Sandy Rapp Wing
Review by Jed Ryan
SANDY RAPP: "STILL MARCHIN'": A Review
Singer. Songwriter. Author. Activist. Sandy Rapp, who lives on New York's Long Island, proudly makes folk music that's about the gay community and for the gay community. But the battle for full equality branches out to many fronts, and thus Ms. Rapp also writes and performs songs dealing with the heady issues of war, feminism,
reproductive rights, and the underlying fight for separation of church and
state that runs through many of those issues. The very first time I heard
Sandy Rapp's music was circa 1997, when Ms. Rapp performed a guitar-and-vocals
mini-concert for the organization P-FLAG at a Universalist Unitarian Church.
Granted, the setting was intimate, but nevertheless I don't ever recall a performer
who was able to connect to his or her audience the way Ms. Rapp did that
afternoon-- not just thanks to her music but because of her ingratiating
personality as well. I have no doubt that she would have had the same
effect if she had performed at Giants Stadium. I bought a copy of Sandy
Rapp's 1995 album "We the People" (on cassette!) and later,
snail-mailed a letter of admiration to her (Remember, this was before the
Internet became part of our daily lives...). Among the songs that
Rapp gave her audience that Sunday afternoon was "Everyone Was at
Stonewall", which is quintessential Sandy Rapp: an immediately catchy,
campfire-style melody with instantly accessible, sing-along lyrics. And,
like most of Rapp's songs, the tune was patently created for the crusade towards
equality. Twelve years after it was written, Rapp's timeless musical
tribute to the historic riots of 1969 ("To hear it told, Everyone was at
Stonewall; It's widely known, not a soul was home; Every G. & L. has a New
York tale to tell, 'Cause Stonewall was everyone...") deservedly won the
2004 Stonewall Society Award for "Pride Song". Rapp performs the
song as part of GLBT sensitivity training for police officers. What
motivates Sandy Rapp? In an interview with Gay Today's Jack Nichols a few
years ago, Rapp revealed what her turning point was: "When Anita Bryant
began her crusade, I began mine. I stopped writing silly love songs and
began writing anti-fundamentalist exposes. Reagan was the clincher.
I became an activist the day he announced his candidacy". It may have
been reaction to anti-gay troublemakers that got Rapp started. But it is
this artist's unyielding commitment to equality, combined with her talent for
writing and making music, that would assure us that 36 years after Stonewall,
Sandy Rapp is ... "Still Marchin'"!
The first track of "Still Marchin'", Sandy Rapp's third CD, is "Legislator Postal On Our Side", a tribute to the late Suffolk County Legislator Maxine Postal, who was an ardent ally of not only Long Island's GLBT community but of other minorities as well ("She said: I Am Drag Queen and Latina, I Am Black, I Am Gay; I am Jew, I am Gentile, I am Jain; I am always down to business, I am always up to game; And I'm proud to be among you on your way...") . I had the privilege of profiling Legislator Postal in 2002, and I can vouch that Postal single-handedly renewed many fair-minded Long Islanders' faith in politics. A song about a local politician is a bold choice for the opening song of any CD, but then again, boldness has always been a part of Rapp's persona. Echoing the title of her first CD, "We the People" (a title that holds several meanings when it comes to Rapp's music... ), Rapp indeed makes music for the people. In this case, it's the Long Island gay community, and this community knows first-hand that Maxine Postal was indeed a heroine. Likewise, the Long Island GLBT community will no doubt appreciate many of Rapp's references in the song, including a nod to Long Island's local GLBT news magazine "Outlook". Later on in the CD, Rapp resurrects her emblematic 1989 track "Remember Rose: A Song for Choice": a solemn and powerful tribute to the "Rose" of the title, the first fatality of the 1977 Medicaid-abortion cutoff. The song features guest vocals by the late Congresswoman Bella Abzug, one of Rapp's role models who shared the artist's views on full equality for all. Yes, Bella Abzug sings on this track! Another song about the right to choose, "Where Were the Flowers", is dedicated to Becky Bell, who died in 1988 at age 17 from complications resulting from an back-street abortion. Bell sought the illegal procedure in a desperate attempt to avoid telling her parents that she was pregnant-- a result, in part, of the "Parental Involvement" Law in Indiana at the time. "Flag & the Rainbow" is dedicated to "all those fallen to the anti-gays": "We sing for the dead and gone, For the daughters and the sons; We march toward laws for the living, In the states and Washington..." The song makes references to Matthew Shepard, Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill, Billy Jack Gaither, and others. Indeed, "Still Marchin'" is an "issues-oriented" CD, but Rapp brings these issues to life, with real stories of human experience: the pride and the prejudice. Her attitude, which comes through so vividly to the listener, is never a gloom-and-doom sermon but rather an energetic "Wake up and smell the issues!"-style call to action. As we look towards 2006, good old-fashioned gay and lesbian pride and activism is more important than ever... and Sandy Rapp is here to remind us of that. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better song for that kind of motivation than "Everyone Was at Stonewall", which can single-handedly revitalize any dormant feelings of pride that might have been tucked away since you came out of the closet. Rapp updates the song for 2005, adding lyrics about the seven states, plus D.C., that have passed gay rights protections since Rapp first wrote he song in 1992. For this listener at least, it was an encouraging sign that even as we face the unfriendly winds of our current so-called "leadership", we are making progress. There's some lighthearted stuff on "Still Marchin'" as well, such as Rapp's self-described Stonewall-era tale "Mary Mary", written in 1973; a light-as-air instrumental track "Sweetwood Aire"; and "Cagney's Song", a (dare I say?) cute song about Cagney, Rapp's beloved adopted pooch. Always giving a kind word to a worthy cause, in "Cagney's Song" Rapp praises the work of The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons. The CD closes with the dynamic, vivacious "Get A Voice", which Rapp calls "A Rainbow Sing-along". It's inspiring, empowering, and no less than triumphant.
On "Where Were the Flowers", Rapp reminisces, "Where were the flowers? We all wanted to know, For we were the flower children long time ago..." It's clear that Rapp's ideology from that era-- loving your fellow brothers and sisters, making a difference, starting a revolution, speaking out-- is stronger than ever. And, in 2005, it's more necessary than ever before. With "Still Marchin'", Sandy Rapp reminds us that many people can make music... but when someone makes music with a message, they also make history.
Visit www.SandyRapp.com .
PM Entertainment Magazine
StoneWall Society "Reviewer of the Year" 2005
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