Don’t You Want to be in That Number?

The Compton middle school music teacher was asked: “Today, we hear our kids described as predators, as thugs, as worthless. What do you think?”

“I don’t know any of those people,” he answered. “I love my job. I love my kids. Every day they come in my classroom and we make music together.”

That spirit of connection dominated the four hour radio show which took place at the LA Radio Studio deep in the Los Angeles Harbor district on Saturday afternoon. The occasion was the annual worldwide celebration of 100,000 Poets and Musicians for Change. This year there were nearly 1,000 events in 110 countries—100K is growing so fast that an international meeting will be held in Italy next spring to sum up the past four years and plan for further expansion. This year there were 36 events in Italy, 34 in Mexico, 15 in Morocco, and over 200 across the United States, including three in little towns in Kansas you’ve never heard of.

The radio show featured four generations and every color in the LA rainbow. More specifically:

A band which just got back from the Climate Change March in New York City.

The inventor of pirate radio who sang and explained the connection between jazz and country music.

A newspaper publisher.

LA’s top percussionist.

A single mom.

A warehouse owner.

The leader of a house band.

An airport worker.

Revolutionary poets.

The tentpole in the middle which held everything up was a quartet of musicians who had never played together before yesterday. The tune was “When The Saints Go Marching In.” But not the version everyone is familiar with. This time it featured the unknown verses written by Louis Armstrong and brought to light by Bruce Springsteen at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2006. Each line was sung twice: “When the rich go out and work / When the air is pure and clean / When we all have food to eat / When our leaders learn to cry” and each was followed by “Oh Lord, I want to be in that number / When the saints go marching in.” Everyone in the studio joined in to help keep the beat and sing the chorus.

Don’t you want to be in that number? It’s never too early to plug in to 100,000 Poets and Musicians for Change. Tomorrow might be too late. The door is wide open today at

Lee Ballinger co-edits Rock & Rap Confidential. Free email subscriptions are available by writing


Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. RRRC is now available for free by emailing Ballinger at: