THE ONE THING – TRAVIS JOHN, 4th of July 2011 /kate power

It’s the 4th of July. The one thing I think of is Travis John. The firecrackers have finished as night turns into the wee hours. I can’t sleep and my thoughts turn to Travis and the song.

Travis and the gift of the song he gave me changed my life. My relationship is with his ghost and his memory.  My boys knew him and remember him.  We sing his song as an act of peace in his memory. I am grateful to the countless, often unexpected, people who have supported our peace walk through music without borders. Ukuleles, banjos, guitars and voices together and alone; the songs are sent to the heart of the world from the heart of two folksingers who believe more than ever that we must do all we can to work together with instruments of peace.

It’s been eight years since the song came up as I was sitting in the woods at Fishtrap with a banjo at Wallowa Lake, hours after his  body was laid in the ground back in Portland where he was first born three hundred miles away. Steve and I sang it that night, trembling with its first time off the raw page at Fishtrap.  We’ve sung it ever since to light the candle with harmony and to remember him as though we knew him as well as our kids and his family did. As we pack to go back to Fishtrap, called to the writer’s retreat in the Wallowas, the song returns with us.

Since July 10, 2003, we have sung “Travis John” more than a thousand times in answer to a promise over the three thousand days since the beginning of the war, to sing it until the troops came home. It’s eight years so far.

Tracy Grammer joined the ranks of what she likes to call the “One Song Peace Movement” in 2007 (Book of Sparrows EP) and has sung “Travis John” – now just returned from singing it in Hiroshima, Japan – every time she walks on stage and has told the story countless times, patiently, as her peace walk, one town at a time.

Pete Seeger put our CD “Pearls” with “Travis John” in his mailbox and sent it to Bruce Springsteen after “The Seeger Sessions” a few years ago.

Time has passed and the sense of urgency remains waiting, bubbling with blood and oil as it grows to devour lives and hope.  Wars multiply with a greedy appetite for our young who answer the call as though fighting dragons. Travis was one of many brave young hearts now missed. “Travis John” is one simple hymn, a folksong.  One small thing.  What will it take? What is it worth?

We are three folksingers. “Travis John” is an offertory. I picture the real folksingers; the people in their kitchens and front porches, the shape-note singers, the church choirs, the urban peace choruses, the song circlers, the peace walkers at vigils, the soldiers; we, all of us together, lifting our voices to harmonize between the grave and the living just as a growing flock of birds migrate and home in to land one day, in peace.

I am a dreamer who sings.

“Travis John” is the gift of a song without borders.

May peace increase.

FREE DOWNLOADS of “Travis John” are available on Quality Folk website at


Under a foreign sky, my fate awaits me
There but for God go I; do not forsake me

I am a boy full of promise, full of freedom
And now the joy is dead and done
I am gone

Before the western sea, my home was in the valley
There with my family, I took to manhood early

I was the one my brother called, my mother looked to me
her fine, strong son
And now the joy is dead and done
I am gone

Finding my way to go, the call that I should answer
My country’s own hero, like music to the dancer

I am a boy full of promise, full of freedom
And now the joy is dead and done
I am gone

Under a weeping willow tree you planted roses
There in my memory, where my eternal ghost is

I was a boy full of promise, full of freedom
And now the joy is dead and done
I am gone

(kate power©2003 ℗bmi/katidoo)