It's Been A Year

by Virtual Bird and David Rovics

There Is A Cage You can listen to our leaders talk on TV Imagine you know your democracy Where people have rights, in a nation of laws A right to a trial, just cause Do something illegal, you might be detained This is part of the way the system's maintained But there's a special place where they take Certain people whose spirits they want to break There is a cage about three feet square They hang it from the ceiling and put a person in there Wherever you find them, it's a tell-tale sign Of a society's precipitous decline When the people in power feel they must resort To conditions too confined to be sanctioned by the court They keep prisoners in them for hours, days, weeks As long as required for the end they seek No marks left on the victim, what a perfect crime No evidence of torture after all that time Chorus At the bombed prison of Khiam, in Holman Square How many, how long, tortured in there In Abu Ghraib, in Bagram After all the mortars and bombs You can hear about them and marvel at the plight Of those souls disappeared into the Black Sites It's where Turkey keeps the Kurds, and it's where you just might go If you feed people in a park in San Francisco Chorus
When Jesus Came to Laurelhurst Park I saw Jesus walking through one night With the thorns around his head, he seemed taller than his height It was a crescent moon, a couple hours after dark When Jesus came to Laurelhurst Park I saw Jesus there by the turning lane He looked distraught, walking in the rain Past the service station on Chavez and Stark When Jesus came to Laurelhurst Park I saw Jesus walking down the street When he hit 37th, he stopped to meet The people in their tents, with all the scars that bore the mark When Jesus came to Laurelhurst Park I saw Jesus as he flew into a rage Two thousand years after the Roman Age He said “I wouldn't have bothered dying if I knew this would be the arc” When Jesus came to Laurelhurst Park I saw Jesus, he yelled “let's go downtown Let's bring lots of petrol bombs and burn the banks all down” He said “this shithole country is run by fucking oligarchs” When Jesus came to Laurelhurst Park I saw Jesus, he said “if you be human Grab your goddamn pitchforks,” and we all yelled “amen” He said God will not be happy til we loot all of the loan sharks When Jesus came to Laurelhurst Park
It's Been A Year It's been a year since the virus arrived A year since in this country half a million died A year since all the borders were starting to be sealed A year since the hospitals were sprouting in the fields No question for anyone living around here It's been a year It's been a year since the cafes all closed Since the dates on the calendars froze As the windows turned to plywood, and the plywood turned to art And unless you were essential or worked in a food cart Then you just had to cope with the anxiety and fear It's been a year It's been a year since the wheels in motion Led to an uprising on each side of the ocean Exposed by the pandemic, by inequality 8 46 of the neck beneath the knee A time of counter-demos, for a while a coup seemed near It's been a year It's been a year since canceling the rent A year since the last of the money was spent Since so many saw we're all vectors for disease And there is such a thing as society Since the words “mutual aid” became ones you'll commonly hear Along with “grim milestone” – yes, it's been a year
Dying On The Sidewalk Just down the road from here someone was shot Thirty-one years, all the time he got On Thirty-third Avenue, next to Cleveland High Beside the street as I pass by He was living in a tent – was that why Someone decided he had to die? In the halls of power, politicians talk While their citizens are dying on the sidewalk They declared a housing crisis years ago What that means, no one seems to know They'll pay for a few condos, complain about the bubble Ignoring the fact that the rent just doubled While paying close attention to the money men Who they hope will get them elected again Chorus It's like they're talking about dirt, sweep them out of here With people dying all around us every year Over a hundred gone in 2019 alone Those who don't get shot, get frozen to the bone Because the wind never blew and the sky never cried Like it did for all of those living outside Chorus
Kelly Butte 04:26
Kelly Butte In the first half of the 20th, if you lived around here Certain words could make you shudder with fear Especially those who found they often saw The short end of the stick, the long arm of the law The itinerant, the indigent, caught in the wrong place Arrested and shipped eastward, gone without a trace Sent to Kelly Butte, to split rocks at the quarry To be just another convict who paved this city The streets aren't paved with gold, they're paved with gravel The sound of splitting rocks, preceded by the gavel Sentenced to hard labor, to swing and swing again Because if you work the poor to death, you'll make them better men And anyway, the City Fathers needed people to pave The streets, and if they die, they can dig each other's graves Chorus For over forty years that's how this stolen town was made By convict labor – by workers never paid They say it's history forgotten, behind a rusted door How the scions of this city got rich from the poor But where are the descendants of those buried in these graves? They're living on the streets that their ancestors paved Chorus
In the Hills of Forest Grove In the hills of Forest Grove, there's not a whole lot going down It's a mostly residential kind of quiet town Further toward the coast, to the west of Hillsboro If you want to have a family it's the kind of place you go In the hills of Forest Grove, in the middle of the night If the car alarm goes off, you figure that it might Be a wandering raccoon, not an off-duty cop Ignoring all your pleas and your children's cries as you beg him to stop Seven minutes of terror that went on and on and on There's a policeman on your lawn In the hills of Forest Grove, on one side of a locked door One little family wondered when it might hit the floor And what would happen then, with no barrier between Them and their attacker, in this terrifying scene In the hills of Forest Grove, as his fists continued to pound Who knew if this might end with bodies on the ground The man was dangerous and armed, you could hear the glasses shatter And what it was that set him off said “Black Lives Matter” In the hills of Forest Grove, there was nary a dry eye When the dispatch only asked, would you recognize the guy Would you recognize him – because otherwise we could Just pretend it didn't happen, like we normally would In the hills of Forest Grove, no one's body cam was on No consequences – now five months gone They gave the officer a desk job – the indoor beat In another five months you'll find him somewhere on the street In the hills of Forest Grove
A Song for Laurel As you're heading back to the UN Hoping to see the time when The state might admit the guns in the troops' hands Were following an officer's commands Who fired on the crowd Who were afraid to die but still unbowed Standing up against a war of genocide Compelled to take a side How many lives destroyed or lost forever since that day When they gunned your sister down on the 4th of May As you make your journey with Allison's ghost From your home that she brought you to, on the west coast What if the soldiers were not sent For the rest of us, what would that have meant What victories might we have won Were it not for all those cops and soldiers with their guns If we hadn't just come so far That now they either shoot us or run us over with a car Chorus As you go to issue your report Speaking to the judges of the world's courts I know you'll be telling them how So little has changed til now The mayors of Portland, Kenosha, Chicago Call us the same things as fifty years ago Proud Boys are encouraged to run us down all the while It's the anarchists they say they want in jail, on trial Chorus
American Dream Ponzi Scheme It is we who built this city, and all the buildings where they trade It is we who were the reasons for the money that they made We moved to this place, made it worth a damn I may be a dropout, but I can smell a scam They sold us on the American Dream But it was just a con man's Ponzi scheme You say this place is so absolutely hip You can sit on your veranda and take a little sip Of the finest wine, as you look down At one of several hundred tent encampments in this town Chorus You spent a million dollars to sit in the front row As society collapses you can watch the show You who have a mortgage can count your lucky stars As you watch your neighbors move into their cars Chorus It is we who built this city, and all the buildings where they trade It is we who were the reasons for the money that they made
Woke 01:38
Woke If you want to change the world, that's good If you give a shit, you should You can organize, but you better be sure All your motives are moral and your words are pure Say the wrong thing and the PC police Will hound you from Oregon to Greece They'll picket at your concerts, harass everyone you meet Who's driving in your neighborhood or sharing your tweets We're so woke, this ain't no joke, before the day is through Step out of line, that's the sign – we'll cancel you Whatever it is you're doing, cancel culture doesn't care Because it's not about where you're going, but what you say before you get there Make sure to get your pronouns right, don't fuck up any verb Otherwise you might just end up lying on the curb Chorus If you have the wrong opinion on the matters of the week We'll make sure to attack you every time you speak It's our favorite form of activism, you can do it all alone You can feel so righteous just sitting with your phone Chorus
Shoplifting at Whole Foods The economy is crashed but the landlord wants the rent That's where all the Pandemic Unemployment money went Along with medicine and food, but now the aid is gone And we can't eat those nice “we're in it together” signs on your lawn So the ranks of the evicted are growing every day More and more tent cities, moving in to stay Hungry parents stealing just to feed their broods And the most discerning ones shoplift at Whole Foods 'Cause it's owned by the world's biggest corporation You can call it petty crime or you can call it liberation If you do it by yourself, it might not go so well But if you call a flash mob and watch your numbers swell Bring the kids and have a picnic – use a fork, don't be rude And make sure to wear a mask when you shoplift at Whole Foods Chorus All of Bezos' billions has made society unstable He's so rich, while so many can't put food upon the table They can hope we'll just die quietly, but I'm not in the mood I'd rather gather friends up and go shoplift at Whole Foods Chorus


In March, 2021 I wrote "It's Been A Year," and put the song out as a broadside on my podcast and such as usual. I got a message on Reddit that I barely even noticed was there (there are so many inboxes out there that I never discover). It was Virtual Bird doing a kick-ass punk rendition of the song.

After a negotiation process that lasted about half a second, we decided we should make an album. So for the next two months or so, when I wrote a song lyric, I often sent it to Olympia to see what would happen. Generally the process was within a ridiculously short amount of time, sometimes only a matter of hours, I would find an amazing recording to download, complete with drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals and vocal harmonies. Not only was it all beautifully executed, but the musical ideas were so cool.

As with the songwriting process when I'm just doing it myself, I often wanted to revise the lyrics after Virtual Bird's first go at them, and sometimes what happened next would be a complete reimagining of the song musically. The whole process was basically like having Christmas morning twice a week for two months.

In short, I think Virtual Bird is brilliant. You can find lots of their other albums in all the usual places, but this is the only one where I wrote the lyrics. I think the collaborative result is pretty phenomenal. And I hope a few other people out there agree!


released May 28, 2021

Basically, David Rovics wrote the lyrics and Virtual Bird did everything else.




David Rovics Portland, Oregon

Singer/songwriter, writer, podcaster (on Spotify, Substack & Patreon), anarchist, dad, lover of life.


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