Songplaces

Los Angeles, California

Mercy Bound by Edwin McCain

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In your doorways I have shivered
In your alleys I have gone to ground
I will be delivered
Someday I will be mercy bound
The rich/poor divide
“I wrote Mercy Bound soon after I moved to LA. I was struck by how rich and poor lived almost side by side. The distance between the super rich and the unbelievably poor was never so obviously wide, even though they lived within blocks of each other. It changed the way I looked at life forever. And the runaways, the homeless were so much a part of the scenery. I think I borrowed the opening melody from a Joan Jett song - can't remember which one. That song was the cornerstone of The Borrowers' only album, although it wasn't much like the rest of the record. Maia Sharp sang with me on the demo and the studio version.

A year or so later, I was lucky enough to be in the good graces of my friend Brendan Okrent at ASCAP when Joan Baez was looking for a final song for an album, and gratified when she chose ‘Mercy Bound.’ I joined her tour for a day or two and found myself onstage with her at the Newport Folk Festival that year, which was a blast. I am equally jazzed that Maia Sharp turned Edwin McCain onto the song. First time I've had a title track!” ~ Songwriter Mark Addison

Los Angeles, The Entertainment Capital of the World, has a long history of cranking out mass diversions for massive profits. It's also home to seven Fortune 500 companies (as of 2011). All things considered, L.A. is the third largest economic center in the world. Given all this, it seems as though the streets would be arteries pumping solid gold through the city.

Nonetheless, many traveling entertainers and tourists have noticed the jarring contrast of drug addicts, homeless, and gang members juxtaposed with pristine skyscrapers and Giorgio Armani suits. A high-powered businesswoman steps over an unconscious drunk on the sidewalk. A sleeping hobo's feet poke out from behind a dumpster.

In any economic center, there's bound to be a wide gap between the haves and the have-nots as local economy drives up real estate prices. Los Angeles is no exception, with an estimated 73,000 homeless on any given night. They sleep under stairways, in bushes, under bridges, in tents on riverbeds, in caves, basements, tree houses, crawlspaces, parked cars, garages... all considerably cheaper than the median California home price of half a million dollars. The homeless are all ages - young runaways, young families with children, the elderly. They might be Vietnam vets, failed screenwriters, mentally ill, drug-addicted, or just out of luck. Many in the city don't recognize the signs of homeless people hidden nearby; others have grown accustomed to their presence.

Space in shelters is limited. Solutions aren't easy. But songwriter Mark Addison couldn't help but imagine himself in their place.

In our blindness
It always seems like someone else


-Nicholas Tozier

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