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BBC/London requests hurricane blues song from Hawkeye Herman

"Hawkeye" Herman pens hurricane song
By David Burke

Saturday, September 10, 2005
Quad City Times, Davenport, IA

Michael "Hawkeye" Herman says he works best under the pressure of a deadline.

It's a good thing.

The Davenport, IA, native and nationally acclaimed blues performer was tabbed by the British Broadcasting Corp., or BBC, to write a song about Hurricane Katrina. The request came the day after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 30 - and his deadline was Sept. 2.

"If I'm given a deadline, it could be a year away and I'm waiting until three or four days away anyway," Herman said in a telephone interview Friday from Kansas City, Mo. "I work better under a tight deadline."

Herman was in Kansas City to perform at a blues festival and a "blues in the schools" program. He was to debut the song, "Katrina, Oh Katrina," Friday night on a KC public radio station.

It is scheduled to be performed on BBC Radio's "Today" show sometime next week. The morning show has an audience of 7 million, Herman has been told, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Herman had written about disasters before, including the Great Flood of '93 that struck the Quad-City (IA & IL) region and beyond.

A BBC producer became acquainted with the musician while researching a book, "Blue Highway," about the musical legacy of U.S. 61.

That same producer had 20 minutes' notice to pack his bags and fly from London to Biloxi, Miss., to cover the Katrina devastation, Herman said.

"He said it looked like a bomb went off."

The 60-year-old Herman said he came up with much of the lyrics and the tune to the blues song while taking his daily bike ride in S. Oregon, where he now lives with his family.

"The first thing I thought of was that Katrina was such a beautiful name to have that attached to a disaster," he said. "That was going to be the hook."

Herman said he is very familiar with Biloxi, including its 14 huge casinos, all of which were destroyed by the hurricane and its aftermath.

Despite seeing the damage on TV, he said it is hard to comprehend.

"If the land around the Mississippi was flat and, if you could imagine, everything all the way up to Locust Street (in Davenport, IA) from the river wiped out," he said. And pointing out that it is 70 miles from Biloxi to New Orleans, "If you could imagine a line like that from Dubuque, IA to the Quad-Cities destroyed."

Herman said he becomes reflective after disasters like Katrina and looks at the big picture.

"I have a tendency to say, 'OK, what have we learned from this? What can we learn from this? What positive thing can come out of it?' " he said. "It seems that no matter what disasters are thrust upon humanity, we somehow manage to adapt and adjust and rebuild and eventually put the negative aspects aside."

Ellis Kell, a veteran Quad-City blues musician and director of music, programs and operations for the River Music Experience, said Herman's background qualified him to write the song.

"Hawkeye's always been sensitive to that because he's from this area," Kell said. "We both shared a sensitivity to that, growing up around the river, and I think all musicians do."

Herman — whose songs about the '93 flood were used in several documentaries — said he hopes the new song can be commercially recorded, either by himself or someone else, with the profits going to relief efforts.

"My artistic and commercial interests are the same. I would feel absolutely guilt-ridden to have a disaster be the result of my seeing profit," he said. "That's nice, but I couldn't see myself profiting from it."

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Katrina, Oh Katrina (Hurricane Blues)

Song sampleWords and music by
Michael "Hawkeye" Herman
©2005 M.Herman/Topaz Productions
www.HawkeyeHerman.com

Katrina, oh Katrina
You have such a lovely name
Katrina, oh Katrina
You have such a lovely name
But since Hurricane Katrina
Things will never be the same

You were born out on the water
But it was land that you would claim
You were born out on the water
But it was the earth that you would claim
Katrina, oh Katrina
You have such a lovely name

Your wind it started rising
Then your mighty waters came
Yes, your wind it started rising
Then your mighty waters came
Katrina, oh Katrina
You have such a lovely name

So many dead, so many homeless
It's a sad and crying shame
So many dead and thousands homeless
Yes, it's a sad and crying shame
But Katrina, oh Katrina
Such a lovely, deadly name

You brought ruin to New Orleans
The land where blues rose up to fame
Yes, you brought your devastation
To where these blues rose up to fame
But Katrina, oh Katrina
You have such a lovely name

The lesson you have taught us
There is no storm that man can tame
Yes, there's a lesson you have taught us
There is no storm that we can tame
Katrina, oh Katrina
You have such a lovely, deadly name

We're going to start all over
All you've destroyed we will reclaim
Yes, we're going to start all over
All you've destroyed we will reclaim
But we won't forget Katrina
Such a lovely, deadly name

Katrina, oh Katrina
You have such a lovely name
Katrina, oh Katrina
You have such a lovely name
But since Hurricane Katrina
Things will never be the same

. Hawkeye performs in France / US Ambassador to France attends in-school presentation
. BBC/London requests hurricane blues song from Hawkeye Herman
. Hawkeye Herman inducted into Iowa Blues Hall of Fame
. Hawkeye performs on the 2005 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise in the Caribbean (125kb file)
. Hawkeye's happy to share the blues with students (758kb file)
. Hawkeye performs on the roundtrip Delta Music Experience Cruise from New Orleans to Baton Rouge
. Hawkeye Herman Takes Blues To New York City's "Theatre Row"
. The Iowa blues: Baby, what you gonna do? Hawkeye performs with Gov. Howard Dean
. Tying Bob Quigley's Signature Flies / Volume One with music by Michael "Hawkeye" Herman
 
 
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