Rosanne Cash has released the “scathing yet hopeful” new song “Crawl Into The Promised Land,” complete with an official video by Phyllis Housen and Eric Baker.
Esteemed four-time Grammy winner Cash co-wrote the song with its producer, John Leventhal, and its appearance is a call to the resilience of the human spirit as America leads into next month’s presidential election.
Proceeds from the single will be donated to the Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement. The educational online memorial commemorates the victims of lynchings in the state of Arkansas, in collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative and Coming To The Table.
The song contains such powerful and politically resonant lines as “Deliver me from tweets and lies, and purify me in the sun” and the chorus “And don’t it feel like home, don’t it feel like we belong/You gotta lift your head and raise your hand, and crawl into the promised land.”
Cash has also written an essay about the song, which can be seen in her own handwriting on her website, and is reproduced in full below.
“Crawl Into The Promised Land” by Rosanne Cash
“The pandemic and the protests were a perfect storm of isolation, inspiration, outrage, longing, fear, and hope. Living in New York City was a pressure cooker, particularly in April and May, when the deaths were spiking and the city sealed itself off, and utterly changed. But strangely, there was also a sense of transformation just around the curve, a sense of unity and community, and the potential for transcendence. I kept thinking of the model in physics, where things have to fall apart in order to re-assemble themselves in a more refined, evolved state.
“The only thing to do was write songs”
“My tour was cancelled, and I was off the road, sequestered in my own home, with time, a stack of writing journals, and a recording studio in the basement. There was nothing to do to accommodate the emotional squeeze, and the rumblings of panic, and no way to articulate the division, and the suffering born of racism and the suffering born of Covid, with reason or logic. The only thing to do was write songs.
“We have been at the mercy of grifters with cruel intentions. People who operate out of greed and the most base ambitions. People who value power over human lives, and, shockingly, do not suffer the consequences of wielding that power. At the same moment, we are confronting the systemic racism in America, in a more conscious way, and we have to decide what we will do with the overdue epiphany. The veil is lifting. Hopefully, we are taking the first steps toward reparation and reconciliation. It requires facing some very dark parts of our shared history and our individual pockets of bias and privilege.
“I’m angry and bewildered that our leaders consider me and many others ‘the enemy.’
“I am a patriot. Every generation of my family has served this country, back to the 18th Century. Both sides of my family fought in the Revolutionary War in order to ‘form a more perfect union.’ I want to form a more perfect union than they wanted. One that acknowledges that Black and indigenous people were fighting in the War of Independence on the American side, and that they deserve full enfranchisement that they also earned three centuries back and have yet to be fully given. We’ve been here for centuries, and we’re here to stay. The corrupt motives of those elected to serve us have opened a chasm between North and South, red and blue, American and American. The trashing of norms, the abdication of dignity, values, and true leadership, torments me. I want to see the American dream become the American reality. If it wasn’t possible, it wouldn’t live so vividly in our imagination and our longing.
“It had been percolating”
“John Leventhal more than met the impulse that led to my lyrics, and created the music that conveyed all the urgency, and faith, outrage and power. It happened quickly. It had been percolating for awhile.
“I want to run away from the moment, to look back at this time from decades in the future, and understand it, and see that we rose to our best selves, so I wrote the lines ‘Fifty years away from here, Sixty, if I run.’
“I need more space and time to understand what happened, what we are still going through. Why we elected such an unfit person to guide us, why we kill Black people with impunity, why our leaders dismantle and mock every institution we have painstakingly created to hold us safe, why some deaths matter and others don’t. I won’t be here ‘fifty years away from here,’ but someone I gave birth to, or someone they gave birth to, will live in those times and understand, and maybe pass the knowledge on to me, even in another world or another life. The magnitude of the moment requires time and an ocean of reflection.
“I wanted to connect the past and the present”
“The song required a visual corollary. I wanted to connect the past and the present: the Voting Rights Act, and the Women’s March of 2017, the Civil Rights movement and the Black Lives Matter protestors, Harriet Tubman and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the workers in the cotton fields and the lives of those of us who live in privilege because of them, and the necessary gratitude for the humanity we share. There are photos of my mother, of my husband, of my spiritual and cultural ancestors, of my country at war, and my kinfolk in unity. Phyllis Housen and Eric Baker brought their refined visual sensitivity to weave the words, the backbeat, and the pictures.
“The song leads into the election. ‘Deliver me from tweets and lies,’ begs to be delivered from hatred in the ranks, from division and violence, from conspiracy and delusion, and from those who blow wind into the embers of hatred. We can get back to our dream of America, where the ‘enemy’ is an individual burden, inside each of us, aching for a truce.
“‘Only in our dreams we had/faith in bigger lives and plans.’ Now it is time to give breath to those dreams and ‘put away those broken vows’. We’re exhausted. We’re disoriented. But I know we have the strength and will to deliver ourselves, to crawl into the promised land.”