NEXTTRIBE | BY JEANNIE RALSTON
Sara Hickman + Rolling Stones’ Song = A New Anthem for Front Line Workers
Singer-songwriter Sara Hickman revised a Rolling Stones song, “Salt of the Earth,” as a tribute to those who have kept society going during COVID.
On her website, Sara Hickman describes herself as the following: producer, visual artist, designer, wife, and friend. It’s interesting to me that she doesn’t list singer-songwriter since that’s where she’s made her fame. She has recorded 15 albums, had her songs covered by the likes of Willie Nelson, and was named the Official State Musician of Texas (in between Nelson and Lyle Lovett).
There’s a title she does give on her website that interests me most. She calls herself a “creative elf.” This actually sums up everything I know about Sara, who has been kind enough to participate in a number of NextTribe events in her hometown of Austin. First, she has the impish spirit (and the twinkle in her eye) of an elf, and she is endlessly creative. She actually conducted a workshop on creativity for NextTribe’s Austin members earlier this year, and we all were in awe of the scope of her imagination. (For instance, after years in the music business, she has started producing adult coloring books featuring Texas music stars.)
Sara also is dedicated to doing good works, such as renovating and managing a community center in a poor area of Texas, and recognizing others for their efforts through a gratitude project. Her most “elfish” undertaking is leaving beautiful hand-painted rocks around town, just to spread a bit of joy when others find them.
The Hard Working People Project
It’s in this benevolent spirit that Sara launched The Hard Working People Project “to bring awareness to the fact so many of us are working tirelessly and courageously during this time of COVID.” She gathered more than 30 musicians—vocalists, drummers, guitarists—to perform a version of the Rolling Stones’ 1968 song “Salt of the Earth” and recorded 130 tracks all from artists who remained physically distant from each other.
She edited together not just the song, but a video as well. “I felt that so many of the hard working people,” she says, “our mail carriers, our medical teams, our firefighters, our grocery clerks, our garbage collectors, our farmers and migratory workers, for example—all deserved to be celebrated because they continued to work in the midst of this terrible pandemic, even when no one really understood what COVID was and, also, knowing their lives were in danger from an unseen, deadly virus.”
Proceeds from digital downloads of the song ($1 per download) go to 12 non-profits that Sara promotes through a website Necessary Angels.
Mick and Keith Would Surely Approve
Sara got the idea for the project this past May, when she was doing a “Sarathon,” in which she sang and played the guitar for 24 hours straight to raise money for those impacted by the pandemic. “Before the event, I organized a chart that listed 10 songs per hour, and one of the songs I chose was the Rolling Stones `Salt of the Earth,’” she recalls.
At the suggestion of a friend (Eliza Gilkyson), she changed some of the lyrics written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to make the song more pertinent today, For instance, instead of the original line, “a choice of cancer or polio,” she wrote “the choice between corona or staying home.”
She also re-wrote the bridge. The original:
“And when I search a faceless crowd/A swirling mass of grays and blacks and white/They don’t look real to me/In fact they look so strange…“
The updated lyrics:
“And when I search a gathered crowd/A swirling mass of truth and black and white/They have a right to rage/They’re crying out for change…”
After working on the song for six months, recruiting musicians to donate their time, recording, and editing with engineer Eddy Hobizal, Sara is thrilled with the result. “My vision is that this will elevate the hard working people around the globe by giving them a “voice” through our musical response to the pandemic.” She also hopes that people who see the video will make donations here to the worthy non-profits she promotes to help improve lives around the world.