Columbine Brothers' Song Inspires Rebirth In Wake Of Massacre

Single written by two students of the high school and their pastor gains national attention and heavy radio play.

When Columbine High School students Jonathan and Stephen Cohen wrote the

music to "Friend of Mine (Columbine)," they never considered it would be

a radio hit, let alone comfort tens of thousands of people in the wake of

one of this country's most incomprehensible tragedies.

It's done both.

"It's good to know that the song is helping people," said Jonathan Cohen,

17, who wrote the music with his brother, Stephen, 18. "And the words to

the song are so true -- that God's comfort is real, and it's good to be

reminded of that."

Since the Littleton, Colo., high-school shootings, which left 14 students

and a teacher dead, media reports and politicians have blamed the dark

music of groups such as Marilyn Manson, KMFDM and German rockers Rammstein

for contributing to the violence. But the tragedy also has spawned the

Cohen brothers' song, a composition that quickly became one of the most

requested on radio stations in nearby Denver.

The hopeful, religious folk-pop song "Friend of Mine (Columbine)"

(RealAudio excerpt) has sold 35,000 copies by telephone and through a

website. For a while it was getting played 70 times a week on Denver's

KALC-FM.

"The reaction to this song is huge," KALC music director Kevin Koske

said. "The best way to describe it is that nobody at this radio station

has ever seen a response to a song, or to an event for that matter, like

Littleton."

On the day of the shooting, Jonathan was in the Columbine High cafeteria,

where some of the carnage took place. The brothers and their sister,

Diana, all dodged bullets and shrapnel that day. They escaped unscathed

and didn't witness any bloodshed.

The brothers had written the music for the song about a week before the

April 20 massacre, in which two students allegedly went on a shooting

rampage before killing themselves.

The Cohens' pastor at the Living Way Fellowship in Littleton composed

the words the day of the shooting when the brothers -- who both dream of

becoming professional musicians -- decided to sing a song at a memorial

service for their slain classmates.

"We weren't sure what to do," Stephen said. "Andy Millar, our pastor,

asked if we wanted to do a song about Columbine. He wrote the lyrics in

about 45 minutes, and we've been performing it since."

"Friend of Mine (Columbine)" joins a long line of songs about tragedies,

including Elton John's mournful Princess Diana tribute "Candle in the

Wind 1997" and the Boomtown Rats' controversial 1980 new-wave hit

"I Don't Like Mondays"

(RealAudio excerpt), which was based on a San Diego teenager who shot

11 people, killing two of them, in 1979.

The John song, with lyrics revised by his partner, Bernie Taupin, from

the original "Candle in the Wind," became the biggest-selling single of

all time. "I Don't Like Mondays" was banned by some radio stations.

As with "Candle in the Wind 1997," reaction to "Friend of Mine" has

brought people together. The brothers performed it, with Jonathan singing

and Stephen on guitar, at a memorial service attended by 70,000 people

and telecast around the world. The brothers also have played the song at

such events as a Colorado Rockies baseball game.

A melodic, acoustic tune featuring such hopeful lyrics as, "Can you still

hear raging guns/ Ending dreams of precious ones?/ In God's son, hope

will come/ His red stain will take our pain/ Columbine, friend of mine/

Peace will come to you in time/ Columbine, friend of mine."

"When I'm singing it, I try to think about what I'm singing and not let

emotion overcome the performance," Jonathan said.

The song "does bring out a lot of emotion," he said. "In that way, it's

more of a comfort. The healing process has been different for a lot of

people, and I know with us we've really been able to rely on God, and

that's really helped. We're getting through it."

The brothers, who said they're fans of such Christian pop acts as Jars

of Clay, dc Talk and the ska-influenced Five Iron Frenzy, recorded the

song at a Littleton studio, Prodigal Productions, with help from engineer

Joel Mayer and executive producer Jason Hickman. Both engineer and

producer played on the recording.

Prodigal is selling the single for $11.95 at www.friendofmine.org, with

all proceeds going to victims' families.

The studio is working on a distribution deal to make it more widely

available, Mayer said. "I've gotten calls from people and radio all over

the country interested in the song," he explained.

The Cohens said they have been in touch with families of the victims,

some of whom were their friends.

"We talked to Lauren Townsend's and Cassie Bernall's parents the other

day," Stephen said, "and both of them say the song has really helped them.

And that's the only thing we really want.

"We didn't expect this to gain media play or to just blow up like it has.

But just as long as the focus that we had when we initially did this

song is there, we can take all of the attention, just as long as it's

helping."

Koske said the song continues to inspire a shattered community to come

together.

"It's really unfortunate that it takes something like this to pull a

community together, but this has been a total community effort," said

Koske, whose station is now playing the song four times a day.

"We're hooking up with Columbine students to do an auction, and artists

like Natalie Merchant and Third Eye Blind have donated items for that,"

he added. "We're still getting calls from people who want to help."