'Stand up and fight’ urges local musician
Music is magical. A joyful tune can inspire and activate a huge crowd. Conversely, a lullaby can calm and settle a little baby. Music can elicit sensory memories. A great song can become part of the soundtrack of a culture and its events. How many people hear Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s “Ohio” and conjure images of that dying student at Kent State?
Singer/songwriter Dylan Chambers may have added something akin to this to his repertoire. The Petaluma resident recently released a new song and accompanying video that is powerful to its soul. Called “Stand Up and Fight,” it speaks to the urgency of several societal issues facing us: homelessness, the destruction of the environment and racial inequality.
Chambers spoke from the home he shares with his father Lester Chambers in Petaluma. He effusively spoke of his new video, his career, the nation, and his dad.
Adjusting to the pandemic
Dylan Chambers had been a busy performer, working with two bands, until the COVID-19 shutdown struck down all musical performances. His regionally popular band, Midnight Transit, has played a few gigs in Sonoma. Their gigs on the schedule for 2020 were all canceled.
His second act is one he shares with his father, lead singer of the ‘60s band the Chambers Brothers. This new act is called, appropriately, the New Chambers Brothers. They had been added to a rock ’n’ roll revue of sorts called the Full Moonalice Family. That musical cavalcade featured the popular Moonalice band, the T-Sisters and the New Chambers Brothers, in a dynamic and revolving show that had performed at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Napa’s BottleRock and the Lockn’ Festival in Virginia.
As the New Chambers Brothers, Dylan and his father, whom he affectionately calls “Pops,” would perform, “’60s and ’70s soul and psychedelic stuff, and end with ‘People Get Ready’ and ‘Time Has Come Today,’” perhaps the most well-known Chambers Brothers song.
The family pair provides a heartwarming visual connection and a solid link to rock history. Dylan, 35, and Lester, now 80, lead the band with their warm and powerful vocals. The young Chambers is the active and flamboyant one, Lester is content taking the lead vocals as he has for over 60 years.
When public performance all came to a virus-induced screeching halt, Chambers and the band went into the studio. Chambers said, “We have finished recording a full-length album, titled after one of the songs on it, ‘Born To Rock And Roll.’ We just need to crank down on the final productions.”
Delivering a message through music
But then George Floyd was killed and the s--- finally hit the fan in one undeniable, painful exclamation point. For Chambers, it was all too much. He channeled all the fear, rage and anger millions of Americans were feeling. He wrote a meaningful set of lyrics and matched them with a simple, driving instrumental track. He called the song “Stand Up and Fight.”
He was deeply satisfied with the song. But, like the conjured images of Kent State for some, Chambers envisioned a video to best illustrate the song and the situation in which we find ourselves. “I decided to make a really powerful video about what’s happening in society right now,” Chambers said. “It is a revolutionary time in America.”
Content for the new video
Chambers spent hours scrolling through the internet looking for footage from the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement, Google images of recent demonstrations, and startling images and footage from the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s.
Chambers said, “I selected footage and obtained the license to use it, and also chose public domain footage.” Some of that historic footage is from the Bloody Sunday confrontation on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Available for viewing on YouTube, “Stand Up and Fight” is preceded by the warning: “The following content has been identified by the YouTube community as inappropriate or offensive to some audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.”
The flow of the video follows the pattern of the song, with images of homelessness followed by images that match the chorus of the song. The second verse of the song is illustrated by images of environmental issues, followed by footage that supports the chorus. This continues until the dramatic ending of the video. It is then that Chambers employs a spoken word section, reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City.” He dramatically follows that with 15 actual gunshots, recorded and played over photographs of 47 Black Americans who were killed at the hands of police.
The 15 gunshots mirror the number of bullets in a police issue Glock service revolver. The video concludes with the images of Floyd being pulled from his car and a barely audible heartbeat that slowly fades out.
The video is well produced, even handed, and very powerful. It would serve as an excellent launching point for a discussion of the BLM movement or as part of a classroom social studies curriculum.
When asked about the possibility that his work could be used in such a constructive way, Chambers said, “We would love it. We are allowing organizations, nonprofits and schools to use it free of charge, in any aspects they want. We want it to be something that gets the word out.”
The passionate Chambers then said, “We did not write this song to get paid. We put this song out to right some wrongs that have happened to this country.”
As the pandemic continues to stifle the United States and the entire globe, it is important to know that “getting back to normal” means different things to different people. In a very heartfelt way, Dylan Chambers is helping to remind us all of this.
The Midnight Transit video “Stand Up and Fight” can be found at themidnighttransit.com.