home | writings | music

Cross Your Heart and Pray for Hope

Posted on June 24th, 2010

This post was originally published in 2010. It tells the story behind a tune I composed in response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Yesterday, a friend reminded me of this post because it contains a story about my brother and I when we were little boys. Unexpectedly, my brother passed away earlier this month so I wanted to bring this old story back out from the past.

John, thank you for always leading me through wonderful adventures! Your life will always be an immense source of inspiration for me and many others around this world. My pain is deep. I miss you…

Hello, I was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama and grew up playing in Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The current oil spill is creating a great deal of trauma to the people of this region. The following story is about a little tune I wrote in response to the current situation. If you don’t want to listen to the music while you read you may hit the pause button below to stop the music. Otherwise, let it play and thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the music and the story behind it.

The Phone Call:

I’m sitting in my studio working. The phone rings. I answer it. It’s my mom.

“Hello sweetheart.”

“Hey mom, how are you?”

“I’m fine honey. Now, you know I don’t like to meddle in your business, BUT…”

I sit down and brace myself for a motherly invasion. However, she ends up surprising me with a simple non-invasive suggestion.

“Sweetheart, your band Mithril is playing tomorrow night, and I know sometimes you dedicate music to different people or causes. Have you considered dedicating a piece of music to what is going on in the Gulf right now? You could dedicate it to all the families and animals affected by the oil spill.”

“Hmm, you know what mom? We haven’t actually discussed this. We have rehearsal in a few hours so I will bring it up and see what happens.”

A few additional words are exchanged and the conversation ends. I set the phone down on my desk and sit back as childhood memories begin filling my mind.

John and David Playing in Mobile Bay

The Memories:

A young boy, filled with smiles and laughter, runs through knee deep muddy water as he chases his big brother. Minutes pass, the two boys run to shore and pick up a large net. Together they pull the net into the water, drag it out about ten yards, carve a large u-turn and drag it back to shore. As the net makes it’s way out of the water, a multitude of small shrimp appear bouncing around on the sand. The boys erupt with cheers. Their shrimp catch has provided plenty of bait for their next adventure, fishing!

As the older brother gathers the shrimp into a little bucket he gives instructions to the younger brother, “David, go get the fishin’ poles an’ meet me on the pier.”

Smiling from ear to ear, David responds, “Okay, John!” He stares at the beautiful bouncing shrimp for a moment longer before racing away to acquire two small fishing poles.

Soon the boys are anxiously baiting hooks and casting lines into the water. Minutes pass as jokes are exchanged and a nice catch of croakers and catfish is landed. Eventually the boys decide it is time for another adventure. The remaining bait shrimp are poured back into the water, fishing poles are left sitting on the pier, and the two boys instantly become Olympic long jumpers as they race toward the end of the pier to leap into the murky bay. Moments later, two world renowned wrestlers tussle and tumble through the waist deep water as shouts of pure delight are carried down the beach by the summer breeze.

The Melody:

The sight of a little keyboard instrument sitting across the room interrupts my day dreaming. I pick it up, begin to play, and within a few minutes a simple melody takes shape.

I was proud of that speckled trout.

“Hmm, could this be a tune to dedicate to the current oil situation in the Gulf?” I grab my cheap warped guitar to find the chords for the melody. An hour later I arrive to rehearsal and play the tune for my friends. They like it! We decide to perform the tune and dedicate it everyone and everything affected by the Gulf oil spill.

The Concerts:

Tuesday arrives and it is concert time. I become quite nervous wondering how this simple little melody will be received. The concert is fun, we perform well and the audience is engaging. To my surprise the new tune deeply touches the emotions of many people in a positive way. Wednesday arrives and it is concert time again. The same outcome occurs. The new tune touches people in a very positive fashion.

I am especially honored by a special voice mail from a cool little fellow name Billy.

We play the tune again a few days later in Bay Minette, Alabama and receive the same response from the audience. The following weekend we have the opportunity to open up for guitarist Billy McLaughlin. We play the tune and yet again many people respond with extremely kind words. People say they cried. The word hope is mentioned several times. Even the review the next day in the Mobile Register mentions this simple “unnamed” little melody. “Hughes explained that the tune is meant to convey a boy’s sadness and uncertainty about the future of the bay where he grew up, playing, fishing and scuba diving.”

The Name:

So, I have this tune, that people seem to enjoy. I ask my Mithril band mates if they would be willing to record it for free. They welcome the invite with open arms. However, there is one problem. The tune currently has no name. By this point we have received a number of great suggestions from friends and family concerning a title. A few suggestions were Deep Water Dirge, The Pelican’s Lament, and Gulf Requiem. I like them all, but for some reason in my heart they just don’t fit. Little do I know, two children are about to name the tune.

David Playing on the Gulf Shores' Beach

The day after the Billy McLaughlin concert I receive a phone call from another Billy. The same little fellow who left me the sweet message a few days before.


“Hey Mr. David. This is Billy.”

“Hey Billy, how are you?”

“Great! I have a name for your song.”

“Really? What is it?”

“It’s Pray for Hope.”

I pause and smile. “Billy. I like that. Thank you, I will definitely keep that in mind.”

“You’re welcome. Bye!”

“Bye Billy.”

I rush to tell my family about Billy’s idea and as I am finishing the story my little lady, Lauren, says, “Dad, I think you should call it Cross Your Heart!” And there it is, “Cross Your Heart and Pray for Hope.” The childhood memory that inspired this tune would have placed my brother and I around the ages of four and eight years old. I find it funny that two children around these same ages would end up naming this tune.

This tune is not about politics. I guess you could say it is me attempting to process the oil spill. It is me as a four year old boy trying to understand why I can’t go play in the water. I pray this tune will, in some way, bring hope to anyone who is confused, hurting, or bewildered.

The Recording:

Here are a few versions of “Cross Your Heart and Pray for Hope.” Feel free to download this tune, give it to friends, pass it around, and post it online. If you do post it or distribute it make sure to link back to this site, and attribute David Hughes as the composer and Mithril as the artist in the recording. If you have questions about the license for this tune please follow the Creative Commons link below or feel free to email me at mail@therhythmcenter.com.

Original Version:

Download the original version here.

Short Version:

Download the short version here.

Creative Commons License
Cross Your Heart and Pray for Hope by David Hughes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Cross Your Heart and Pray for Hope Sheet Music

The Chicken Scratch Sheet Music:

A few people have expressed interest in the printed music. So here are the notes I scratched out on the way to the Mithril rehearsal to show my band mates. Feel free to print and use. Click the image to the right to download the full size jpeg.

UPDATE: Watch the Video

I sent out a request for photos so I could create a slide show of people enjoying the beaches around here, and WOW I received a big response! Click here to watch the video.

UPDATE: Hear the Children Sing the Tune with Mithril’s Recording

And here is yet another version of “Cross Your Heart and Pray for Hope”. This version features the singing of the two children who named the tune, my daughter Lauren Hughes and my friend Ben Harper’s son Billy. Click here to view the post that contains children’s version.hughesfuse.com

Acoustic Acoustic Guitar Acoustic Music Anger Art Blessing Books Children Choices Cover Death Flowers Friends Goodbye Growth Healing Inspiration John Hughes Letting Go Life Life Posts Love Me Singing Missing a Loved One Music My Brother My Music Original Song Overcoming Pain Poem A Day poetry police brutality Prayer race racism Relationships Religion Self Awareness Self Image Self Respect social issues Special Needs Spirituality Truth