For World AIDS Day: 'Walt Whitman in 1989'
To mark World AIDS Day 2011, I wanted to share a remarkably affecting song that I heard for the first time recently, thanks to the New York Festival of Song: "Walt Whitman in 1989."
This performance comes form a new film, "All the Way Through the Evening" by Rohan Spong, a documentary centering on the annual concerts arranged in New York City by Mimi Stern-Wolfe as a tribute to composers lost to HIV/AIDS (she is the pianist in the clip).
The song, with words by Perry Brass and music by Chris DeBlasio, imagines Whitman returning to ...
hospital wards to offer comfort, as he did during the Civil War: "He rocks back and forth in the crisis ... he has written many words about ... the disfigurement of young men and the wars, of hard tongues and closed minds ..."
In the closing verse, Whitman tells a dying man about "the River of dusk and lamentation ... I will carry this young man to your bank ... put him myself on one of your strong, flat boats, and we will sail all the way through the evening."
The composer, Chris DeBlasio, died in New York in 1993. He was 34.