While the story of racism in America is as old as America itself, the protest movement that arose around the world following the murder of George Floyd last summer brought the conversation to a new level of prominence… especially in pop culture.
Videos by American Songwriter
Now, artists of all genres are taking a stand, using their platforms to spur a wider dialogue about systemic racism and the impact of wealth inequality on marginalized communities. From H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe” to Leon Bridges’ “Sweeter” to Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker’s cover of “Killing In The Name,” there’s a spirit of protest illuminating pop music in a way it hasn’t since the 1960s.
Joining the ranks of artists speaking out is vocalist and songwriter, Dara Tucker. Rising to prominence as a co-writer on Keb’ Mo’s “Oklahoma,” Tucker has become adept at channeling her experiences into song, commenting on complex social structures along the way. On April 29, she released “Do We Sleep?” the sole original composition off her new album Dreams of Waking: Music for a Better World.
“‘Do We Sleep’ was a reaction to witnessing the blatant disregard for human life with the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others,” Tucker told American Songwriter. “It’s the responsibility of each individual to assess how they are contributing to a culture of silence around issues that matter. What are we putting on the line to challenge the systems that make the devaluing of human life commonplace? How does our complacency support the maintenance of systems that oppress others? Are we making ourselves uncomfortable to ensure we’re standing on the side of justice in our own worlds?”
Asking these difficult questions, “Do We Sleep?” is a profound number that speaks to a wider sense of the American spirit. Pairing Tucker’s phenomenally smooth and precise vocal performance with a loose, piano-led jazz trio arrangement, there are generations of American art at play throughout the song, almost akin to the way Spike Lee used Americana imagery to illustrate the continued suffering of marginalized communities in America.
In that regard, “Do We Sleep?” almost touches on something transcendental, something that brings an entire cultural heritage to life. For her part, Tucker spoke about how she sometimes has to access an open mental space in order to let her best ideas come to her.
“Start with the seed of the divine,” she said as an imperative. “Maintain a connection to your Source. That is where true inspiration comes from. Some songs will be written entirely from a divine space. Some songs will require lots of elbow grease to allow them to evolve into something usable. But if the seed of the divine is present, it will be felt by those who were meant to hear it. It can be like solving an intricate puzzle. It satisfies both the mathematical and creative sides of my brain. It’s always exciting to receive that initial inspiration—and when you can flesh out an idea in a way that makes all the pieces fit together, it’s deeply satisfying.”
Dara Tucker’s new song “Do We Sleep?” is out now and available everywhere. Watch the music video for it below: