"Inspiring! I found his story compelling and empowering. Mr. Martin(though he prefers "Ken"), has endured great physical and emotional difficulty, but his desire to overcome and willingness to contribute to "the village" demonstrates the Power of the Holy and determination of the Human Spirit.Jane J.: Teaching Hope Observer
"Unique! Ken Martin has a profound, and provocative perspective - his words require you to think critically yet compassionately about your own worldview. His writing is simultaneously transparent and complex, uplifting and inquisitive, ambiguous and precise."Shira H.: Counselor/Coordinator
"Persistence! Ken is a genuine activist. He works hard to raise awareness about the issue of affordable housing and homelessness. He is everywhere and does everything. He is a great photographer and his photos always tell a deeper story."Bardia S.: Artist, Engineer
"Committed! Ken's commitment to helping others is to be admired. Also to be admired is his conviction that one of the most important things to do to help address homelessness is to educate those of us who have not had that experience. Ken is a wonderful writer and photographer who emphasizes the importance of rendering people who are homeless as visible as a opposed to invisible which is often the way they are treated.Marcia B.: Activist/Mentor, People For Fairness Coalition
"Social Justice Superhero! Ken Martin is a friend and leader. He provided us with honest and inspiring testimony. He is a passionate advocate for social justice. Our youth grew by learning more about who is our neighbor and how to better love and advocate for them."Rev. Sam McFerran: First Congregational UCC Church of Washington
"A Wise Guy! Ken Martin has worked with over 500 youths through Street Sense Media's Teaching Hope program. His powerful story and his demonstrated compassion for others help educate students from all over the world about systemic issues and stereotypes that contribute to homelessness and poverty in Washington, DC. "Leila D.: New Initiatives Director, Street Sense Media D.C.
"Classy! Ken Martin puts people first, whether that be customers, colleagues. or community members. He's a talented artist and an inspiring speaker who can engage audiences of all ages. There's no one I'd rather work with and I wish more professionals could follow his lead."Eric Falquero: Editor-In-Chief, Street Sense Media
Still under construction, but the disclaimer integrity is sound.
To Whomever This May Concern:
This compilation of music related to the subject of homelessness does not belong to me. It was compiled by me. I claim absolutely NO Rights of ownership and likewise have no claims monetarily or otherwise on this (intended to be) heart rendering art!
In fact, the purpose of this selected group of tunes is not to offend or profit (although I could use it), but to serve as heart lightening salve for those who care enough to read the sometimes heavily heartbreaking book:”On Homelessness.”
These selections were chosen strictly for their quality content as well as my respect for the artists and composers. It is my most sincere hope that the readers and listeners of this playlist will want to purchase and explore the complete bodies of work created by the respective contributing musicians. I hope that the musicians and surviving relatives will aid in that process by permitting their work to remain featured as a tribute to their God given abilities to evoke the powerful, soul stirring, human spirit, while serving to help those traumatized by “Homelessness.” It works... I'm living proof!!!
The Blues: A Playlist on Homelessness (+♫)
by KEN MARTIN
When you have no place to hang your hat*, you often discover yourself to be unwelcome, estranged, forgotten and friendless. Your needs too great and resources too few. Daily living leaves you feeling the B-L-U-E-S.
This is my take on the emotional symphony that is homelessness, as expressed by artists past and present. I am a survivor of the experience and can relate well to the frequent painful lows. But as you will discover, there are joyful rhythms and uplifting sounds even in painful circumstances — if we just allow ourselves to listen.
Playlist: Blues 4 The Homeless
These are the blues about folks with little and everything to lose.
We begin with:
“Mr. Blues” by Hank Crawford, because when you start this journey it is empowered with hope, energy and wind in your sails.
"Homeless Blues" (1927) by Bessie Smith. If this has been a problem for that many years, what does it say about America's humanity? Or should I say "inhumanity?"
“Blues for the Homeless” by Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters — need I say more? I will. It was the discovery of this tune, one night while “resting” in Reagan Airport, that actually gave me the idea to compile this list. Earl is really a brilliant, yet unsung, guitarist.
"Nobody Wants You When You're Down and Out" by Bobby Womack - Simple truth.
"It's Cheaper to Keep Her" by Johnnie Taylor. The lyrics are wisdom that too many realize too late, even me!
“Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles, is pretty self-explanatory.
“Poor Boy Blues” by King Curtis & Captain Jack Dupree is the reality check. The truth begins to really hurt....
"Hard Times" by The Jazz Crusaders Times don't get much harder than when you are all alone with all you own in tow; no roof, no funds, no plan, no where to turn - let alone arms for consolation or hand to help you up.
“Fool’s Gold” by Lizz Wright tells us that I could blame someone else, but that I had a role in this.
"Broken Key" by Azymuth. A point of reckoning that I'm out here, no turning back and no doors are opening - only slamming on my wasted efforts to make a comeback.
"A Soul That's Been Abused" Ronnie Earl & Duke Robillard - Pain, emotional. Pain,mental. Pain physical. Blaming won't change a thing and Fault can't fix it!
"If Trouble Was Money" by Albert Collins After a while You start to see the world through sleep deprived eyes. With empty pockets and hope fading, troubles become your "Road Dawgz." You start to question your mind's tricks and your body stops being responsive on demand, self doubt sets in. You just want to sleep and you dare not.
“Sleeping On The Sidewalk” by Hank Crawford, a reminder of what you can find in every quadrant of this city, the hub of the capitalist free world. It’s become a national symbol of embarrassment!
"Sneakin' In The Back" by Tom Scott & The L. A. Express Survival sometimes dictates extreme behavior especially when the temperature dip is extreme.
"Sleepwalk" by Larry Carlton Its not what you do when homelessness renders you sleep deprived.
Its what you live!
Now to interject the homegrown D.C. medley: a modest tribute of blues music relative to D.C. artists and my own D.C. homeless experience.
“Blue Collar” by Gil Scott-Heron, D.C.’s Poet Laureate. The lyrics speak for themselves.
“Rocks In My Bed” by Dick Morgan Trio, a D.C. jazz icon. Many thought I had Rocks in "My Head!"
"It's Probably Me" by W.P.G. Trio - Unsung D.C Musicmen!
“All Blues” by Tim Eyermann and the East Coast Offering, another popular local group of jazzmen.
“24th Street Blues” by Lee Ritenour because during my early bench dwelling days in the street, I woke up facing 24th Street NW every morning.
“Blue Collar” a reprisal cover by Ron Holloway featuring Gil Scott-Heron, an updated treat by another Washington jazzman.
And for the final cadence:
“You Don’t See Me” by Al Jarreau, because you — for reasons I can’t fathom and you won’t face — don’t.
"Pusherman" (Superfly) by Dave Stryker Reality is that the homeless are prey for predators that cash in on their pain suffering by offering self anesthetizing as a cheaper solution for coping than community intervention.
“We Got By” from Al Jarreau, because ‘poor in pocket doesn’t have to mean poor in spirit.’
“Don’t Let It Get You Down” by The Crusaders, because ‘you don’t give in, if you aim to win!’
"Respect Yourself" by Gerald Albright If you don't Respect Yourself, ain't nobody gonna give a good....
“Better Not Look Down” by BB King and featuring The Crusaders with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is a reminder to keep your head up, eyes on the prize and persevere.
"Optimistic" by Straight Ahead I know first hand and have been told by more than not, when it comes to the positive outcomes workers tell you "you can not this and you cannot that but they virtually NEVER share way that you can reach your goals
“My Time Will Come” by Hubert Laws. Because when we struggle to produce a positive outcome it is faith, hope and perseverance that enables us to prevail!
“Never Be The Same” by Ronnie Laws, because after a street life experience — and hopefully hearing these tunes — your perspective will be forever changed for the better.
"A House is Not A Home" by Joe Sample - It simply is not. It may be a roof and walls. It may even have a lock. But without love it remains a lifeless inanimate object. Everyone needs love, kindness, support - Humanity.
"Save The Children" by Marvin Gaye "Who REALLY Cares..."
“Night Breeze” by Bobby Lyle, for a cool transition back to your reality.
Thank you for this opportunity to share a bit of my lifestyle with you.
Special Thanks to each of the featured artists. If not in part, for the music featured here and the "Heaven-sent" therapeutic vibe that each selection and others like them transmit, I strongly doubt I would be alive to share!
Please remember that homeless people, though blue, don’t need your pity. They need your empathy, aid and INCLUSION.