From our overstocked archives: A DC musical moment

 Sam Smith – Just came across a tape of songs I wrote for a musical co-authored by my historian wife Kathy Smith and then music teacher Becky Denney. The name of the show was DC: A Hometown Review, It was originally written for an elementary school in 1977 but in 1999 got a public performance including a part played by the late Jim Vance, DC’s longest serving TV news anchor. Here’s something I wrote about it back then:

OCTOBER 1999

DC Watch recently raised the question of the existence of an official city song. In fact there almost was one. I know, because I wrote it.

Mayor Marion Barry sponsored a contest for such a song, which I entered with “Washington, My Home Town.” I was later told that the judges liked mine the best but, in the ethnic patois of the time, they wanted to reopen the contest in order to receive a “broader range of submissions.” Nothing more was ever heard of the contest.

The song came from a musical revue of DC history written by my wife Kathy, Becky Denney, and myself. It was performed several times, once with the mayor in attendance, and featured Jim Vance as Frederick Douglass and a beat poet. The Washington Star listed it as one of its “Sure Things” for the weekend.

Besides “My Home Town,” I wrote a soft shoe number performed by Boss Shepherd and a pair of his henchmen: “I’m the boss, I’m the boss of Washington/I can force anything that I want done./I can plant a tree or pave a road or put a gas lamp up/So what does it matter if I’m a little bit corrupt?. . .

My favorite, however, was the tune I wrote for feminist Alice Paul which, aside from being a foot-stomper, included the immortal bridge: “We don’t find it to enrichin’ to be switchin’ in the kitchen, so if you want us to stop bitchin’, you had better start in switchin.'”

DC Watch, which researched the history of the city’s songs (or lack thereof), later told a part of the sequel:

Things remained relatively stable until 1985. Then City Councilmember Charlene Drew Jarvis introduced a bill to name ‘This Is My Town,’ by Mark A. Williams, as the city’s official song. The song didn’t pass muster, and the Council failed to act, largely because of discomfort over the open resentment expressed in lyrics like:

“‘Oh the tourists and the politicians
Come and go and that’s fine by me
As long as they know –
This is my town
My home town!'”

News of this attracted my attention because the song I had earlier submitted to Mayor Barry’s contest (as written and performed in 1977) was a tune called “Washington, My Home Town.” Among its lyrics:

“Politicians they come and go;
It doesn’t get me down
Because I still have my Washington;
It’s my home town.”

Jarvis’ bill crumbled, so I never pursued the matter.

But here are my songs