A while back I mentioned that I was recording a song for a movie, and I thought I would finally make time to tell you the story.
The movie is a short form, experimental film being written & directed by a young woman named Irena Weaver. The movie is about a woman confronting her painful experience with sexual assault. Irena asked if I could compose something for her, and I said yes.
Now for the back story: Irena’s mother, Ramona, and my wife were best friends growing up. Following college, Ramona joined the Navy and became a Pediatrician. Ramona was stationed in Okinawa and the wedding date my wife and I chose was based on when Ramona could get leave, return to the states and get back to Illinois. She traveled back to be our Matron of Honor with her first child, Erna’s godson, who was a toddler at the time. Talk about brave! After she left the Navy Ramona & her husband settled in California to raise their four kids together. Then Ramona was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Just before Christmas of 2003 Ramona lost her battle, despite everything she had endured in efforts to beat it.
During her illness Ramona wrote a prayer, one that was very meaningful to her and her family. Now, Ramona’s daughter Irena thought her mother’s words were fitting for one of the more intense scenes in the movie she was making. Irena says about the prayer, “I think she wrote it for self preservation during the tough times, to remind her of the qualities and values she cared about most as her health was deteriorating.” Irena asked me if I could compose a melody for her mother’s prayer. I agreed to give it a try. Irena wanted something soft and serene, yet somewhat melancholy.
Once I began composing “Ramona’s Prayer,” it became clear the song needed a female voice. Naturally, my first choice was Melissa Ridgeway, who sang the lead on my version of “Superstition,” and contributed awesome backing vocals on my EP “Frank Made Me Do It,” as well as singing on some unreleased tracks we did together. Luckily for me, and for everyone who ever gets to hear this tune, Melissa said yes. We spent a few hours recording, and Melissa poured everything into it. You can hear the raw emotion in every note. The combination of Melissa’s heartfelt interpretation, Ramona’s beautiful words, and everyone’s understanding of the back story brought forth something really special. Melissa was inspired by Ramona’s words, and wrote some additional lyrics to give the song a second verse.
When you hear this song you will probably be surprised. There are no guitars, no bass, and no drums. Although I wrote it on guitar I felt that piano and a small string section was what was needed to support the melody and Melissa’s voice. I’m very happy with the results. Arranging the strings was a new thing for me, and was tremendously enjoyable. The most important thing, though, is bringing Ramona’s prayer to life, and letting it provide comfort & solace for people that all of us involved in the making of this song will never meet. My wish is that through this song Ramona is able to touch the lives of many, many people.
("Ramona's Prayer" will be available at all major online music retailers on Monday, March 20, 2016. A portion of all profits will go to charity.) UPDATE: Here are links to "Ramona's Prayer" on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.