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Music Video – Such A Crime

Winner, Summit Award, 2010

Such A Crime was written, recorded and performed regularly in support of a project by the nonprofit Elfenworks, “In Harmony With Hope”  in 2010 as part of their Second Saturdays for Soup-Kitchens campaign, and its message is still relevant today. With the project, the optimistic vision was that a grass-roots movement based in song might foster compassion towards those in need.

The song – an easy sing-along song with follow-the-bouncing-ball video and easy sheet music – uses one true story to point out the problems when we criminalize poverty and also pass laws against helping.  The story itself came from the New York Times Op-Ed, “So, Is It Now a Crime to be Poor?” by Barbara Ehrenreich.

The effort was envisioned as a call-and-response. First, the band Commodore Callahan released a sing-along video featuring a ‘follow the bouncing ball’ motif.  Then, other musicians were invited to join in, replying in whatever creative way they wished.  It was hoped that, as replies would grow, soup kitchen pantries would be filled and the homeless would find much needed shelter, so the band performed it every Second Saturday for over a year, beginning in February of 2010. When the effort was envisioned, there were few such gatherings happening anywhere. This was about one and one half years before the Occupy movement of the Fall of 2011.

Such a Crime’s focus on poverty, intentional blindness, or the choice of helping, and doesn’t speak to the issues that got people marching in the Occupy movement. Occupy centers more around inequality and anger at business practices, and has its own singing components (e.g., Occupella).  Although the Second Saturdays concept did not succeed in capturing the public imagination, we stand behind the spirit behind the song, and look forward to hearing about new and creative ways people may find to fill soup kitchen pantries and provide much needed shelter for those without.

Recording Details 

Lyrics by Lauren Speeth and Music by Josh Workman. Performed by the band Commodore Callahan: Vocals by Lauren Speeth, Josh Workman, and Don Kane. Guitar & synth: Josh Workman. Bass: Don Kane. Video animation by Dan Coplan.  Produced by Elfenworks Productions, LLC. Copyright Elfenworks Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The Back Story (The Ballad’s Inspiration)

Such a Crime found its inspiration in a true story, a New York Times Op-Ed piece by Barbara Ehrenreich, who has been pointing out some very scary trends for our country, including an increasing criminalization of poverty itself. Ms. Ehrenreich told the true and tragic story of a Vietnam-era veteran – a minister – who was disabled and found himself homeless, but then was rousted from his bed in a raid, and arrested for the crime itself having been related to his actual homelessness (vagrancy).  To make matters worse, this happened in Washington, where those who sent him to war reside and work.  The song’s refrain asks simply: “Is it a crime to be poor?”


Feedback for Such a Crime  – Winner, Summit Award, 2010

“If there’s one thing that can light up the faces of a group of poverty law veterans and pioneers-to-be, it’s singing along to “Such a Crime,” with Commodore Callahan, the band of Lauren Speeth, the polymath philanthropist, scholar and activist who made the nonpareil Golden Gate/SALT National Poverty Law Conference possible.” – Dru Ramey, Esq., Dean of Golden Gate University School of Law