You might remember him as the man who beat Sue Kelly and went to Congress with more than a bit of Rock’n Roll in his background. He had been with the band Orleans and wrote the song “Still the One” that was used by George W. Bush as a theme song for his 2004 campaign. That incident is mentioned along with many others in John Hall’s new book that is part memoir and part advice to any and all new members of the U.S. Congress.
Hall’s experience as a song-writer seems to have paid off. His book is clear, easy going and informative, with a sprinkling of insights that suggest wisdom. He did the lyrics and music for stars like Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Ricki Skaggs, and the band Orleans of which he was one of the key members. The first section of the book is an insider’s view of the Rock Culture of the late 1960’s and the anti-war seventies. He was in the middle of it, from Café Wa and Jimmie Hendrix to Bob Dylan and Bruce and Pete and stints at Madison Square Garden.
His experience on the road in the sixties somehow turned him into a policy wonk and activist. He is a natural standing before a crowd with or without a guitar in hand. He makes it seem inevitable that a guy who can sing of love, harmony and loneliness can also talk about nukes, vets, government, budgets and policy issues. He writes of how he migrated from grueling tours with high octane musicians to campaigning for Congress and then serving in Congress for an intensive four years.
For this reader, the best part recounted those moments in Congress when he actually got things done. He seems to have had an innate sense of who was important and how to ask. He took up the cause of the injured vets who were denied services. He authored legislation that changed presumptions. No longer do vets have to prove that their PTSD came from active duty. It is now presumed. For thousands of vets this makes an important difference. They now get treatment instead of an argument.
He describes in detail what life as a congressman is like, the day-to-day survival of meetings, bills and fund-raising. He reports on how time spent on the telephone fund-raising is wasteful, distasteful and tiring. He was able to get his famous friends to stage concerts that raised money and publicity. He fears big money and its influence. He writes as a true progressive who believes in the people.
The book closes on a personal note that deals with family, sickness – including his own – and loss. He reminds us of our humanity. We have only so much time on this earth, so let’s make the best of it. John Hall made good music; in Congress he met similarly dedicated individuals. Although he makes life in Congress seem an ordeal, it was one he took pleasure in overcoming. He lived with Jesuit priests to save money and his sanity. Some congressmen lived in their offices, a life-style that might seem monk-like but also dehumanizing.
John Hall’s book depicts the life of a totally believable human, one that we can admire and thank for good service in the cause of our own survival. Thank you, John, for your service, and for this book. Without it, we might never have known....
Still the One will soon be available at Merritt Bookstore. It is presently available at Oblong.
- Paperback: 224 pages, $29.99 at Amazon
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 28, 2016)
- ISBN-10: 1503233944