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Song of the Month #16 - “D.E.A.D.”

(Track #6 on the Caught in the Middle CD)


          Lyrics:  If your web browser does not support the Flash Player* included with the Lyrics, or you are uncomfortable allowing/downloading the plug-in/add-on, you can still listen to this song while you read.  Just go to our Downloads Page and click on the link, “Buy Caught in the Middle Songs from Napster”.  Then, click on "D.E.A.D.."  You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).

                                 *Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.





If you have managed to escape feeling the shock of losing a relative or friend in a tragic event, you are an extremely lucky person.  Most of us do not avoid this experience, and for me, it first happened when I was twenty.  My cousin was killed in a car accident on the Cross Island Expressway in Queens, New York.  As the wounds from this loss healed, I thought the odds were very slim I would ever encounter a feeling like this again.  Well, I was wrong.  I became a teacher, and during my thirty-two year stint, I returned many times to the feeling of numbness brought on by the sudden loss of someone who is close to you.


For those of you who have little involvement with education, here are some of the scenes teachers encounter when tragedy strikes the halls of their school.  There is that haunting “moment of silence” held before the school day starts.  There is the empty desk in the classroom reminding everyone it will remain empty for the rest of the year.  There is the locker surrounded with flowers and students in tears.  There is the guidance office filled with students who just cannot cope.  There are the calling hours packed with kids who are in need of assurance that their pain will eventually go away.  Finally, there is the funeral or memorial service that brings home the cold hard reality that death is truly permanent.


Tragedy struck the halls of Canandaigua Academy in December of 1992.  Karey Windheim, a senior, was killed in a tragic car accident along West Lake Road in Canandaigua, New York.  She and her friends had been partying, and they made the fatal mistake of getting into a car and driving home.  Karey was a well-liked popular kid, and the news of her death stunned the community.  I, one of the bewildered, was totally devastated by the report of her death.  She had been one of my tenth grade English students, and it was fun having her in class.  She was smart, witty, and very engaging, one of those kids who had success written all over her.  After tenth grade, she would occasionally stop by and say hi to me in the hall while I stood outside my room as students passed to their classes.  Needless to say, Karey’s death became to the students and teachers another awful reminder of the devastating effects of drinking and driving.


One afternoon in early January of 1993, Al Cretney, a good friend and colleague, stopped by my classroom after school for a friendly chat and venting session.  Our conversation eventually drifted around to Karey because the accident was still very fresh in everyone’s mind.  As we exchanged stories about students who were lost in tragic accidents, Al, a health teacher, told me about a health teacher in Minnesota who developed a game called D.E.A.D.  The name of the game was an acronym for Drugs End All Dreams, and of course, it was designed to discourage students from drinking and doing drugs.


The song, “D.E.A.D.,” got its start while I was walking McMeyer, a puppy Siobhan and I picked up from the pound in the early ‘90s.  As the two of us sauntered along the quiet streets of Canandaigua in the pre-dawn hours of a Saturday morning, I began to think about the conversation Al Cretney and I had in my classroom just a few days ago.  For some reason, I focused on the teacher who developed the game that discouraged kids from drinking and doing drugs.  Out of nowhere came the chorus of the song, and I sang it over and over again in my head.  Some choruses stay in my head for years because I have nowhere to go with them after they form.  That was not the case here.  This song was ready to come out, and it did.  When I got home, I carved out three little narratives about the students Al and I discussed during our conversation, and they became the verses of the song.  Sensing a need to acknowledge the Minnesota teacher who inspired me, I developed a verse about him, and used it as an introduction and conclusion to the stories of the students who were victims to drug and alcohol abuse.


“D.E.A.D.” is pure Americana.  It is a rock-like song with a flare of country appearing in the mix.  With a guitar, a pedal steel, an electric guitar, a harmonica, a bass, drums, and backup harmonies, John Dady, Joe Dady, Al Keltz, and Tim Chaapel help Siobhan and me in creating one of those songs that hits you in the face with the cold hard reality of the negative effects of drug and alcohol abuse.  Al Keltz, one of Rochester’s premier electric guitar and pedal steel players, adds a superb sound that naturally embellishes this rather unpleasant theme.  With a harmonica, Joe Dady enhances the disagreeable topic by weaving a gutsy blues-like sound around Al’s electric guitar and pedal steel.  It is a song we do not play out very much; it is too much of a downer.  However, it is a song designed for contemplation as you sit in the quiet of your living room.  Hope it gets you to make wiser decisions when you are drinking or doing drugs.  I like it, and I hope you do too!


I dedicated this song to Al Cretney and the memory of Karey Windheim.  Al, now retired, was one of those quiet unassuming teachers who went into the trenches every day and did the best job he could for kids, a true hero in my book.  He worked endlessly to try to get his students to make wise decisions about their health, especially regarding the use of drugs and alcohol.  His students owe him a great deal of gratitude for his efforts.  Karey Windheim, too, played a major role in encouraging kids to make wiser decisions regarding the use of drugs and alcohol.  She was a great kid who just made a mistake.  If her mistake keeps only one person from not making the same mistake, her death will not be in vain.  I thank both Al and Karey for being the catalyst for D.E.A.D.  I only hope the song can continue to encourage people to make good decisions about drugs and alcohol.


We recorded this song in 1998 at The Garage, a little studio in Rochester, New York.  The Garage, as I have told you before, is owned and operated by John and Joe Dady, two quintessential musicians.  When you record with them, you can always count on great coffee, good stories, and an aching stomach from laughing.  I highly recommend John and Joe if you are interested in recording.  Also, The Dady Brothers, John and Joe’s group, have many recordings of their own, and they tour the United States and Ireland.  Check them out on the web at


Tim Chaapel owns Mobile Music, a great music store in Canandaigua, New York.  If you think you might be interested in playing an instrument, stop in.  Tim will get you off to a great start!  He has guitars that make you look really sexy!  Also, if your instrument has fallen on hard times, Tim will get it sounding like new in no time.  Check him out on the web at


Well, there you have it.  I’ll have another song of the month for you next month.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them on to me.  This is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new ways to improve it.



(E-Mailed 7/18/08)






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