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A New Year’s gift for seculars who are ‘grieving’

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Dan Barker photographed at the Gopher Baroques Studios in California where “Promise of Dawn” was recorded in 1985
Dan Barker at the Gopher Baroques Studios in California where “Promise of Dawn” was recorded

Looking for a way to bid farewell to our distressing old year and ring in the new uncertain one?

I wrote the music for a ballad decades ago that speaks to the moment. I composed “Promise of Dawn” in 1980 while transitioning out of the ministry. The lyrics, although we collaborated a little on them, are mainly by my friend, Juanice Charmaine, who wrote it as a song about recovering from lost love.

In 1985, after coming out as an atheist, I changed a couple of words to make it express my recovery from religion. Where Juanice had written “For every love that died,” for instance, I changed the line to, “For every prayer that died.”

I’d nearly forgotten about the song until Annie Laurie Gaylor reminded me of it this week. We were mulling over the right note, so to speak, to strive for in our annual end of the year musical wrap-up for Freethought Radio. We were looking for songs that expressed concern for a clouded future, but that would still signal hope. She suggested “Promise of Dawn” would strike the right chord!

I guess it’s a real compliment to “Promise of Dawn” to divulge that Annie Laurie — who is genuinely grieving after the election results — wiped away tears while listening to my song as we recorded this week’s radio show.

“Promise of Dawn” expresses not only our fears, but also our hope and our determination to persevere and do our part to preserve progress, freedom, fairness and equality.

Below are the lyrics. Download a free version of “Promise of Dawn” here.

(The style of the song sure brings you back to the ’80s, doesn’t it?)

Promise of Dawn By Dan Barker & Juanice Charmaine

All I’ve ever wished for, all I’ve ever tried,

Every dream I’ve longed for has vanished.

All those golden sunsets, promising the dawn,

Fade into a nighttime that lingers on.

And every tear I’ve cried

For every prayer that died

Can’t return that promise of dawn.

Maybe in the shadows I can find my way—

Maybe reach a brighter tomorrow.

Reach beyond my sorrows,

Understand my fears,

Find a morning rainbow in my tears.

I’ll find the time to try.

There’s no more time to cry.

Reaching for that promise of dawn.

© 1980 by Dan Barker and Janice Charmaine

Happy New Year!

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