Mike Songs – News
Stand Up! – A Review of Mike Stern’s New CD
“Mike’s songs call for repentance, hope and love, supported by a solid banjo/bluegrass vibe. Strongly influenced by the tragedies of Hiroshima, the plight of Japanese Americans during World War II and the decimation of Native American life and culture in the United States, Mike’s songs are quick to get to the point with clarity, peace and honesty.” – Dawn Michelle Michals
Read the article here
Three new videos have recently been added to our videos page. Check out a backyard jam session with mandolin virtuoso Jacob Jolliff joining Michael on a new song, “Shadows”, and choreographer Erica Badgeley doing beautiful dance interpretations of “Dance” & “One World”.
Never again. もう二度と
February 19th 2021, will mark the 79th anniversary of Presidential Executive Order 9066 which resulted in Japanese American internment during WWII. Michael wrote a ballad to help re-tell the story of this experience called “Take Only What You Can Carry”. Listen & share this with others on this important day of remembrance.
Follow #NeverAgain on Twitter もう二度と
“Each One’s Different Like a Work of Art” by Michael Stern
Singer/songwriter Michael Stern’s most recent CD – is just what you’d expect from the title: a uniquely original work of art. It’s a beautifully arranged & disarmingly genuine collection of compelling music about peace & diversity (plus some very tender new love songs) which alternate between Michael’s originals & a few great cover songs like Peace Train (by Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens) & You’ve Got a Friend (by Carole King).
Accompanists include Michael’s nephew Jesse Stern on bass, singers Betsy Rose, William Limbach & others, Grammy nominated pianist David Lanz, & mandolin player Jacob Jolliff. It’s abundantly clear from the very first to last song why Jolliff was named the National Mandolin Champion of 2012. Each & every one of Stern’s gifted collaborators contribute to a wonderful mosaic of folk, jazz, gospel, R&R, & bluegrass styles of music.
The bilingually narrated ballad Michael wrote for Hiroshima, “As If the Flowers Knew” is perhaps the most haunting & poetic of this newest CD collection. Steve Leeper, the chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation described it as “an inspired piece of musical artistry.” Order here
Mike visited Hiroshima
Mike visited Hiroshima (Summer 2013) as part of the cast in a play called “Breaking the Silence” (about Japanese American internment). He will also preformed a “One World Peace Concert” encore (of the one he did back in 2012) also sponsored by the World Friendship Center. The World Friendship Center was founded on August 6th, 1965 (exactly 20 years after the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima) to provide a place where people from many nations can meet, share their experiences & their vision for world peace.
Here is an introduction to Mike’s musical presentations with translations into Japanese.
My name is Michael Stern. 私の名前はマイク・スターンです。
I am both grateful & honored by the invitation from the World Friendship Center, Hiroshima City, & Hiroshima Board of Education to visit Japan, especially in time for the cherry blossoms. ワールドフレンドシップセンター、広島市、そして広島県教育委員会より、桜の美しい時期に日本へご招待頂きまして、大変ありがたくそして光栄に感じております。
I’m a singer & songwriter from Seattle, Washington USA – the home of Mount Rainier, the Space Needle, Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, & the Fremont Troll, as well as a strong community of peace advocates who have labored long & hard to prevent nuclear or atomic weapons from ever being used again.
… Seattle peace groups like Ground Zero Community for Non-Violent Action, PAX Christi, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Baptist Peace Fellowship, Physicians for Social Responsibility, On Earth Peace, Hiroshima to Hope, & Stop the War Before It Starts. などがその主な団体ですが、その他にもたくさんの同じ志を持った団体があり、機会があれば歌わせて頂いております。
I walk past this sculpture of Sadako Sasaki every day on my way to work, & it reminds me to pause daily & remember how important it is to work for peace – and that we must never again accept or allow the use of another atomic or nuclear bomb. わたしは毎日、通勤途中にこの佐々木 禎子の像の前を歩いて通るのですが、日々立ち止まり核兵器の使用を二度と許可してはならないという平和活動がいかに大切であるかを思い出させてくれます。
Many of my songs are about non-violent struggles for peace & justice, or about just being a good neighbor to people in need of help, & about finding hope in the midst of despair. わたしの歌の多くは、平和と正義のための非暴力闘争、または助けを必要としている人々にとって良い隣人であること、そして絶望の真っただ中に希望を見いだすことの意味が込められています。
In addition to writing songs, I also do clinical research on vaccine preventable diseases. Some of you may wonder what connects these two parts of my life: 歌を作曲することに加えて、 ワクチン予防可能疾患の臨床研究をしています。ある人は、わたしの人生のこの２つの部分にいかなる関係があるのか疑問に感じているかもしれません。
(1) singing songs about peace, & (2) creating vaccines against disease.
(1) 平和についての歌を歌うことと、(2) 病気に対するワクチンを作ること。
Perhaps while I’m singing, you will start to see this connection. おそらくわたしが歌っている間に繋がりが明らかになってくるかもしれません。
Michael Stern – “Higher Ground”
A new CD by Michael Stern, “Higher Ground” is a spirited collection of both traditional folk (like “I’ll Fly Away”) & quirky gospel songs (like “Banjo Players in Heaven”) alongside Stern’s signature social justice themes & love songs. The title song provides a cohesive metaphor for the whole CD. Even after the devastation of a flood, with each other’s help we can reach higher ground.
As on many of his previous recordings, Michael is once again accompanied by Grammy nominee David Lanz on keyboards, virtuoso string player Eric Smith on mandolin, dobro & bass, soaring vocal harmonies by William Limbach, fiddling around by Greg Canote, plus a cast of other musicians, family & friends. With their help, Stern captures a wide range of musical styles & creative lyrical images about heaven.
Parents’ Choice Awards : Music
We All Have Wings
Fall 2009 Music
Ages: 4 – 12 yrs.
Producer: Michael Stern Music
CD Price: $15.00
This gentle family CD, rounded out with traditional folk tunes, makes a plea for open hearts and open minds (“Coloring Outside the Lines,” “Don’t Laugh at Me”). Observing that even small actions can make the world a better place (“We Can Make a Difference”), folk music artist Michael Stern maintains the album’s peaceful spirit down through the final track, a lovely late 19th century lullaby, “Sleep Kentucky Babe.”
Lynne Heffley ©2009 Parents’ Choice
Michael Stern – “We All Have Wings”
Children’s music by Michael Stern
Michael Stern’s most recent CD, “We All Have Wings” is an engaging collection of songs designed to help children have courage to be creative & compassionate. The opening song, “Coloring Outside the Lines” (written by the late Tom Hunter) welcomes artistic creativity when we color or dance outside the lines, & makes reference to civil rights leader Rosa Parks sitting outside the lines. “Don’t Laugh at Me” reminds us not to tease or bully someone just because they are different.
In a series of bright new originals, Stern encourages kids to recycle, to work out conflicts, & to “plant seeds” in a variety of ways. He celebrates children learning to be friends while speaking different languages, knowing different faiths, and having different colors of skin. Featuring a multi-lingual chorus of kids’ voices, “Schools, Écoles, Schule, Escuelas, Tr??ng” takes us on a journey to schools all around the world. “My Brother Thinks He is a Chicken” combines laugh-out-loud humor while honoring the “fowl” quirks we sometimes find within ourselves & our families.
This well-paced collection is woven with themes of kindness & cooperation, & supported by an array of voices, instruments & energy that blend equal parts of fun & inspiration. Stern has devoted the same thoughtful lyrical presentation & outstanding musicianship to his children’s CD as he has to each of his earlier recordings for adults. It features Grammy nominee David Lanz on keyboards, renown Seattle folk artists Greg Canote on fiddle, Doug Bright on accordion, Eric Smith on mandolin & dobro, & Michael Stern’s vocals, banjo, guitar, plus a few very sweet vocal choruses by kids. This CD is appealing to all ages of children, & to all ages of adults.
This Time – another side of Michael Stern
Michael has just finished an exceptional new CD titled “This Time – another side of Michael Stern“. The thread of continuity in this collection is that each song suggests ways in which this time – this day, this hour, and this moment are too precious to waste. There are a couple very tender pieces written in memory of his mother, several love songs including one written for his brother’s wedding based on the Song of Songs, a lullaby he used to sing to his daughters at bedtime or to comfort them when they were hurt called “Healing Water”, and a new version of “Beauty” based on a Navajo prayer.
About half the songs are originals, and half were composed by other songwriters like “What a Wonderful World” by Weiss and Thiele, “The First Time Ever” by Ewan MacColl, “San Diego Serenade” by Tom Waits, and “River” by Joni Mitchell.
The CD sub-title – another side of Michael Stern – suggests something of the departure in both lyrical content and in musical style from much of his earlier work. In contrast to his numerous songs which advocate social justice and peace activism – but also make you feel like you ought to get up and do something about it – this collection is restful, romantic, nourishing, and very intimate. Musically, it features Grammy nominee David Lanz on piano, and Seattle Symphony cellist Walter Gray, as well as other outstanding musicians whose spacious and seemingly effortless performances will quite simply take your breath away.
Michael continues to sing and speak for peace, justice, compassion; celebrating diversity and the environment. During the past year he has filled pulpits, led music and retreats for American Baptists, United Churches of Christ, United Methodists, Churches of the Brethren, Unitarian and Unity churches, and done benefit concerts for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Mary Magdalene Services for Homeless Women, the Rauschenbusch Center for Spirit and Action, CrossWalk America, and Lutheran Volunteer Corps, performed for the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and at Brethren Song and Story Fests.
His song “Stand Up” has been sung and recorded by Charlie King and Karen Brandow, the Brooklyn Women’s Chorus, the Seattle Labor Chorus, Rebel Voices and used in a documentary video titled “Point of Attack”.
Mike’s list of published stories has been growing. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories for a Better World has Mike’s story “Don’t Just Do Something – Stand There” and also includes lyrics to lyrics from two of his songs: “Stand Up” (used as a reflection prior his own story) and “One World” (used as a reflection prior to a story by Thich Nhat Hanh). Some of the other contributors are Jimmy Carter, Howard Zinn, Oscar Arias, with praise from Desmund Tutu and Muhammad Ali. You can order the new book by going to The Institute of Social Justice. website.
Michael’s struggle against the draft during the war in Viet Nam is summarized in a story published by Brethren Press in Shoes of Peace: Letters to Youth from Peacemakers. You can order this book by going to www.brethrenpress.com.
Mike has begun work on a new children’s CD promoting cooperation, kindness, healing and laughter. Until its release, be sure to continue recommending his earlier work for children to parents, educators and kids: “All Colors, Shapes and Sizes“
Let’s ‘Dance’: Staffer’s new CD offers healing messages
Thursday, November 06, 2003. It’s as if Michael Stern listened to some of his own advice.
The singer-songwriter, who also works as a family nurse practitioner and research clinician at Hall Health, included five songs written by other artists on his latest release, Dance. That’s a new approach for the veteran folk singer whose five previous compact discs included almost exclusively his own original songs. Stern and his fans will celebrate the release of the CD during a 12:30 p.m. performance on Sunday, Nov. 16 at University Baptist Church, 4554 12th Ave. N.E.
“Maybe I was trying to prove something,” Stern said about his prior inclination to record only his own material.
“In some ways the title track, Dance, talks about that. Just be yourself. Who cares? ‘Dance as if no one was watching and sing as if no one could hear.’ So maybe that’s why I’m just wanting to record what feels right and sounds good. It’s about letting go.”
And it continues to be about a range of social issues too. Stern is known for having an activist, peace-loving bent to his music. But he’s beginning to think it might be more accurate to describe his music as an extension of his work at Hall Health. In both cases he’s simply trying to heal people.
That’s a theme Stern has been considering ever since a trip he took several years ago to Africa where he did some volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity. During that trip, he met with an African storyteller/healer who said he and others like him had been using music to help heal their patients for generations.
“They had clients come into their home who might have health problems or emotional or relational problems,” he said. “The storyteller/healer would play the mbira until they all went into a trance. That was their therapy. Then, at the end of the session, they felt improved or healed or that their issues had been addressed. I found that a kind of intriguing parallel to what I was thinking about with my music.”
Stern won’t be bringing African musical instruments to his office anytime soon. But fans of his music know that themes of healing have always been a part of Stern’s work. Sometimes the message is directed at individuals, sometimes at government leaders and sometimes at society at large. In addition to Dance, each of these songs from the new CD has a little something to do with healing:
Take Only What You Can Carry is a haunting and timely look back at the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The song’s relevance today is clear as the debate between civil liberties and a nation’s safety and security rages on with unmistakable racial, or racist, undertones.
Any Fool is a reference to a famous quote by John Muir, the father of our national parks system. But instead of only making an environmental statement, Stern added to the message to deliver a powerful critique of war and retaliation.
“Any fool can declare war before he knows what we’re fighting for. Any fool can retaliate without knowing who it is that they hate. These are the fools who often say what a shame that the innocent got in the way. The same ones who claim to have seen the light and are sure what they’re doing is right.”
Providence is a song that Stern says he’s particularly proud of. It embraces individual differences, sexual orientation specifically.
The thoughtful, left-leaning themes are nothing new for Stern . His signature songs are straight out of the tradition that shaped him in his youth. He was a fan of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez when he first started writing music in the late 1960s and 70s.
He’s perhaps best known for the songs Stand Up, inspired by the famous quote by Nazi concentration camp survivor Martin Niemoller, and Fight No More Forever, inspired by the concessionary speech of Nez Pearce leader Chief Joseph.
But Stern insists there’s more than weighty issues involved in his music. In fact, the tune Waltzing Around in the Nude, one of the cover songs on the new release, is quickly becoming a favorite at live performances.
Laughter at my concerts is definitely allowed and perfectly legal,” Stern said.
That, like the cover songs, is a relatively new twist. Stern says he realized somewhere along the line that you can’t drop too many heavy messages on an audience without also providing some comic relief. Perhaps that’s just another sign of his letting go, his evolution as an artist. If so, it could be a sign that Stern’s music career — a career that he says will continue until the day he dies — is just getting ready to take off.
“I think among great artists, painters, musicians, composers, speech writers, even athletes, the greatest ones talk about the letting go being the point at which their greatest work occurs. In other words, there’s no substitute for discipline and practice and all the stuff that makes someone technically great. But it’s those who manage at the peak of their preparation to release themselves to just fly.
“From a creative point of view that’s more what I’ve been experiencing as I write songs. Practice, yes. Discipline, yes. But then at the point of a performance or the point of creative experience, you have to let go. There’s no technical skill that can match creative release.”
-Steve Hill – ©2003 University Week