While out on the road this February, Glen Hansard saw a post online of Patti Smith performing in Brooklyn and was moved when she said: “People, take heart. Things will get better, and if they don’t – we’ll make them better! … We call for the transformation of waste: our government is full of it; politics is full of it. Transformation of waste, it’s the oldest preoccupation of man. People, tonight we’re coming out gold.”
Russia had just begun its invasion of Ukraine and like everyone else Hansard was feeling bewildered and helpless. Upon arriving home, he found his neighbor Marina had taken in two Ukrainian families who had emigrated to Ireland. As Hansard joined in to help and try to make their transition easier, he began hearing stories from Maria, a mother of one of the families.
With Patti’s words – “People take heart, it will get better” – still knocking around his head and conversations with Maria fresh in his mind, the inspiration for “Take Heart” spilled onto the page and out of his guitar. Hansard is joined on the song by Marketa Irglova and three Ireland based Ukranian refugees on backing vocals.
When Hansard returned home from that tour in February he knew he wanted Ukrainian voices on the recording so he reached out to his local Red Cross who connected him with three refugees: Anna, Alex and Olena, who then helped sing an important line in the song: “Povernit’sya do mene / povernit’sya do mene / povernit’sya do mene / do mene Neushkodzhenym,.” which translates into” “Return to me / return to me / return to me unharmed.”
Irglova’s inclusion was natural on a number of levels for Hansard as he was aware her parents back in her native Czech Republic had taken in multiple families from Ukraine. Irglova, now living in Iceland had been back this summer to visit and was equally moved by the issues at hand.
Reflecting on “Take Heart” and its powerful recording experience, Hansard said: “This song is a single flower placed at the foot of all this devastation, a candle lit among the millions placed helplessly at the doors of embassies or left burning in windows; it’s a prayer sent up into the great cloud of goodwill that circles the globe. It’s a thing that didn’t exist and now it does, an offering, thanks to Patti, Alex, Anna, Olena and Markéta who heard it as I was working on it and joined in to make it stronger. This is for them, and to all those who lost or are missing loved ones on every side of this brutal war.”
If you wish to send support to Ukrainian refugees, more information can be found at https://www.ukrainianaction.ie/.