Local musician Phil Hamilton was sick and tired of hearing empty words from politicians after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, but he didn’t feel he could do anything about it.
“It’s easy to get numb to that,” he said Thursday from his home studio.
“The whole thing of ‘thoughts and prayers’ just felt tired,” Hamilton continued. “There’s so much hypocrisy when people in power say that.”
The saxophonist and harmonica player for blues-rock band Mudslide Charley woke up one night soon after the 2018 shooting, inspired to write a song with these words in his head:
“Thoughts and prayers are cheap these days/we see them everywhere/it’s so easy to say these words when blood is in the air/thoughts and prayers/thoughts and prayers/”
“We dry our tears and ease our fears/with the shield of thoughts and prayers.”
He set it to music and played the song for a few people, including his bandmates. They recorded the song and made a simple music video in Hamilton’s studio.
Then, he let it be.
“I didn’t know quite what to do with it,” he said. “I thought, unfortunately, it’d become timely again.”
After the Aug. 3 and 4 shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, Hamilton found himself thinking about “Thoughts and Prayers” again, playing it for a handful of friends who encouraged him to release the song.
So he uploaded the video to the Mudslide Charley YouTube account on Aug. 7, and it had over 200 views by early Thursday afternoon, much more than any song Hamilton had put up before.
He was happy with the response, around 45 likes on the Facebook post and plenty of encouragement, all tinged with a bit of sadness, naturally.
Ed Stalling commented, “Wish it didn’t need writing of course. But way to express the feelings of the country.”
When President Donald Trump visited Dayton and El Paso this week following the shootings that left at least 31 dead, protesters and supporters showed up to let him know their thoughts, many with forceful messages, according to an Associated Press story.
“In Dayton, raw anger and pain were on display as protesters chanted ‘Ban those guns’ and 'Do something!’” the story said.
But Hamilton felt more sad than angry — and meant “Thoughts and Prayers” to be more of a personal and emotional work than a political one.
“I get this knot in my stomach when I hear the news, being a citizen out in Montana … you feel a powerlessness,” Hamilton said. “I think the best thing you can do is control what you do have power over.
“Somehow we can all make a small difference.”