On June 24, 2022, The United States Supreme Court made the landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade after 50 years. That day, Richard Gottehrer, founder and creative vision behind The Orchard, instantly recalled an album he produced in 1992 by soulful rock n’ roll singer-songwriter Jeffrey Gaines. Gaines’ self-titled debut featured two impactful songs, “Choices” and “Why,” dealing in the controversial subject matter of abortion and gun rights, respectively. Thirty years later, their messages still remain relevant. Richard rang Jeffrey.
At a time when many are asking “what can I do to help,” Richard and Jeffrey channeled their efforts by doing what they do best: making music. Together, they re-recorded the tracks and released them just a few short weeks after the Supreme Court revoked the rights for American citizens to choose, and merely days after the 356th mass shooting in the U.S. this year.*
“Choices,” came to Jeffrey Gaines while walking past an angry gathering of men picketing outside a healthcare facility in Philadelphia. He couldn’t fathom the idea of pushing your own ideals onto someone else. The song directly calls for freedom of bodily autonomy with the lyrics, “Please respect that it’s my life, my mind, and my body, and leave my choices alone.” While the song comes from a very personal perspective Jeffrey states, “It’s not a personal song for me but it’s a personal song for the people I care about.” Jeffrey talks about “adding his verse” on their behalf and continues stating, “I might not be a person on the street or with a picket sign, but I may be at the podium or top of the steps singing to that group… and then get the hell out of the way for Gloria Steinem to deliver the actual details.”
“Why?” tells a different story, equally as timely now as it was then. The song’s narrator chronicles a fellow musician falling victim to gun violence and processes this event by asking, “Why?” Jeffrey recounts his life experiences viewing humanity as an outsider looking in.“I feel, in my existence on Earth, that I’m like a complete tourist wherever I am. It’s all completely observational. I ask myself, “Why can’t people just find happiness and harmony?” and I write based on my own commentary.” The track asks, “Why would you want to hurt or kill or maim to take a dream or life away?” The lyrics deal in love, pain, empathy, and confusion over why anyone would take such drastic, irreversible measures.
Thirty years later, the question “Why?” remains unanswered.
*Source: Gun Violence Archive