockets, we shoot our presidents

We shoot the commies and the niggers and the Viet Cong

Everything changes, everything stays the same

And the moon hangs over Idlewild as the planes touch down


“Idlewild” by Gretchen Peters
© 2010 Circus Girl Music (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World