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Song of the Month #27 - “The Right Thing To Do”

(Track #5 on The Road Less Traveled CD)


RLT Album Cover                                   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 The Road Less Traveled Songs from Napster”.  Then, click on "The Right Thing To Do."  You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).

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


For most of us, when you mention the word politician, our thoughts and feelings tend to move in a rather negative direction.  I believe this happens because we are very much turned off by the hypocrisy many of them exhibit.  The tendency of most elected officials to say one thing and do another is so prevalent that we cannot help being cynical.  When my skepticism of our beloved political leaders was once again confirmed in early 2007, it stimulated the writing of “The Right Thing to Do.”  Here is how it happened.


In January of 2007, Elliot Spitzer was sworn in as the governor of New York.  Throughout that month he gave several speeches, and I listened to a few of them.  In one of his talks, he spoke about meeting the needs of the people, and he indicated he would not let money get in the way of him doing the right thing for the citizens of his state.  Normally, a politician making a comment like this would merely elicit an ironic chuckle or smile from me, and then I would wait to laugh at his or her next artificial statement.  However, when I heard this comment, my anger became intense.  I was livid because Wayne Schenk, a friend of mine, was dying of cancer, and the state was ignoring an opportunity where they could have helped him.


Wayne Schenk owned the Orange Inn, a classic country bar in Naples, New York.  Siobhan and I worked for him, and Wayne, as with most of the people we work for, became a good friend of ours.  In December of 2006, Wayne was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  It was spreading quickly, and at best, Wayne was given about a year to live.  Within about a week or two of receiving this terrible news, Wayne and his good friend, Dom Gallo, were riding around Naples in Dom’s pickup truck after they had bought some scratch-off lottery tickets at one of the local stores.  After Wayne rather apathetically checked his tickets, Dom took a closer look at them just to make sure he had not thrown away a winner.  It was a good thing he did this, because Wayne had tossed aside a million dollar ticket.  The money was to be paid out in twenty annual installments.


Winning this money brought a little hope back into Wayne’s life, but it did not last very long.  When Wayne was diagnosed with his cancer, he was told about a treatment that could prolong his life.  He did not give this therapy much thought because the cost for it was astronomical.  When his lottery winnings emerged, he decided to give the medication a try.  He petitioned the state lottery office to pay him his winnings in one lump sum so that he could pay for the treatments.  The lottery office would not honor his request, and everyone was stunned.  Dom Gallo took Wayne’s story to the media, and it spread like wildfire.  Dom also contacted every politician he could think of, and they all said they would do what they could do.  Well, all of Dom’s efforts were in vain, and Wayne never got to try the medication.  He died in April of 2007.  I don’t know if the treatments would have done any good, but I do know something could have been done to make the treatments available for Wayne.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t.


Not long after Wayne’s death, I was hanging out at Buffalo Bill’s, one of my favorite haunts for “talking rubbish” (a Buffalo Bill’s term for conversation that has no specific objective).  Bill Mallwitz, the owner, and I drifted into chatting about Wayne’s story, and Bill thought it would make one of those great movies that would depict how bureaucratic systems almost always come up short when it comes to helping the little guy.  Besides being a good movie topic, he also thought it would make a great song, and he encouraged me to move in that direction.  Since Bill, his patrons, and the setting of his restaurant have influenced the writing of several of my songs, I thought he had another good idea here, and I decided to give it a shot.


The next day, I sat at my computer and played around with some words.  Normally, when I try to write a song, it doesn’t happen.  I usually have to wait until the song is ready to come out.  However, this time it was different.  Wayne’s story easily and quickly unfolded into three verses.  With the narrative in place, I injected some irony into the chorus by drawing from something Elliot Spitzer said in one of his speeches.  He said, “It’s not about the money.  We do it because it is the right thing to do.”


“The Right Thing To Do” is pure Americana.  It is one of those folk ballads that may have been written by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, or Bob Dylan.  The story reminds the listener of the one major age-old problem that occurs with all bureaucratic systems.  They often fail to help the people they are suppose to help.  By the request of many, Siobhan and I recorded this song without the help of any studio musicians.  In addition to our basic sound of the guitar, harmonica, vocals, and bass, I gave the recording some depth by dubbing in some additional harmonies, an electric guitar, and blending harmonicas.  Pop this one into your CD player when you are struggling with some aspect of our big government machine.  It will make you aware that you are not alone when it comes to battling big systems, and I hope it will bring you some solace if you lose your fight.  Hope you have time to check out the song!  I like it, and I hope you do, too!


I dedicated this song to Wayne Schenk and Dom Gallo, two of Naples’ finest.  In the early 2000s, Siobhan and I spent a lot of time in Naples working for Wayne at the Orange Inn and Dom at the Naples Valley Arts and Craft Market.  After many of our gigs at their places, we engaged in many memorable after-hour get-togethers with them and their friends.  To say the least, Wayne and Dom were definitely characters.  Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they were good-bad boys who were both saints and sinners at the same time.  Yet, despite the ambiguous nature of their personalities, I would be grateful to have either of them in a foxhole with me.  The Wayne and Dom chapter of my life is over, but quite often the memories of those years surface when I am on stage playing Wayne’s song.  Occasionally, I feel Wayne’s presence, and sometimes I even hear his gravelly voice shouting out a few inappropriate comments.  Thanks, Wayne and Dom, for having such a great influence on my life!


This song was inspired by Bill Mallwitz during an evening of “Talking Rubbish” at Buffalo Bill’s Family Restaurant and Tap Room.  “Talking rubbish,” a phrase coined by Bill several years ago, is something Bill cultivates at his restaurant.  He, along with his lovely wife, Robin, creates an atmosphere where patrons can comfortably come and exchange ideas about philosophy, religion, politics, literature, art, music, food, etc.  It is a place where both your brain and stomach leave very satisfied.  I must admit that, while I have been inspired to write several songs after being at Buffalo Bill’s, I really go for the food.  It’s terrific!  Thanks, Bill and Robin!


We recorded this song in 2008 at Rich Cooley Studios, a little studio in Canandaigua, New York.  Rich Cooley Studios is owned and operated by Rich Cooley, an excellent singer/songwriter, music teacher, and recording engineer.  When you record with Rich, you can always count on him for a relaxed recording session with a genuine and sincere effort to produce the best recording possible.  I highly recommend Rich if you are interested in doing some recording on a small scale level.  Rich is most comfortable when he is recording a solo artist or a duo.  Check him out if this is what you need!


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 6/18/09)





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