Junction woman’s lyrics to be sung in D.C.
Never in her wildest dreams did Grand Junction woman, Cathy Ray, think a song she first jotted down on a napkin nearly 20 years ago would ring in the ears of people worldwide.
But that’s likely what will happen when former Santana frontman, Leon Patillo, takes a stage tonight to deliver Ray’s song, “United We Stand America” at a prayer ceremony in advance of Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremony.
“This is cool,” said Ray on Sunday after recently hearing about the development. “I gave myself a thumbs up.”
Ray first scribbled down the lyrics to the patriotic song on a napkin during a two-week period in 1991, in the days leading up to the Fourth of July. It was just one of the about 60 songs patriotic and inspiring the aspiring song writer had written, but paid little thought to producing.
It wasn’t until a decade later, during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that Ray’s husband asked her whether she should sing the song for her church. Ray, a minister’s daughter who has been singing in choirs and churches since she was four, sang for local church members, and the response was overwhelming, she said.
When Ray sang it first at the 8 a.m. service “all the people stood up and some had tears in their eyes,” she said. The same thing happened when she sang at the next service, a couple hours later. At that time, it just happened a local radio employee was in the congregation and urged Ray to record the song, which she soon did in a local studio. By 2003, Ray produced a CD and the song hit the Gospel Music Charts and God’s Country Top 75.
Ray, who is the pastor of The River church in Grand Junction, said Patillo requested and received a copy of her song. Patillo who sang for Santana for six years ending in 1979, changed the musical arrangement of Ray’s song for tonight’s performance.
It’s unclear when Patillo will be performing the song and if the performance will be televised.
It could air at tonight’s event a “Kid’s Inaugural: We are the Future Concert” to be attended by Michelle Obama and vice-president elect Sen. Joe Biden. The event to honor military families will be broadcast on the Disney Channel from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m.
Ray has performed the song and others from her collection at local events, concerts and parades, often to a standing ovation and an outpouring of tears. As a member of BMI, an organization that collects royalties for songwriters when their music produced, Ray wonder whether this latest development will be another step toward writing more songs.
“I think usually when somebody sings a song, you don’t ever know who the songwriter is,” Ray said. “Who knows? That would be great if it launched me into song writing.”
Ray said she will receive a copy of Patillo’s performance.
Ray keeps a note pad by her bed because she often dreams lyrics. She felt compelled to take notes watching the movie “Black Hawk Down” and from that wrote the song “Black Hawk Men,” which is one of the six songs on her CD.
Ray was ordained in 2004, and, since March, has been the pastor at The River Church, where she leads worship, sings and plays piano.
Growing up in South Carolina, Ray and her sister, Martha, sang harmony, visiting local jail churches. She’s sung at the Crystal Cathedral in California, and “kind of everywhere,” she said. In 2002, she sang her song “The Torch” when the Olympic Flame traveled through Grand Junction en route to Salt Lake City.
“If I can write something that means something to people, I like that,” she said. “Maybe this is a unique turn. It was one of my dreams to be a songwriter. It keeps my life from being mundane.”