When Massachusetts high school student Phoebe Prince committed suicide in January 2010 rather than face another day of bullying, taunts and abuse at the hands of several of her classmates, she immediately put a face to a problem that too often gets ignored in our schools and society at large. Green Pajamas frontman Jeff Kelly was moved to respond, and his long-running, Seattle-area folk/psych band recorded “The Red, Red Rose (Song for Phoebe Prince)” to commemorate the life of this young woman. The track — forlorn, rootsy psychedelia, à la Anders Parker — is a real heart-render. After cataloging some of the beauty in the world that Phoebe can no longer enjoy, Kelly laments, “One January afternoon / They killed you in your school clothes”, while unsaid and unspeakable anger, remorse and guilt pours out of his guitar. It’s beautiful, and it’s a shame it ever had to be written.
The other four tracks on this expanded single weren’t written to commemorate Prince, but it’s impossible to hear them without thinking of her. Namely on the folksy opener “If Forever Comes”, where Kelly tells his love he wants to “wrap you in my sweater” to protect her from the world’s storms, and the closing “Raise Ravens”, which, one hopes, the bullies of the world will hear and take heed of the warning: “If you raise ravens / They’ll peck out your eyes”.
In a year where Prince, Rutgers student Tyler Clementi and untold others have been lost in the face of dehumanizing bullying and harassment, the Green Pajamas are doing the important work of celebrating the all-too-brief life of a beautiful soul. Fifty percent of “The Red, Red Rose”‘s profits will go to The Jason Foundation, an organization dedicated to creating education programs for the awareness and prevention of youth suicide.