‘Dear Leader,’ Deena Shoshkes

Deena Shoshkes dear leader



“Just give me the truth,” said singer-songwriter Deena Shoshkes, paraphrasing John Lennon and referring to the tales President Trump weaves at press conferences about the coronavirus pandemic. His verbally abusive assaults on the media at press conferences, along with his lies and distortions, make the kindest of us angry. And Shoshkes usually seems to have a very sunny personality. Indeed, our email interviews included this warm message: “I’m sending out a big (long distance) group hug right now to you and everyone who needs one.”

Shoshkes — co-founder of The Cucumbers, a leading band in the 1980s indie pop scene in Hoboken — currently performs as a member of The Campfire Flies, creating majestic vocal harmonies.

“He (Trump) has no compassion,” she said. Her reference to the song “Gimme Some Truth” made me look at Lennon’s lyrics; though it was written in 1971, it could be about our current leader. Lennon sings:

I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth, just gimme some truth
I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth, just gimme some truth

Shoshkes contributed to NJArts.net’s Songs to See Us Through series her catchy and direct song “Dear Leader,” which was written in early 2017, shortly after Trump’s inauguration. The song begs for responsible leadership, something so blatantly missing from our president and his disciples.

Shoshkes provided everything this understated yet powerful songs needed with her gorgeous vocals and electric and acoustic guitar, synthesizer, bass, percussion and programmed drums.

“In March,” says Shoshkes, “my husband Jon Fried created a wonderful video for the song, which brought it out of my hidden trove of home demos into the world! (It was healing to work on the video. So, thanks very much for instigating that!)”

The cleverly crafted video, embedded below, features Shoshkes wearing a glove and writing each line of the song on the screen as if she were writing Trump a letter. She sings:

If you could just slip into your role, it would be a miracle
We might adore you
If you could just do what you’re told
From the best part of your soul,
We might love you.
Dear leader, dear leader …
If you could only speak the truth,
Then the truth would speak for you
We might believe you.

“I make lots of home recordings and play all the instruments and have a pile of songs that I can’t really play live, but it’s another side of my songwriting life,” says Shoshkes. “This is one of those recordings. The song feels to me like a call for any leader at all, who can guide us with good intentions and tell us the truth.”

The day after Trump suggested that injecting cleaning fluids might be useful in combating the virus, Shoshkes said: “Just when you think he is so horrible and it couldn’t be any worse, he finds a way to make it worse. WORST president ever!

“It’s been said that the office of the president changes the person who steps into it, as they comprehend the significance of their role. I hoped there was a slim chance that it might happen then, and the love and adulation he (who must not be named) was seeking might come as a result of true leadership. That’s not what happened.

“The president’s odd infatuation with Kim Jong-un (son of Kim Jong-il, also known as ‘Dear Leader’) put the words ‘dear leader’ circulating in my brain, literally and ironically. It was obvious our leader wanted adulation. What does it take to be a true leader and to be truly loved?”


The Campfire Flies (from left, Deena Shoshkes, Jon Fried, Ed Seifert, Matt Davis, Toni Baumgartner and John Baumgartner).

Shoshkes has kept busy creating, during the lockdown. But like many of us, she feels sad for those whom we have lost or who are suffering. And she longs for those we cannot visit.

“Jon and I are so very lucky to be at home together with our musical instruments and a garden to dig in. Like everyone, we miss our dear ones that we cannot get together with — especially our sons and family. We’ve lost a dear friend and an acquaintance, as well. This disease is so frightening and terrible.

“We are very grateful to be able to continue to work. I’ve been participating in a weekly songwriting challenge, sponsored by blowupradio.com that’s given me the nudge to keep creating, and really helped my frame of mind. Jon and I will be performing in a few online benefits coming up in the next couple of weeks, which gives us a good reason to practice. I’m in on the sourdough trend, growing seedlings, reading a lot and playing piano.

“Oh, and making good headway through a bottle of tequila.

“I am so thankful for Gov. Cuomo, Gov. Murphy and local leaders, scientists and healthcare workers who are telling it like it is and helping us through this time. They are acting like the leaders we need, and we love them for it.”

For information on Shoshkes, visit deenashoshkes.com. Shoshkes asks that you show support for her work by donating to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (cfbnj.org) or Rent Party.

NJArts.net’s Songs to See Us Through series is designed to spotlight songs relevant to the coronavirus crisis and encourage readers to support the artists who made them (and won’t be able to generate income via concerts at this time). Click here for links to all songs in the series.

We encourage artists to email us submissions (newly recorded, if possible) at njartsdaily@gmail.com. Please include links to sites such as Patreon and Venmo. Readers can also make suggestions via that email address.

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Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


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