Milwaukee-based Americana songwriter Peter Mulvey, who’s no stranger to the West Michigan music scene, sat down on Friday and wrote a new song in a basement dressing room at the Calvin Theatre in Northhampton, Mass. The song, “Take Down Your Flag,” is a direct narrative on the tragic Charleston, S. Car. church shooting and the accompanying push to remove the confederate flag from the state’s capitol.
The ending line of the song sums up Mulvey’s viewpoint on the Confederate flag: “Take down your flag to half-staff … and then take it down for good.”
Mulvey posted this on June 20 via his Facebook page:
“In Charleston, the United States Flag and the South Carolina State Flag are at half mast for nine days, for the nine victims. But the Confederate Battle Flag is flying at the top of its pole. News outlets are reporting that lowering it can only be done by a vote of the State Legislature. I submit that lowering it can be done by two hands and human decency.”
One hour after Mulvey wrote the protest song, he sang the song in front of an audience while opening an Ani DiFranco show at the Calvin Theatre. Within 40 hours of the song’s genesis, others were singing the song live while adding their own interpretations and verses dedicated to victims. DiFranco even offered up her own take.
She played it at the Clearwater Festival in New York while WFUV Public Radio broadcasted it to listeners. Songwriter Vance Gilbert decided his take would focus on Dylann Roof: the shooter.
From there, it’s spiraled into other songwriters requesting to cover the song, including Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Ralston Bowles. Here’s another post from Mulvey’s Facebook:
“… It keeps going: my pal Ralston called and said he'd like to cover the song. And within minutes of that, my pal Gina asked me if I was planning to write eight more verses for the eight others slain. I had no such plan. The pain of this is too big, so I chose to pick the detail that disturbed me most (Susie Jackson's age when she was murdered has kept me up at night) and use that as a window.
But thanks, Gina, because it occurred to me to ask Ralston Bowles to write his own second verse. And he said yes. Then I called Pamela and asked her to do the same.
Then I reached out to my friends. And so far there are now six versions of this song that I know of out there …”
And that number seems to be rapidly growing. Mulvey posted this stream for radio stations who’d like to spin the song, click here to listen.
Here are some of the latest versions: