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'For a Son': Music for Daniel Pearl

Professional and amateur musicians will gather Saturday at the Old South Meeting House in Boston for a concert to benefit the Daniel Pearl Foundation, named after the Wall Street Journal reporter who was slain in Pakistan early this year.

Among the musicians will be fiddler Liz Carroll and the ensemble The Wayfaring Strangers. Joining them will be Pearl's colleague Bryan Gruley, a Journal senior editor and an amateur musician and songwriter.

"I am the rankest of rank amateurs," he tells NPR's John Ydstie for Weekend Edition Saturday. Gruley, who took up the guitar just eight years ago, stopped by NPR to play the song he wrote for the occasion, "For a Son," which was written with Pearl's son Adam in mind. Adam was not yet born when the song was written.

After Pearl's death, Gruley had wanted to perform a song that he had heard that Pearl -- himself a musician -- had written some years back for a pregnant friend whose due date had passed. The baby "didn’t want to come out," says Gruley, "and Danny wrote the song to coax him out." The song was called "The World's Not Such a Bad Place."

But Gruley couldn’t find a recording of the song or anything written down. Some musician friends of Pearl's who had played the song with him had the same idea and were already reconstructing it. So Gruley decided to write one himself.

Gruley talked with Pearl's friends and family about his colleague's life. The resulting song "ended up sort of filled with images of various pieces of Danny's life that he appreciated," Gruley says. And it imagines the answer to the question, "what would Danny say now to his unborn son, given what happened to him?" The answer, according to Gruley's chorus: "You should love this life with every breath you breathe."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.
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