I wrote “Don’t Push Me” because I remember — too well — going to school and being called “blockhead”…
…being super light-skinned and having a nice round head, and basically having my name changed to “Casper”…
…or my first bully, Shermar, from 6th grade. Every time he saw me, he would push me out of his way. I would run to avoid him, drum up conversations to avoid eye contact, and feel absolute terror every time I saw him. Sometimes I wonder what happened to Shermar; I know what happened to me.
I grew up. It was exhausting to wake up every day and see myself as others called me. I wanted to do something different, something I OWNED. When I was 16 I dyed my hair platinum blonde, so that whatever people called me was at least my decision. Girls would tell me – always 3 years later – how much they had a crush on me. I learned defiance, and eventually, confidence, but I’ll never forget those days I was the biggest kid on the baseball team, helmet never fit, pants always too tight, having fun with no clue why they were laughing…and finding out one day.
I always made a fool of myself trying to be cool enough. I remember one day my friends were jumping this ditch in a construction site, and decided to pee in this puddle then see who could jump over. They talked about me mercilessly until I had to have their approval, and I fell in that ditch. I remember my step-brother, one of my greatest allies and bullies, pushing me out onto some ice pond that wasn’t quite frozen, and I fell through. I was never cool enough. Never will be.
I spent a lot of my life being devastated. That’s why I wrote “Don’t Push Me.” Because music saved me and gave me courage; it was my outlet. The artist’s voice would become my own and eventually I’d find my own words. My own voice. And I owe it to…wait…there’s one more story…
I wasn’t fair to my step-brother. He beat on me like older brothers do younger brothers, but if someone else tried…I remember when Mario stole my bike, which was red, with white mags, black leather seat, and a birthday present from a hard-working mother. I cherished it. Mario was infamous in the neighborhood and took it, rode around on it, even though everyone knew it was mine. My brother got home from school, saw me crying, said nothing, and left out. One hour later, outside my house, was Mario Brown with my bike, apologizing. I didn’t want to know, but I knew: Someone stood up for me. Someone was on my side.
That’s really what this song is about. Being on the side of those that are beaten down with words and often much more. Letting the bullied know that they have power. I remember feeling helpless, and it’s a lie. I remember thinking I couldn’t possibly say that thing I was thinking OUT LOUD, and that is a lie. I remember thinking that becoming violent was the only solution, the perfect payback: that too is untrue. At a certain point you’ll have to stand up and speak for yourself, or have the strength to walk away, or, as this cool guy that once got bullied a long time ago said, “Pray for those that persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). I want you to hear this song and know that you are not alone. Know that you are a leader. Know that whatever makes you distinctive makes you beautiful. Know that I know.
I’m reinventing the cool
and inviting all the lames
we inviting all the lames in
ones with the gap tooth, coke bottle frames in
short bus, riding home praying that it change
cause if ppl never change and tomorrow is the same
then its no point to it, better off in the ground
what he said when he laid his head down
and found a new day when he woke up in the clouds
and found a new way, decided to speak it out
ain’t nobody gon tell me who I am and who I can’t be
words may hit me but you will never break
these made me the hero that I am right now
cause when I got down I got found
I’m sick of being pushed to the ground
so I’m saying…DON’T PUSH ME
[UPDATE: The TV Premiere of the song was Windy City Live on 10.14.15! Here’s the video!]
[UPDATE #2: ABC7 Chicago ran a story on the song and interviews some folks – JK included – on the birth of the song]
[The timeline…and the credits…]
I lived it, and wrote it
Hilton “Deuce” Wright produced it
Walt Whitman believed in it
Soul Children of Chicago sang on it
Karees Brown sang on it
Jeff Breakey recorded it
Nick McCree mixed it
Plu Harmon mastered it
Matt Wead artworked it
What happened next???