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Anaïs Mitchell: Why We Build the Wall

My introduction to Anaïs Mitchell was her song “Why We Build the Wall,” part of the folk opera Hadestown (inspired by the myth of Orpheus and set in depression-era America). This song in particular jumped out and grabbed me when I first heard it — here’s the last section:

What do we have that they should want?
We have a wall to work upon!
We have work and they have none
And our work is never done
My children, my children
And the war is never won
The enemy is poverty
And the wall keeps out the enemy
And we build the wall to keep us free
That’s why we build the wall
We build the wall to keep us free
We build the wall to keep us free

I later got to hear Anaïs on NPR singing from her album Young Man in America. I couldn’t stop thinking about the first song she sang, “Shepherd”:

I was thinking about her music today and decided to get her latest album, xoa. It’s a lovely solo album with some new and some older songs (including “Why We Build the Wall”) — my biggest challenge will be turning it off when I’m trying to work so I don’t get distracted by the beautiful lyrics.

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