The angry kid who wrote “Brainwashed,” the explosive Canadian anti-war song in the '60s, is alive and well with “Ode To The Donald.” The voice has matured, the musicianship has grown, but the lyrics still speak directly to the heart of the times we live in.
This is one Canadian’s view of the 2016 US elections. "I don’t speak for all Canadians, but I’m sure most will agree that it was an unseemly affair," Clayton-Thomas explains. "A petty, name-calling brawl… way below the standards of the most powerful country on earth. A country that many Canadians love.
"I lived in New York for nearly 40 years. I was there on 9/11 and I saw firsthand the innate goodness and courage of all Americans on that day. They are a kind and generous people, but people change when they are afraid and this election was driven by fear.
"The Trump campaign ran on a platform that everything was a disaster, everyone was crooked and even the media couldn’t be trusted. He spoke to the fear that we are being engulfed by immigrants, that the government was corrupt and the institutions that for so long had defined America could no longer be trusted. Are there any American institutions that he didn’t attack?
"We recently had a national election in Canada. By comparison, it was a polite, dignified affair and the country went on about its business with a minimum of social trauma.
"I still have faith that the better angels of America will prevail. Churchill once said, 'Americans will always do the right thing… after exhausting all the alternatives'.
"Never were these words so timely."
Explaining the genesis of the song, Thomas says, "The song started off as a satirical poem: Just a little noodle on my laptop as I watched the circus unfolding south of the border. I sent it to a few friends and it cracked them up. They told me, 'this should be a song,' so I gave the poem to my good friend, musician and producer George Koller. He wrote the music and organized a recording session.
"Things moved very fast after that. After one preliminary jam session in my living room, we went into the studio and recorded the song. The whole process, from the writing of the poem to the mastering of the record, took less than two weeks. Another friend, documentary producer Joel Goldberg, intrigued by the premise, arranged to have the session videotaped.
"Now it was on the record and not just the private musings of a frustrated poet. Now it would become very public. I was very cognizant of not making this an attack ad on Donald Trump and of respecting the office of the presidency. Although I used many of Donald’s own words in the lyric, it was not intended to demean him, but rather to point out the complete absurdity of the whole process. The Presidency has been called 'the loneliest office in the world,' and my Mum used to tell me, 'be careful what you wish for.' Those two themes merged to shape the final lyric for the song.
"This was not intended as a record per se, but as a post for social media. When events are moving this fast, the process of making a record is just too slow to capture the moment. By the time a conventional record is manufactured and released, the subject isn’t relevant anymore. Today. in this age of instant communication, it’s possible to make a statement about the times we live in… post it on the internet and send it around the world instantly. A dream come true for political junkies like me."
-- David Clayton-Thomas, the endlessly prolific singer, Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame, and Canada’s Walk Of Fame inductee, recently released Canadiana (ILS Group/Universal), a highly acclaimed album that pays tribute to Canadian songwriters such as Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell.