Shortly after the 2004 election, I awoke with the last verse and chorus of Back of the Line repeating in my mind: ‘Get in line, stand in line / There’s plenty of room at the back of the line’.
That day, I began to compose a historical fiction song starting with the last verse, when the lead character is disenfranchised in the 2004 election by long voting lines. The third verse references the harrowing tale told by the late civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis, when police cracked down on the Selma march in 1965. The first verse takes place in 1929, at the onset of the Great Depression, when the protagonist is an infant and her mother is unjustly sent to the back of a bread line.
This song is an homage to everyone who has been unjustly told to get to the back of the line, and then told again to fall in line — and yet their perseverance against indignities has continued across decades and generations. This song honors the vast courage shown by ordinary people in extraordinary times.
I heartily thank Brad Friedman at BradBlog.com for his coverage of election integrity and fairness. This song was surely inspired by his reporting way back then. Just like today, he channeled our collective outrage about the intentional use of long lines for voter suppression. In Cleveland in 2004, upon reaching the sign-in table, anyone mistakenly in the wrong line was sent to the back of another.
Now, in March 2021, I dedicate this recording to US Senate passage of the For the People Act. We must pass this historic voting rights and election integrity legislation, even if it requires eliminating the Jim Crow filibuster.
Update: The new recording of “Back of the Line” debuted on the very same radio program which inspired it many years ago. Follow this link to hear the March 18, 2021 episode of the Bradcast — hosted by Brad Friedman and produced by Desi Doyen, based at KPFK in Los Angeles and broadcasting five days a week through dozens of affiliates. Listen around the 42 minute mark for their kind introduction and the song’s broadcast debut. Visit their website at www.bradblog.com for timeless reporting on the issues which matter most.