Most of us have very short memories, especially when it comes to terrible things. It’s not our fault; the horror we experience after events like Columbine, the Colorado movie theater shootings or the Newtown massacre gets quickly swept away, replaced by the next distracting story in the fast-moving current of our 24/7 news cycle…
Sometimes, however, terrible things can inspire us to act and, in doing so, bring out the very best in human nature. When Grammy Award-winning songwriter Jim Peterik (founding member of The Ides of March and Survivor and co-writer of hits like Eye of the Tiger) first heard about Newtown, he felt shocked and numb as we all did. Unlike most people, however, he decided to write a song to express his feelings. Jim was in the process of co-writing and producing the debut album for singer Marc Scherer when the shots rang out at Newtown. Captivated by a newspaper headline that quoted President Obama, Peterik and his friend started bouncing ideas off each other and soon, they had written Newtown (You’re Not Alone), as a way of coping with their emotions.
Peterik is an iconic composer, musician, producer and author. In addition to being a gifted singer, Scherer is an accomplished jeweler, who has designed pieces for sports stars and Hollywood’s elite. His work is on permanent display in The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Neither of these artists needed validation of their talent. They were simply driven to express their emotions and connect with others who shared their reaction to this tragic event.
As the ripple effect of this artistic response grew stronger, it pulled in other local talent as well. Legendary Chicago rocker Joe Jammer (original guitarist for Supertramp and studio guitarist for Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr and a host of others) added his performance to the mix. Greg Bizzaro of Jaffe Films, Inc. brought emotional depth to the project by creating a poignant music video. The video features the work of Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter who travels around the country, building memorials – crosses, Stars of David, and other appropriate symbols – to commemorate the victims of these senseless acts. Zanis does this without pay, often driving all night to reach the scene of the latest tragedy and erecting his simple, wooden monuments. It’s Greg’s way of coming to terms with the grief he feels.
Like Zanis, Peterik, Scherer and the others contributed considerable time and expense to produce the final product, an apolitical, impassioned plea for sanity in a culture immersed in violence. Their song – and the subsequent video – is a moving tribute to the victims and those left behind to deal with the psychological aftermath of that horrible day. As Scherer sings, tortured by news footage of the massacre, we see Zanis, lovingly building his memorials in a bleak winter landscape. The powerful video concludes as 26 blue balloons are released into the cold, grey sky.
“Newtown (You’re Not Alone)” is available for download at iTunes (newtownthesong.com, with 100% of proceeds benefiting the Sandy Hook School Fund ( ) through United Way. You can show your support by LIKING us on our Facebook page, facebook.com/newtownthesong.) and the video can be viewed at
This visually-rich expression embraces the memory of the victims, while crying out against the madness that has become all too ingrained in our society. Newtown (You’re Not Alone) implores us, simply but eloquently, to never forget the victims and to push for ways to end the scourge of violence.