Stranger there across the room Your children are my children too When seven days of May are done I’ll vote against amendment one
Father one or fathers two Your family is my family too Ties that bind won’t be undone We’ll vote against amendment one
Love thy neighbor, word and true Your neighbor is my neighbor too To work beside and lean upon And vote against amendment one
Points of light and points of view Your city is my city too The crumbling walls we’ll overrun To vote against amendment one
We cannot see for red or blue But your state it is my state too And when the 8th of May is come We’ll vote against amendment one We’ll rise up with the morning sun And vote against amendment one The sounding cry has just begun
We’ll vote against amendment one
In retrospect it may seem obvious: Molly McGinn was right. But a month ago when Laurelyn Dossett was trying to figure out what to do about the state marriage amendment, releasing a song and video was just one of the options on the table. Dossett originally toyed with the idea of a concert, but McGinn said a video would reach more people and suggested they collaborate with Monkeywhale’s Harvey Robinson. Once the two musicians decided to go for it, everything moved very quickly.
And it hasn’t slowed down. Dossett wrote the song in a day, and two days later was already assembling a group of other musicians to start recording and filming. Just over a week later the “Vote Against Amendment One” video was released and became an instant success. It has been viewed more than 30,000 times on Vimeo and YouTube in the few short weeks since it was released.
McGinn originally wrote a different song against the amendment to perform at a rally at Replacements Limited several months ago, which is part of what made her consider the power of a video.
“You can’t reach 25,000 people at a concert that you hold at the Blind Tiger but you can do it if you put something online,” McGinn said. “You can’t throw digital media away.”
Dossett intentionally made the song simple and easy to copy, inviting other musicians to offer their own take so the message would reach as far as possible. By now so many people have sung the words in so many genres, it’s become difficult to keep count.
Bluegrass. Punk. A string quartet. Spiritual. Covers from Massachusetts and Texas and Canada. Ukelele. A Broadway singer. Indie soul. A drum solo. Live at Birdland in New York City. Electronica. In the two days it takes for this issue to go to print, this list will already be out of date.
Rebecca White recorded her cover just after waking up, before brushing her teeth and still wearing her pajamas. White lived in Greensboro for a decade before moving to the western part of the state, and has collaborated with Dossett before. When she read Dossett’s lyrics, White knew there was no reason not to record her own version of the song.
“I love the melody and the sound of it, but when you sit down and read the lyrics as a poem, it really speaks to all of the issues surrounding this,” White said. “Music is a voice, and so when someone gives you the words as a musician it’s your responsibility to spread the word.”
She’s received a lot of positive feedback, but White said it has nothing to do with her and everything to do with the message, joking she could have burped the words and people still would have been excited.
High Point-based musician Joshua West felt the same way. “The main thing is not so much me doing my version of it, but more just another voice added to the chorus,” he said. “I don’t think the amendment does anything good. It’s only taking rights away from people. In my heart I feel it’s wrong and this was a great way for me to get that out there.”
West was floored when he saw the original video, calling his wife in the room to watch it. When he saw they were calling for covers, he felt he had to record a version.
The most popular cover to be released yet, the brainchild of Greensboro’s Scott Hicks, is the punk-rock version. Featuring Dossett, McGinn and brief statements by locals, the video hit nearly 5,000 views a mere 24 hours after being posted. McGinn embraced the chance to sing in a new style and collaborate with new musicians.
“I’ve never been so ramped up,” she said. “I’m ready to just go punk and start a punk cover band.”
Like most of the other musicians lending their voice to the cause, Mc- Ginn seemed stunned the amendment even made it to a vote, calling it “the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
Artist and recent UNCG graduate Matt Northrup, who played guitar on the punk version, used slightly more colorful language articulating his disgust for the amendment.
“It’s really awesome that everyone has come together and spoken out to an extent against this f**ked-up amendment,” he said. “If one person’s mind is changed or this reminds people to go vote, it’s worth it. It’s more about the message than the actual song. If you’re for it, you hate gay people, and it is sort of as straight up as that.”
Northrup helped write the new version in under an hour, which he said was easy because Hicks had a good sense of what he wanted. He moved to Charlottesville on April 29, but voted early against the amendment first.
Both Dossett’s original and the punk cover include interviews with various community leaders, including Mayor Robbie Perkins, business owners like Dennis Quaintance and even an appearance by Greensboro rollergirls like Kimmie Kadan. Her reason for participating was simple.
“It’s discrimination,” she said. “All people should be treated equally and the government doesn’t need to be controlling who can get married.”
Perkins said the amendment would have a significant negative impact on business if passed, calling it a “regressive” amendment.
“I campaigned on trying to bring Greensboro together as one community, and this flies in the face of that goal,” said Perkins, who is a Republican. “In my view this is a discriminatory amendment. I’m going to go vote right now and I’m going to vote no.”
Robinson came up with the idea of filming the recording and cutting it with interviews. Even though he has worked with hundreds of bands, he’s only made a video like this once before. Videos have already played a powerful role for both sides in the amendment debate, he said, pointing to powerful videos distributed by Protect All NC Families.
“I moved here about 22 years ago and I was sort of taken by how open and accepting the people were here,” said Robinson, who is British. “I just don’t think this piece of legislation reflects that. It’s hateful.”
When Evan Olson recorded his cover, he said most of the versions that had been put out were folky. Olson released a spiritual and a rock version, offering a more “stand up and shout protest” take on the song. While he said anyone who believes in equal rights should vote against the amendment, Olson hopes people will do more research on it after listening to the songs.
Many of the musicians generally keep political content out of their music but made an exception for the marriage amendment.
“It’s pretty scary to me any time that an amendment is proposed that takes people’s rights away,” said Martha Bassett, who is in the original video. “This is going to affect all families. We would be very shortsighted to pass something that we don’t even understand all of the implications of.”
Bassett said while she doesn’t have a problem with gay marriage, that isn’t the issue because it is already illegal, but said the amendment would negatively impact custody, insurance and eldercare cases, and unmarried heterosexual couples.
Dossett made her first foray into politics with the song, and said she wasn’t sure why this was the one issue that’s really gotten under her skin.
“I’ve realized how insidious and far-reaching it is and how harmful it could be to such a broad swath of my fellow citizens,” she said. “I’ve actually been pretty careful not to be political from the stage. I’m not trying to convince people who will never change their minds. It’s to get people who might be complacent to realize that they can’t be.”
Since releasing the song, Dossett has performed it at Shakori Hills and is scheduled at rallies throughout the state leading up to the vote on May 8. Less than a week after it came out, she performed with some of the other singers from the original at a rally of hundreds at College Park Baptist Church on Aycock Street alongside state NAACP President William Barber.
Not every musician speaking out against the amendment is covering Dossett’s song. Crys Matthews, who has a lot of family in North Carolina but recently moved to Virginia, released “Sweet Carolina” about the need to push back against regressive social laws like the amendment.
“As an out lesbian who is engaged and planning to start a family, this law would make it difficult for my future wife and I to feel that our family was safe there,” Matthews said, adding that she was considering moving back to the state.
The point isn’t one person or one version though, Dossett said. The point is to reach as many people as possible and help defeat the amendment. With most signs pointing towards a very close vote, the tens of thousands of people listening to her words could easily be the difference.
One unplanned perk of the video, Robinson said, was that lots of people who have moved away have reached out to say how proud the video has made them to be from Greensboro. Dossett too, has been inspired by the outcome.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the community coming together,” she said. “I think the song has been something that people can rally around. The point is that people are rallying, not the song itself.”