Redemption Day

In 1995, American singer, songwriter and actress Sheryl Crow travelled to Bosnia to give a concert for military service people. What she witnessed there, along with the largely-unheeded genocide in Rwanda, inspired her to write “Redemption Day,” a song which she says has a Bob Dylan-inspired lyric.

The song is on her 1996 self-titled album. I have never followed Crow or particularly been enamoured with many of her hits like the pop number “Everyday Is a Winding Road.” But when I noticed this morning that she had participated in an instalment of American musician, composer and podcaster Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder, taking apart and telling the story of a song featuring the voice of Johnny Cash, I was interested and listened to the podcast episode from June 2019. (I highly recommend listening to it as well.)

Crow sang at the funeral of June Carter Cash (1929-2003), a frequent collaborator with her husband Johnny Cash (1932-2003). Soon after, Johnny called Crow, wanting to cover “Redemption Day” and had questions about some of the lyrics. His 2003 recording was released posthumously on American VI: Ain’t No Grave (2010).

When Crow recorded a new version of the song in 2019, she added vocals from the Cash cover.

In the podcast, Crow tells how she felt deeply emotional in the studio recording the song while hearing the voice of the late singer-songwriter.

I’ve wept for those who suffer long
But how I weep for those who’ve gone
Into rooms of grief and questioned wrong
But keep on killing
It’s in the soul to feel such things
But weak to watch without speaking
Oh what mercy sadness brings
If God be willing

There is a train that’s heading straight
To Heaven’s gate, to Heaven’s gate
And on the way, child and man
And woman wait, watch and wait
For redemption day

Fire rages in the streets
And swallows everything it meets
It’s just an image often seen
On television
Come leaders, come ye men of great
Let us hear you pontificate
Your many virtues laid to waste
And we aren’t listening

There is a train that’s heading straight
To Heaven’s gate, to Heaven’s gate
And on the way, child and man
And woman wait, watch and wait
For redemption day

What do you have for us today
Throw us a bone but save the plate
On why we waited ’til so late
Was there no oil to excavate?
No riches in trade for the fate
Of every person who died in hate
Throw us a bone, you men of great

There is a train that’s heading straight
To Heaven’s gate, to Heaven’s gate
And on the way, child and man
And woman wait, watch and wait
For redemption day

It’s buried in the countryside
It’s exploding in the shells at night
It’s everywhere a baby cries
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom

(“Redemption Day,” by Sheryl Crow. Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

The result is a remarkable piece of music, complemented by a dramatic and, at times, disturbing music video about some of humankind’s activities on the planet.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Sheryl Crow’s official YouTube channel:

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