Amadou Diallo

This is an old song that I recently rearranged. What happened to Amadou Diallo in 1999 scared a lot of people and was one of the numberless cumulative steps to the uprisings in the summer of 2020. He was a 23 year old immigrant from Guinea; the cops were from the Street Crime Unit (motto: “We Own The Night”). He was reaching for his wallet, they shot him 19 times. The music of the original song was heavy and full of rage at the police system that killed him. And that was was right, but now I wanted to also do honor to the beauty of who he was and where he came from; and of his mother who traveled around the world to see justice done but only got “a slap in the face.” And to all the people over all the years who, in spite of everything, kept going. So I kept the original lyric, except for a couple of words, but changed the melody and wrote an instrumental bridge. It became something different and, I think, something better.

Amadou Diallo
New York City, shot him 19 times
they get away with murder
it oughtta be a capital crime

after midnight
four white cops from the elite corps
and Amadou Diallo
standing in his own front door

Amadou Diallo
he was a West African man
they said he looked suspicious
he had something in his hand

it was his wallet
it was his wallet

they put the trial up in Albany
where the police have more friends
and they said it was a big mistake
they’d never let it happen again

his mother cryin’
in a far off lonesome place
she came to see justice done
what she got was a slap in the face

walkin’ on the side of the law
some’ve got a real short fuse
and that can be a fatal flaw

if you fit the description
they might want to see you dance
Amadou Diallo
he never had a chance

there’s a woman in the harbor
she’s carrying a burning light
but it’s gettin’ hard to see now
there’s gonna be a storm tonight

don’t you hear the thunder
can’t you feel that river run
someone ask a question, someone give a answer
somethin’s gotta be done

everybody’s talkin’
there’s somethin’ on everybody’s mind
Amadou Diallo
it oughtta be a capital crime

Amadou Diallo