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Excerpt from Birmingham Post-Herald

McAndrew sings song of Birmingham
By Leigh Anne Monitor
Birmingham Post-Herald

John McAndrew has been crooning the pop verses to audiences in Los Angeles, Vancouver and New Orleans, telling folks about how "the sun always shines down on Birmingham, where the gospel singers sang, swaying hand in hand."

The 43-year-old singer from Minneapolis wrote a song about the civil rights movement called "Birmingham" while he was here on a trip a little more than a year ago.

This month, McAndrew snagged Ed Keane and Associates in Boston to manage his bookings. He'll take "Birmingham" to European cities next year.

The song is being used by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. McAndrew, who is trying to attract a major record label, said the song will be included on his next album. He plays piano and writes pop songs with blues and gospel influences; his style has been compared to an early Elton John.

He said he recently recorded the song with a choir in Los Angeles ' Entourage Studios, with the help of Grammy-winning producer Morgan Ames. McAndrew's album, "I'll Play All Night Long," with 12 original songs, was recorded in 1997 in Muscle Shoals. He said he will start recording his newest album, which includes "Birmingham" in January in Los Angeles .

"Birmingham" came about after McAndrew played tourist one day on 16th Street North.

McAndrew had arrived in the city to attend a wedding with a friend. He ended up with a few free hours, and he decided to tour the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park .

What he heard and saw was, as he calls it, like being on "holy ground."

"The sun was shining bright down on 16th Street at noon , where they fought for civil rights and they built this house of truth, where you can take a walk back through history, where it's all so plain to see..."

This, the song's first verse, is what McAndrew said he experienced as he walked along. Previously, he said, his knowledge of the movement had been based on watching TV as a boy in the '60s.

He said he heard a church choir singing in the park just before he toured the institute.

"The song is just a story of that day for me," McAndrew said. "The gist of the song is that God is shining the sun real bright on Birmingham for the whole world to see.

"Everywhere I play it, people are really touched by it," he continued. "'That Birmingham song is so beautiful, why did you write that?'"

He said it was a natural effect: The song just came through him.

"The 'Birmingham' song is really what my music is about," he said. "It's about truth."

"Walked across the street to the old Baptist church and I saw the faces of four little girls who burned. The old women of the church there, they got God in their eyes as they told me the story of a war in black and white."

He said he still sees racism in Minneapolis and other cities across the nation, as well as in the South.

But in Birmingham , he said he's found a flip side.

"What I did feel was a tremendous amount of pride in the black community, the pride in what they overcame and their struggle," McAndrew said.

"I have never felt that anywhere but in Birmingham. I think now the whole world can come to Birmingham and really see the truth of what happened."