Singer-songwriter hits right chord with Obama song
Barack Steady' became fixture at local Democratic events
A songwriter who recorded a pro-Barack Obama theme song during the presidential campaign says he hopes his work will turn into an anthem for the President-elect's supporters after it has become a fixture at local campaign events.
Royal Height, who wrote and sang "Barack Steady" in cooperation with producers Adrian Boston and Ron Reace under Forestville production company VENRO Records, said he wrote the song in July after becoming increasingly frustrated with America's foreign policy and the crumbling economy.
"I really felt like it would be an anthem song that could rally people to support [Obama]," said Height, who lives in Washington, D.C. "It would also be an inspirational song to get people out to vote [and to] give people inspiration to fight harder."
The one-song album by the same name has sold about 3,000 copies in local stores and on the album's Web site since it was released in August, according to Adrian Boston, the song's co-producer. The song, based on "Rock Steady" by the rhythm and blues band The Whisperers, urges listeners to vote for Obama: "Barack Obama, for everybody not just some/We support Barack Obama, the hope we know a change will come."
Height said he has always had strong political views, but said he felt a particular sense of urgency when he recorded the song.
"A lot of people are living paycheck to paycheck, watching the morals of the world just deteriorate," he said. "We really need someone who's concerned about all of us."
Boston, a Hyattsville resident, said he was originally reluctant to become involved in the project. A Jehovah's Witness, he said his religion discourages direct political advocacy. But Boston, 48, decided to co-produce the song after deciding the album would become part of the country's political history, he said.
The song "is something I have done where I could say, Yeah, I did that," Boston said. "That's pretty historic."
But Boston said his view of the album is less ideological than Height's.
"If John McCain came to me and wanted me to do a campaign song, I guess I'd have to do it," said Boston. "I'm in the music business."
The song got its first break Aug. 28 at a post-nomination party at The Sideline, an Upper Marlboro restaurant. Sherry Stevens-Lord, the event's organizer, got a group of middle school girls from Dance Makers, Inc., a Lanham-based dance studio, to dance to the song under the name "The Barack Steady Dancers" after a disc jockey played it.
The crowd's response was "overwhelmingly positive, because the lyrics were so positive," Stevens-Lord said. "It got people in a celebratory mood."
"Everybody was dancing," said Height, who said it was the first time he saw his song played for a live audience. "It was really a happy time."
Height said he went on to play the song for a debate-night party in September in Washington that was organized for members of the Congressional Black Caucus. He played the song again at an election night party at La Fontaine Bleu in Lanham, which Stevens-Lord organized on behalf of the Obama campaign, she said.
Height claims members of the Democratic National Committee told him Obama and his wife, Michelle, had listened to the song and said they liked it. Marvin Turner, the deputy director of the office of the secretary for the DNC, denied that. In any case, the song's MySpace list of friends includes Obama's official MySpace site.
The song gained an online following after someone posted it on the video-sharing site YouTube after mixing it with video clips of Obama and footage from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
Comments on the post, which had been viewed 2,620 times by Dec. 31, range from "sweet" and "omg i luv this mix" to appeals for people to vote on Election Day.
The song was played for the first time on the radio by Donnie Simpson, a D.C. disc jockey for radio station WPGC, in August. Height said he was not sure whether Simpson would play the song until Boston called and told him to turn on the radio. It was an exciting moment, he said.
"I mean, I got chills just to hear myself," Height said. "I was excited, kind of taken in by the moment."
Height said he has been invited to perform the song at several inaugural balls this year, including one sponsored by a Beltsville group called Dream Achieved. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be among the event's guests, according to the group's Web site. Height said he met with the group Dec. 31 to discuss whether he will perform at the event.
Austin Goma, a lawyer for Dream Achieved, confirmed Height is being considered for the event.
Height said he believes his song will continue to inspire Obama's supporters and sway his opponents even after the election is over. Warren "Scooter" Magruder, the manager of Roadhouse Oldies, a music store in Silver Spring that sells the album, said the song has a big impact on his customers.
The CD has been "selling like crazy," he said. "When we get three or four people in the store we play it, and people start singing along."