City Song Aims to 'Lift Up' Residents During Pandemic

The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Louisville Orchestra, in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Louisville Orchestra, in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

"Lift Up Louisville," a song collaboration among 29 artists with ties to the Kentucky city, debuted Monday. Proceeds will benefit the city's relief fund for residents and nonprofits.

Musicians in Louisville have a message for their community during the Covid-19 pandemic: “I’m gonna make it through, you’re gonna make it too.”

Those words are lyrics in a song titled, “Lift Up Louisville,” a collaboration between 29 musicians with ties to the Kentucky city. The song, released Monday, was commissioned by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer as part of a larger “Lift Up Lou” initiative that aims to keep residents connected and engaged throughout mandated social distancing and self-isolation.

“The arts are the soul of Louisville,” Fischer said in a statement celebrating the song’s release. “Our city is blessed with an amazing array of brilliant and compassionate artists who love their hometown. That love is the backseat of ‘Lift Up Louisville,’ which tells the story of this moment in the life of our city, our country and our world. And the story of this moment includes the countless acts of kindness, inspiration and unity that we’ve seen in our city as people from every background and every neighborhood have found ways to lift each other up.”

Fischer reached out to Teddy Abrams, music director of the Louisville Orchestra, to tackle production of the song. The mayor didn’t have a specific concept in mind, Abrams said, beyond wanting a piece of music that could help lift the spirits of Louisville residents.

“I actually took a little step back and thought, ‘What does that mean right now?’” Abrams said Friday at the mayor’s daily briefing. “I can say on behalf of the artist community, we’re all asking ourselves that question. What’s our role in this? We know we have a role. We’re not on the front lines, but we know that we are a very important part of keeping our community strong and sharing a positive message, and offering a glimpse of what life is like in 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky as we all go through this together.”

Abrams reached out to dozens of musicians, including some living in Louisville and others that are natives of the city. The final group of 29 artists spans the gamut of musical genres, from jazz, gospel and bluegrass to rock, country and rap. Collaborators include Jim James and Patrick Hallahan of My Morning Jacket, singer and songwriter Will Oldham and gospel singer Jason Clayborn. The song was recorded remotely in accordance with social-distancing guidelines, and all proceeds from sales of the track will go to the One Louisville COVID-19 Response Fund, which provides emergency resources to people and nonprofits throughout the city who have been impacted by the virus.

Fischer, who called the song “a love song to my hometown,” said he would be challenging other cities to produce their own collaborations “so we can assemble a beautiful musical montage of this moment in history to remember the way we embraced the arts to get us through the difficulties of this time.”

The project, he said, will serve as a record of a strange and extraordinary time in the city.

“It’s just an amazing collaboration,” he said. “It’s a song that’s not only going to be embraced today, but will be a historical marker, I think, for our city for decades and decades to come.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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