- Associated Press - Saturday, August 22, 2020

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Governors do a lot of different things after leaving office.

Mike Castle and Tom Carper went to Congress. Pete du Pont ran for president.

Jack Markell biked across the country and wrote music.

Wait, what?

Mr. Markell, who served as governor of Delaware from 2009-17, announced the release of his first song last Wednesday. Titled “Charlottesville,” it is focused on a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly.

“I’ve always believed that music can be a force for change, and some of my favorite musicians over the years have been singers who have a message that can move people,” Mr. Markell said Thursday.

“Charlottesville” tells the story of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman among the many counterprotesters at the Aug. 12, 2017, incident. Ms. Heyer was killed when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd in an act of domestic terrorism.

The song starts and ends with the line, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” a reference to Ms. Heyer’s last Facebook post.

In the aftermath of the violence, President Donald Trump said “both sides” contain “very fine people” and share blame for the incident. Those comments outraged many, among them Mr. Markell, who said he was “pissed off.”

Wednesday, the day the song was released, marked the three-year anniversary of the rally and Ms. Heyer’s murder.

“Charlottesville, where she marched for parity.

“Charlottesville, stood for solidarity.

“Charlottesville, then came barbarity.

“Charlottesville, where her young life ended,” chimes the chorus.

Mr. Markell does not sing or play instruments, but he has written poetry for fun for many years and long harbored an interest in songwriting. A few months ago, the former governor recalled, he connected with a songwriting teacher in New York, who helped turn several poems into songs.

Through the Delaware Theatre Co., he got in touch with musicians affiliated with the band Moonalice. Several of them wrote the music to accompany the lyrics, and Moonalice performed the song.

An official video for “Charlottesville” can be seen on YouTube.

The description for Mr. Markell’s YouTube channel states the ex-governor “is channeling his artistic creativity to raise awareness of social justice issues impacting our country.”

Mr. Markell plans to release another song Aug. 28, this one about the civil rights movement. While he intends to keep the exact subject a secret for now, he did allow that it is “about an important document in our civil rights history, and a key player in the civil rights movement is featured in that video.”

In some ways, it’s a continuation of what he did as governor. During his eight years as Delaware’s chief executive, the state approved first civil unions and then gay marriage and began significant criminal justice reform.

He came in as governor during the Great Recession, and as unemployment skyrocketed and revenues plummeted, Mr. Markell was forced to bring together Democratic and Republican lawmakers just to balance the budget.

A few months after his term ended, the former governor rode a bicycle from Oregon to Delaware, a journey he called an “experience of a lifetime,” albeit one he doesn’t exactly plan to do again.

In addition to writing songs, Mr. Markell is also keeping himself busy working with nonprofits and advising presumptive Democratic presidential nominee (and Delaware resident) Joe Biden on health care. But don’t count on him signing up to work with Mr. Biden should Democrats win back the White House, as Mr. Markell said he does not expect to take a position with a Biden administration.

He has no misconceptions about his ability as a songwriter, noting he won’t win a Grammy any time soon. Still, he’s hopeful “Charlottesville” makes people think.

“The answers are within all of us, and we should all make a difference,” he said.

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