By Mark Dreisonstok
John Britton, a native of Ohio and a long-time resident of Falls Church, wrote and recorded a song in April dedicated to the “unsung heroes” of our Covid-19 world.
Inspired by heartbreaking stories of courageous people working to keep us safe and provided for during the pandemic, he produced an anthem and a tribute to our nation’s essential workers: nurses, doctors, lab techs, bus drivers, cashiers and others. Amid the luxury of being able to work from home (and, he adds, the blessing of still having a job), Britton realized what much of society was also appreciating — these newly categorized frontline workers had always been “essential workers.”
They were risking their safety and sometimes lives for us, and they deserved a special tribute.
Britton is by profession a writer and editor who has worked in Washington’s policy and regulatory arenas for three decades. Yet songwriting has been his life-long, creative outlet.
“I have folders full of lyrics, ranging from a few lines of lyrics jotted down during Metro rides home to completed songs. With the traveling family band concept in mind (like ‘The Partridge Family’), I had a dream over a decade ago of starting a family band called the ‘The Brit-Tones’— even though my young children and I had no musical training.”
The arrival of the coronavirus and the social isolation at home that followed has given Britton just such an opportunity, for with the help of his family, he has written, recorded and posted on YouTube a poignant, engaging video entitled “The Unsung Heroes Song.”
“I wrote this song as an anthem and a tribute to our nurses, doctors, lab techs, bus drivers, cashiers,” he told the News-Press. “It has been my hope that the spirits of these dutiful, courageous workers would be lifted by this anthem that reflects the gratitude of our nation.”
Unlike the bubble gum rock of the Partridge Family of yore, Britton’s song (accessible on YouTube) is styled after country music with traces of a folk influence as well.
While the writing of lyrics came somewhat naturally for Britton, finding musical collaborators to record songs has been the most difficult part of the journey over the decades as he has worked to get the melodies out of his head and onto the airwaves.
“I think the appeal for genuine musicians to collaborate with a middle-aged-man with no musical training and no track record was low,” Britton commented wryly. Yet in April, things finally came together as two families — friends from elementary school years with remarkably talented children — came to his assistance. They did a socially distanced recording in a friend’s living room. The faded family-band vision came to fruition, in part, as his son Justin assumed editing and his daughter Annika took photos and prepared them as the thumbnails for posting videos on YouTube.
Britton’s original posting on YouTube reads: “This is an original song…inspired by story after story of frontline defenders and unsung heroes working to keep us safe and fed during the Covid-19 pandemic. My hope is that the spirits of these dutiful, courageous workers will be lifted by this anthem that reflects the gratitude of our nation. We’ll get through this, and may we forever be more mindful of our dependence on all the dutiful, essential workers who truly are ‘the backbone of our nation’ and our ‘hidden strength.’”
Reflecting his interest in the world of government policy and inspiring statesmanship, Britton pointed out in one of the song’s postings that “the song ends echoing Churchill, ‘…in the midst of crisis, you — our finest hour.’ The song begins, ‘I know I speak for a grateful nation — amid our fears and devastation; your service taken for granted far too long.’ It’s so true that society has taken such frontline workers for granted, and it’s sad to think that we may revert to that some day. I’d love to think that my song could be one small factor amid the many that will forever change our thoughts about and interactions with these unsung heroes.”
Britton composed and recorded his song in April, yet he would like to give it amplified attention now:
“As Covid has been resurging in November, I thought the holidays were a perfect time to make another push to get the song out to more of our heroes. As a second wave will push some medical providers and others to their breaking points, it would give me great joy to know that this song’s message lifted some spirits and helped sustain them.” In the words of the song:
You’re our “unsung heroes” — and this song is for you.
And this heartfelt tribute — is so long overdue.
So, we rise to thank you — your courage and your power.
In the midst of crisis, you — our finest hour.