Artist: Victor Johnson
Featured song: “Elegy,” self-released
The often-quoted line, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” (usually attributed to Mexican poet Cesar A. Cruz), aptly describes Bend singer-songwriter and music educator Victor Johnson — especially the first part of that statement. His 2015 album, “Beautiful Things,” featured songs paying tribute to victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting and the 2013 Boston Marathon attacks, among others, and he has used his subsequent singles over the years to bring light in the wake of tragedies.
“Elegy,” recorded with Sisters producer and engineer Lino Alessio and featuring classically trained violinist Leah Naftalin (known for her work with Shady GroOove, Central Oregon Symphony and Opera Bend) and artwork by local artist Paul Bennett, was inspired by two Central Oregon teenagers who took their lives on the same day in December 2017. Proceeds from downloads of the song on bandcamp.com will go to local nonprofit organization Younity, which works to prevent bullying and teen suicide.
The composition, which features Johnson’s gentle fingerpicking and emotional vocal delivery accompanied by Naftalin and synthesized cello, brings to mind The Beatles’ acoustic ballads “Blackbird” or “Yesterday.” Johnson, who has personally dealt with depression, urges a message of support and understanding (“Teach your children to love the earth; show them a bit of their infinite worth”), with imagery referencing a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.
“Like a chrysalis, so much of the obstacles and hardships we face in our lives are just temporary,” Johnson said via email. “As a teenager, it can be so difficult to realize that. David Bowie’s ‘Rock N Roll Suicide’ was also an inspiration for this song. Perhaps more than any other icon, Bowie showed that it’s okay to be yourself and to love yourself exactly as you are, no matter how different you may be.”
— Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin