Fences – The Song
Saga Of The Song “Fences”
Click on the above title to hear the song Fences. Words by Dennis Chandler & Clebert Ford. Music by Dennis Chandler.
Back to the subject of diversity. To explain the beginnings of one special song, let’s go back in time (and tie up a loose end, too). Mention was made earlier of Dennis earning a Doctorate-in-Diversity, so to speak. You might recall reading about his bandleader days (with CKLW radio’s houseband “The Pilgrims”). That’s when he had the first of many wonderful opportunities to perform for so many different folks. Lessons brought home from those wonderful Detroit audiences in the early 60′s helped him to cope with social changes in the turbulant times of the late 60′s.
When it was time for those first waves of turbulent social unrest to hit home, here in Ohio, little did Dennis think he’d be seeing it firsthand as a member of the National Guard? He was called up from their Reserves to serve active duty during the time of the riots of Geneva-on-the-Lake, Hough, Glenville, Collinwood, at the truckers’ strike and Kent State. One day, while on duty in Hough, he found himself looking through a barbed wire fence when he saw some musician-friends with whom he played at the renowned Gleason’s and Leo’s Casino. Plus, there was MISS FANNIE MAE LEWIS aka COUNCILWOMAN LEWIS and local reporter LEON BIBB, who was covering the riots.
What started initially as a warm smile-of-recognition turned into a stunned look on their faces. Later they said that seeing a rifle cradled in his arms instead of a guitar was what did it. But, in down-home fashion, they didn’t miss a beat emphasizing their understanding he was “duty-bound to be there”. Then, together, they took down the fences.
Barriers between friends: Dennis came away from that encounter with an idea for a song titled “Fences”. But, he found that it would be many years before the song would move to the front burner of his brain, so to speak. When it did, it was after convalescing from chemos (during his battle with leukemia). Then once up and out again, another sort of healing happened. In ’90 he went to see a play titled “Fences” at the CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE. This play, written by THE BLACK POET LAUREATE OF AMERICA AUGUST WILSON, was the most honored in theatre history. Audience demand was high, which is why, this production was held over. Luckily for Dennis he got to see it (albeit barely for it was closing night) and he got to meet the cast after.
Well, the play’s cathartic effect carried home with him and translated into music that night. But, it was when cast members KIM HAMILTON, CLEBERT FORD, BILL COBBS along with CAROLYN RAY, came out to his home the next day, that he truly was inspired to finish what he started so long ago, his song about barriers or “Fences”. With these bigger-than-life characters off the stage and in his home, Dennis finished the song with Ford. Clebert played it back in New York for one special friend, MARY ALICE. She was the actress who was honored with A TONY for her portrayal of the mother in the BROADWAY PRODUCTION. She exclaimed “Oh, August Wilson should hear this, you really captured the play!” Sadly, AUGUST WILSON passed away and this past year we lost dear CLEBERT FORD.