MOVED TO melody

SONG­WRITER RON LYTLE

Pasatiempo - - RANDOM ACTS - — J.M.K.

IN the cam­paign of 2016, head­lines about mu­sic have mostly in­volved com­posers who protested when the Repub­li­can can­di­date used their pieces at ral­lies with­out their ap­proval. As best we can tell, only one bona fide cam­paign song has been pub­lished all year: “Make His­tory With Hil­lary and Me!” It has its own web­site (www.hillarycam­paign­song.com), through which in­ter­ested par­ties can ac­quire it as sheet mu­sic in four key trans­po­si­tions, as an iTunes down­load, and as a CD (“4 Fab­u­lous Ver­sions of the Hit Cam­paign Song that’s Sweep­ing the Na­tion”), along with such an­cil­lary swag as bumper stick­ers and pens.

We wanted to know more about this en­er­getic march-song, which sounds like it could have been writ­ten some 90 years ago, so we tracked down its com­poser, Ron Lytle (rhymes with “ti­tle”), who re­sides on the east side of the San Fran­cisco Bay. He has writ­ten a num­ber of mu­si­cals, in­clud­ing “Oh My God­mother” and “The Brody Bunch on Wil­li­gan’s Is­land,” and cur­rently serves as the res­i­dent play­wright for the East Bay Chil­dren’s Theatre. On his web­site, he an­nounces that should you need “a song or script for your The­atri­cal or Cor­po­rate event, Re­tire­ment Party, Bar Mitz­vah or Ice Cream So­cial,” he is avail­able.

Pasatiempo: Was “Make His­tory With Hil­lary and Me!” com­mis­sioned by any­one — like, for ex­am­ple, Hil­lary Clin­ton?

Ron Lytle: No, I just wanted to do it. I sup­ported Hil­lary eight years ago and made my lit­tle do­na­tions. This time around, I thought, what can I do that might make a lit­tle bit more of a dif­fer­ence? And I said, ‘Well, I’ll write a song.’ That’s what I did. We re­leased it on Septem­ber 23, and it’s been lan­guish­ing in ob­scu­rity ever since.

Pasa: Did you con­tact the Clin­ton cam­paign to get of­fi­cial sta­tus for your song?

Lytle: I never had any delu­sions that we would be granted of­fi­cial sta­tus. By chance, I had some won­der­ful con­tacts who were right there in the ad­vance team of the cam­paign, and I reached out to them, and they were en­thu­si­as­tic, but then, noth­ing. The song hasn’t got­ten tweeted out. Pasa: How did you get into the song­writ­ing busi­ness? Lytle: For years I was a per­former in mu­si­cal the­ater. At one point in the ’90s I was liv­ing in Las Ve­gas — not my kind of town — as part of a the­ater com­pany to pro­vide en­ter­tain­ment for chil­dren at a ma­jor casino. The idea was that par­ents could just leave their chil­dren unat­tended. My group was given a script that was so bad I couldn’t imag­ine stand­ing on stage and per­form­ing it. So I told the en­ter­tain­ment di­rec­tor that it re­minded me of a script I had writ­ten, which maybe we could con­sider for our next show. He asked me to bring it in. So I ran home and wrote it. That was a Fri­day, I gave it to him on Mon­day, and he im­me­di­ately de­cided to do that script in­stead. That was the first thing of mine that was pro­duced. You could say I did it out of self-preser­va­tion.

Pasa: Your CD in­cludes vo­cals by Glenna Murillo and John Er­reca, who are … ? Lytle: Friends of mine from the the­ater com­mu­nity in the Bay Area.

Pasa: And also a lusty ac­com­pa­ni­ment from the “Stronger To­gether” March­ing Band, which is … ?

Lytle: I’ve worked with John Er­reca on a num­ber of projects over the years. He has a won­der­ful “vir­tual orchestra” on his com­puter, and that is what we used for the “Stronger To­gether” March­ing Band. I’m kind of against the whole “vir­tual mu­si­cians” thing be­cause I think mu­si­cians should have jobs. But those are his vir­tual in­stru­ments.

Pasa: Did you re­search ear­lier cam­paign songs as this piece was ger­mi­nat­ing?

Lytle: Ever so slightly. I knew “I Like Ike,” the Irv­ing Berlin song, which was a show tune that got adapted. And I re­mem­bered “Hello, Lyn­don!” set to “Hello, Dolly!” I lis­tened to a few. I found my­self think­ing about the Sher­man Brothers, who wrote the mu­sic for Mary Poppins and lots of Dis­ney scores. They had a movie in the late ‘60s that in­cluded some mock cam­paign songs they had writ­ten, like “Let’s Put It Over for Grover.” My ap­proach was maybe a lit­tle tongue-in-cheek. In that sense, mine is kind of a trib­ute song — and it’s a lit­tle campy. Friends have called it a “camp”-aign song. Pasa: Was this your first foray into the arena of po­lit­i­cal songs? Lytle: When the younger Bush was first elected, I was writ­ing a song ti­tled “Don’t let W Trou­ble You.” But then 9/11 hap­pened, and I just put it away.

Pasa: I no­tice you also seized on a revered prac­tice of cam­paign songs, which is to work in a ref­er­ence to an es­tab­lished pa­tri­otic song. In this case, it’s in the run-up to the cli­max: “Let the ban­ners fly, the time is nigh! Oh say, can’t you see? To make his­tory, with Hil­lary and me!” And “Oh say, can’t you see?” is set to a ris­ing fig­ure, just like in our na­tional an­them.

Lytle: I love that lit­tle tra­di­tion. When we were record­ing it, I had to point out to the singers how that was in there. They hadn’t made the con­nec­tion. Irv­ing Berlin used to do that kind of thing.

Pasa: Your song makes a nod to the fem­i­nist mo­ment: “What’s that sound above? That sound that we all love? It’s the sound of a glass ceil­ing that is break­ing!” Yet I no­tice that you did not craft a rhyming cou­plet in­volv­ing “fe­male” and “email.”

Lytle: Oh. Well, I wanted it to feel like this song had been un­earthed, so I tried not to have mod­ern ref­er­ences or up-to­date lan­guage. And I didn’t want it to be un­kind in any way — in­clud­ing to her op­po­nent. I also did not write “So don’t be a chump and vote for Trump.”

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