Radio,with its portability and personality,is playing an important role in helping Americans cope with Tuesday's aftermath,said Mike Edwards,program director of Washington,D.C.'s WWZZ-FM radio station.
Radio stations across the country have been playing patriotic songs,but one of the more emotional and heavily-requested items at WWZZ has been a new song written to the tune of ”God Bless the USA.”
The song features lyrics that refer directly to Tuesday's terrorist attacks.
The chorus begins: “And we're standing strong as Americans where at least we know we're free / And we won't forget the ones who died on that Tuesday morning.”
WWZZ,a station that normally plays popular hits,has been playing the song since Tuesday afternoon,and Edwards said the station receives an overwhelming response every time the song is aired.
Tim Pilcher,a California writer and musician,rewrote and produced the new song Tuesday afternoon and sent it to the D.C. radio station.
Edwards said he received the song via e-mail along with a note from Pilcher telling Edwards that this song was his contribution and to play it as a way to help Americans pull together.
“In light of what's been going on,we want to do what we can to show unity,” Edwards said. “Music is a real,real powerful thing.”
The station has also been playing Whitney Houston's rendition of the national anthem at the start of every hour.
Also,popular songs like pop artist Enya's “Only Time” have been made into “tribute songs” by having news sound clips inserted into them.
Edwards said he doesn't know when the station will stop playing the patriotic songs,and right now the station is playing the songs as listeners request them.
In Los Angeles,country station KZLA-FM has been playing a patriotic or emotional song every hour.
Tonya Campos,the station's music director,said they have been rotating the national anthem,“God Bless the USA,” “The Dance” by Garth Brooks and a song by Faith Hill called “There Will Come a Day.”
The songs by Brooks and Hill have had sound clips inserted into them. Campos said Hill's song has received the most response from listeners.
“It's eerie how appropriate the song is for what happened,” Campos said.
The first verse of the song says,“It's not easy trying to understand / How the world can be so cold / Stealing the souls of man / Cloudy skies rain down on all your dreams / You wrestle with fear and doubts / Sometimes it's hard,but you got to be believe.”
Campos said she thought the song was so popular because it ends on a positive note with the chorus talking about a day that will come when the darkness will be gone and every tear will be wiped away.
“We've heard (the song) a million times,but it still gave me goose bumps,” she said. “This week proved that radio can be just as powerful and informative as television.”
KZLA's operations manager,R.J. Curtis helped Campos make the decision to put Hill's song on the air,and said radio was playing a crucial role in helping Americans respond to the tragedy.
“In this situation,when there may not be an answer to what they're searching for right in front of them,music can serve as a great source of inspiration,” he said. “Music has an ability to touch people's emotional nerves.”
Oftentimes,songs become associated with tragic events and people use that music to express their emotions and feel better about themselves and their country,Curtis said.
Bette Middler's “From a Distance” and Hank Williams Jr.'s “Don't Give Us a Reason” were both associated with the Gulf War,and Elton John's single,“Candle in the Wind 1997” was sung at Princess Diana's funeral.
Curtis said KZLA often plays Brooks' “The Dance” after the public funeral of a firefighter or police officer who died during their duty.
“Everybody listens to music and they look to music to inspire them,to soothe them,” he said.
In Minneapolis,Jill Rowen,the music director of KSTP-FM,said although the station has played very little patriotic music,it was planning to replace one of its weekly promotions with a “night of healing.”
Thursday nights normally feature “Free Music at Five” in a downtown park,complete with a local band and giveaways. But Thursday,the band was scheduled to play more patriotic songs and American flags were set to be handed out to participants.
“We've altered what was going to be a big party into what we hope will be something special,” Rowen said.
Rowen said a lot of the station's normal play time has been used for live coverage of Tuesday's attacks and as a forum for listeners to call in.
“Tuesday,starting at 8,we pretty much suspended our regular schedule and stuck with the story,” she said. “This is extremely unusual. I don't remember anything else like it.”
Radio offers viewers more opportunities for interaction than television,she said.
“Radio is different because people get to give their opinions and feedback too,” she said.
DJs in the morning show,she said,responded to their listeners' comments and played Ray Charles' version of “America the Beautiful.”
“It's a very powerful song,it's very moving,” she said. “It's probably what they sensed their listeners were feeling.”