Yes, we can!
Can we do this for our families? Yes We Can!
Can we do this for our children? Yes We Can!
It is time to build the future that we’ll want to share together
Can we really make a difference? Yes We Can!
© Jeannine Haffner 2008
To hear “Yes We Can!” go to www.youtube.com/haff66.
Some Democratic women might be singing the blues about the demotion of Hillary Clinton from presidential contender back to senator, but Jeannine Haffner isn’t one of them. In a fit of unexpected inspiration, Haffner was moved to compose and sing a victory song for presidential hopeful Barrack Obama instead-well before last Tuesday’s final primary.
“I’ve never really been a political person,” says Haffner of Oak Park, “and I’m not really a songwriter either.” Yet she has written a political song, something in the style of a modern-day Joan Baez, motivated by Senator Obama’s victory speech after the North Carolina primary in May. Like many disengaged voters nationwide who have swarmed to the Illinois senator, Haffner was persuaded to do something she doesn’t usually do: get involved in the political process, i.e. get out and vote for-or in her case, sing about-a better future.
With a refrain of “Yes we can!” matched to a simple melody and a few straightforward chords, Haffner tackles global questions like, “Can we save our broken planet? Can we change the rules that ran it?” Her confident answer “Yes we can!” is a frequent phrase in the Obama camp, referring to the changes he promises to introduce in Washington.
“I thought he really needed a song. And I just had to write it. I love the way he is trying to bring people together,” she explains.
Haffner has recorded “Yes We Can!” on YouTube and registered the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. She would be thrilled if her music caught Obama’s attention. She admitted hesitantly that she’d sent it to his campaign office, “but they are so busy, I don’t know if they’ve even had time to listen to it. I think it could be a kind of motto for him, like Fleetwood Mac’s song [“Don’t stop thinkin’ about tomorrow”] was for Bill Clinton in 1992.”
Haffner might not run with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, but she has a closer connection to Obama than the other 35 million Americans who voted in this year’s Democratic primaries. When she was working as an early childhood music specialist in Hyde Park, one of her students was Sasha Obama, whose dad sometimes waited out in the hallway to pick up his daughter from class. “I didn’t even know who he was,” Haffner said of the now world-famous father. “But any parent who sends their pre-schooler to a music class is making a very smart move. Music is such a great teaching tool for kids!”
Haffner is a regular at The Buzz Cafe where the world premiere of “Yes We Can!” takes place June 14 in a set starting at 6:30 p.m. She will perform with her newly-signed-on partner Jon Jenkins. Together the duo is known as The Js.
Jon has dressed up Jeannine’s words and melody with some flashy guitar passages. Is this stop at The Buzz going to turn into an Obama rally? “I don’t know,” Haffner speculates. “I certainly don’t expect to be talking politics. I just want to get this song out there to the world.”
Although Haffner has been singing her whole life in churches and choirs and clubs and bars, she usually sings someone else’s music. “I’ve probably only written 20 songs in my life and most of them are when I’m feeling bad after a break-up or some other disappointment.”
She was caught by surprise with this song.
“I don’t usually do this sort of thing, especially on a political theme. But sometimes a song just hits me. Boom! The music and words like “Yes We Can” just come to me and in 20 minutes it’s done.”
Twenty minutes is not a long time to distill a presidential platform or the aim of junior Obama to conquer senior McCain next fall, but Haffner hopes “Yes We Can!” is long enough.
She reflected on her sudden political drive. “You know, over, say, the last five years, I’ve become more concerned about things like the economy and the environment. Somehow Obama really touched me with his vision for America. I suddenly found myself caring about politics and voting in the primary last February. I want to see him go all the way.”
Maybe her music will give him a lift, just as this campaign has lifted her spirits.
“As far as what will I do if the Obama campaign actually notices my song and uses it, first, I think, I would pass out from the shock of it. Then, I think I would just walk around on Cloud 9 for a while. And if my ultimate goal of singing this song at the Democratic National Convention and/or Inauguration comes true, then I guess I could just die happy because how much better can it really get, you know?”