Attack on David Ortiz inspires musical tribute
When the news reached Linda Marks that David Ortiz had been shot, she “had that same sinking feeling in my heart’’ as she did as a young girl when the Rev. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, she said.
A lifelong Red Sox fan and longtime fixture on the Greater Boston music scene, Marks reacted to the near-fatal attack as songwriters often do to work through their emotions. She began composing.
“It shook me to the core,” Marks said. “It had such an internal impact that the song started coming out of me as soon as I heard the news.”
Her song, ”Heroes,” written in the first three days after Ortiz was shot in the back almost point-blank on June 9 in his native Dominican Republic, explores the dark side of stardom for celebrity athletes and society at large.
“Why do we shoot our heroes?” Marks sings. “Why do we gun them down? Does their light shine too bright in the darkness?”
And, she lyrically wonders, “By holding them up, do we put ourselves down?”
A Yale-trained songwriter who lives in Waltham and has recorded five albums and performed throughout the region, Marks said she began working as a teenager to buy bleacher seats at Fenway Park. Once inside, she landed a job with the concessions contractor, Harry M. Stevens Inc., and soon was working at a souvenir stand under the grandstand.
Some Sox players became her heroes through the years, none more than Ortiz, she said. She recalled the slugger generously sharing time with her son, then a teenager, during a pregame event on the field at Fenway in 2012.
“David has a gigantic heart,” Marks said. “It was amazing to see the respect he paid to every single person who was there.”
Her song sounds like a theatre show tune. She sings lead and backup vocals, plays the piano, and is accompanied by a cellist, Valerie Thompson.
“People need inspiration,” Marks sings. “It takes heroes to fan the flames. But evil can lurk in the shadows. What do we think is to blame?”
The song serves both as a tribute to Ortiz and a ballad about the bloody toll of gun violence against some of the nation’s most revered figures. Her lyrics evoke memories of Dion’s classic “Abraham, Martin, and John,” about the assassinations of President Lincoln, Reverend King, President John F. Kennedy, and his brother, Robert, who was running for president when he was murdered.
“Martin, Robert, and John colored my childhood, serving the greater good,” Marks sings. “Now David, Big Papi to most. He is a good man. I just don’t understand. Why do we shoot our heroes?”
Dominican authorities initially said Ortiz was the target of a contract killing, without citing a motive. They later changed course and said the shooting was a botched ambush on Ortiz’s friend, Sixto David Fernandez, an auto repair shop owner who was sitting near the slugger at the Dial Bar and Lounge in Santo Domingo, where Ortiz grew up and still has a home.
According to the revised account, Fernandez’s cousin, Victor Hugo Gomez Vasquez, paid others to shoot Fernandez in retribution for him reporting Vasquez to police some eight years ago. That account has been met with skepticism by many in the island nation.
Ortiz was critically wounded and quickly transported from a medical facility in Santo Domingo to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he recently underwent a third surgery for his injuries. His wife, Tiffany, said after the surgery, “He is recovering well and in good spirits.”
Marks said she, like many others, is searching for answers to the kind of violence that has struck Ortiz and others.
“Do their accomplishments make them a target for the guns and hit men of organized crime?” she sings. “What does this teach our children? How does this shape our lives?”
Marks has performed the song at venues in Waltham, Chelmsford, North Reading, and Newburyport. She plans to release it soon as a single on CD Baby, an online distributor of independent music.
“I see this as an opportunity to pay tribute to David, but also an opportunity for us all to do a little more soul-searching about what’s going on in the world,” Marks said. “It’s devastating that he was shot. We need to come together as a community and make a difference.”
Near the end of her composition, she sings, “Can love find a way to end hatred? Will I see change in our time?’”