Music Video: From the play, “Baltimore, You Have No Idea,” first performed Dec. 2 and 3 in the city of its title, a new song by Mat Lane and Dan Rodricks.

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From the script: “The mayor, William Donald Schaefer, had quite a temper and he hated people who attacked his hometown. . . . In the early 1980s, when Randy Newman wrote and recorded a dreary song about Baltimore and sang it on Saturday Night Live — right in the middle of the Baltimore Renaissance — Mount Schaefer erupted and everyone ran for cover. That Newman song was an elegy to cities, like Baltimore, experiencing population loss, people moving to the suburbs. Schaefer couldn’t stand it. But it was indeed a downer — an honest song, but a downer. . I always thought Baltimore needed a song that nodded to what Newman was saying, but wasn’t so dreary. . . . So I asked Mat Lane, who grew up here, to help me with that . . . .

Every city needs a song, so I’m told.
A ballad or hymn or anthem bold.
A song that sings a city’s praises,
With melody n’ charming phrases.
New York has songs, Chicago too.
There are songs about Boston,
Songs about St. Lou.
Someone even wrote one about Mount Kisco.
Tony Bennett really meant it,
When he left his heart in San Francisco.
Baltimore needs a new song,
A really bold n’ inspirin’ one.
But keep expectations low, hon
The song you’re about to hear,
Is probably not that one . . . .

Oh Baltimore, Baltimore
You have no idea what goes on here.
You have no idea how weird it gets here.
Our mayor went to prison, our sewer overflows.
We buy up all the toilet paper every time it snows.
There’s Formstone on the homes,
N’ homes of painted brick.
Rats in the alleys,
That kinda make us sick.
It’s odd and perverse, a little kooky.
Edgar Poe died here —that’s kinda spooky.
Oh Baltimore, Baltimore,
I had no idea what I’d find here.
I had no idea that I’d stay here.
They said it was charming,
They said it was quaint.
But I know what it is now,
And I know what it ain’t.
It ain’t Chicago, Monte Carlo.
Houston or LA.
It ain’t pretentious, ostentatious,
It smells like Old Bay.
You can fall in love,
Fall in the harbor;
You can eat steamed crabs,
Shoot craps with your barber.
We grumble and we gripe.
That’s what we do.
We love our city
— rats, ruts, potholes and all.
And while the potholes never go away
We stay, we stay, we stay . . .
We stay cuz we’re from here,
And there’s a Here here.
A sense of place here.
And plenty of beer here.
It’s a hard place.
A cool place,
It’s a workin’ quirkin’ jerkin’ kinda place.
It’s good over here, shaky over there,
Rich on that block, poor on that one.
Awesome on Sunday,
A downer on Monday.
That’s how it goes . . .
I’ll tell you what,
A matter of fact,
A simple truth
Hard to redact:
Whatever we seek,
However far we roam,
Oh Baltimore, Oh Baltimore,
Baltimore stays our north star
Baltimore stays our north star
Baltimore stays our home.

2 thoughts on “Every city needs a song, so I’m told

  1. Clever lyrics, which is not a surprise. Dave Hardin, a musician friend I met through John Steadman years ago, wrote his own songs — and one titled “Baltimore” that had a refrain of …”Baltimore, you’re home to me….” was a song I thought would’ve been a great promotional tool for the city. John Waters used a few stanzas as backdrop of a bus pulling into a station in one of his movies. Somewhere I have a tape. Good stuff Dan….keep going!

    Liked by 1 person

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