Kansas Songwriter Kristie Stremel Honors Orlando Victims With Music

Jun 24, 2016

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard, in which local musicians tell the story behind a recent song, and explain how it was constructed musically.

The musicianKristie Stremel, singer-songwriter

The song: "Orlando (Keep Dancing)"

The story: Just two days after a gunman left 49 dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Lawrence, Kansas-based singer-songwriter Stremel wrote a song to honor the victims.

"It's scary to write about tragedy," she says. "I don't think I ever have before." 

Though writing the song only took her an hour, she spent days thinking and processing what had happened.

"In the song, these people are my friends. I didn't know them, but they are my family," Stremel says.

Stremel came out in 1995, and has traveled all over the country fighting for marriage equality and equal rights for the LGBTQ community.

"I feel like we've been under attack for a long time," she says.

And this was just another on a long list. Although, this one hit harder than most. 

"I have to believe that good things can come out of horrible situations," Stremel says. "I do believe that. So, I knew when I was going to the last chorus of that, it's 'we will keep dancing.' We'll keep falling in love, we'll just keep doing what we have been doing."

The lyrics:

I wanna hold my lover’s hand, without the fear

of an unexpected fist coming out of nowhere

This one cuts deep, the nightmares explode

bullets and blood and the last phone calls

[Chorus]

Fear turns to fury, inconsolable grief

Our brothers and sisters, down on their knees 

They waged war while we were dancing, singing of peace

They waged war while we were laughing, feeling so free

They waged war while we were smiling, falling in love

They waged war while we were dancing… while we were dancing

I saw the helpers come rushing in

I saw the strangers carry my friends

I saw a mother say goodbye to her son

I saw a family yearning for love

[Chorus]

We will keep dancing, singing in peace – We will keep laughing, feeling so free

We will keep smiling, falling in love – We will keep dancing

The video: Recorded on June 16 at Massive Sound Studios.

Andrea Tudhope is a freelance reporter and producer for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @adtudhope.