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Video Premiere: “Cemetery Road” by Jon LaDeau

Jon LaDeau
13 May 2021

Jon LaDeau – Photo Credit: Brian Geltner

Big Takeover is proud to host the premiere of Brooklyn-based folk rocker Jon LaDeau’s new video for his song “Cemetery Road.”

The video begins in a cloud of smoke, as a police SUV burns and cops blast protesters indiscriminately with pepper spray as they flood the streets, demanding justice and accountability in the wake of yet another senseless and disturbingly casual murder—another black life snuffed out at the hands of police.

Lyrically and visually, “Cemetery Road” shines a light on American civil unrest in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, amplifying the modern struggle for civil rights against a backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, police violence, income inequality, homelessness, poverty and general injustice in America.

The footage—culled from last summer’s nationwide BLM protests—captures America in turmoil, collectively experiencing some of the largest demonstrations in the nation’s history.

Millions sympathetic to the cause breathed a momentary sigh of relief April 20 when officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty for the murder of George Floyd. But the 24 hours that followed—during which police killed six more people, including Andrew Brown, Jr, and 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant—proved, sadly, that the video for “Cemetery Road” was still relevant, and will continue to be for some time.

The track begins with some urgent and soulful guitar riffing from LaDeau, which soon gives way to a vocal performance that is appropriately forlorn yet filled with resolve. While sonically distinct, the soaring harmonies and timely social commentary of “Cemetery Road” call to mind Neil Young’s 1970 CSN&Y classic “Ohio” (about another gross injustice in American history, the Kent State Massacre). Over an insistent drum beat and a pleading B3 organ, LaDeau sings…

“There’s blood on the street, and there’s death at our feet
I have a dream that there’s no sleep ’til every soul is livin’ free

There’s a fight in the street tonight
Everyone sends prayers, everyone just stares while the TV blares
Lies and lies, time after time, it’s by design
Anyone can see that everyone ain’t free

We all wanna be free, we all wanna go home
Do the things that we do, love the ones that we love

Looking out at a world on fire, don’t look away
Nobody’s safe til we’re done with hate”

Impressionistically recalling the moment he wrote the song, LaDeau says, “It was late at night in a cemetery. The moon was out, it was bright. Fires off in the distance, smoke headed toward the sky. Something had happened. There was music. I woke up. The song was there. George Floyd was not. The news was on. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery. Sadly the list goes on and on. I felt sick. I worked on the song. I tried to make sense of what I saw, what the whole country saw in Minneapolis. I worked on the song more. Days passed. Finally, I finished it. And then I slept.”

Looking to record, but still in the midst of the pandemic, LaDeau assembled a studio in a shed in upstate New York. There, he recorded guitars and vocals for the song and sent them to the band, who cut their parts remotely. “Cemetery Road” was mixed by Jesse Lauter (Langhorne Slim, Elvis Perkins) and features an all-star cast of supporting players: drummer Sam Merrick (Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones), bassist Justin Kimmel (Antibalas, Toubab Krewe), and percussionist David Butler (Guster, Marco Benevento), plus Steve Okonski (Durand Jones & the Indications) on keys, and backing vocals from Emily Jackson.

After the song was finished, LaDeau decided to pair it with some visuals, so he taught himself how to use iMovie and started editing (with assistance from Melissa Floreth).

“The magnifying glass was out and our country was under it,” LaDeau says. “I still felt sick. I needed to understand what I was feeling, what I was seeing—what the whole world was seeing and feeling. I felt a small part of a bigger opportunity for change, growth, healing, love. For each other, for everyone’s right to be free, to be treated as human, to have a chance at enjoying this life. … We have a lot of work to do. ‘Woken out of a sleep‘—the song’s first line says it all. It’s time for us to wake from our old ways.”

“Cemetery Road” single at Spotify

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Jon LaDeau’s suggested donation site is the ACLU