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A song for our troubled times

Andy Cooney and Ryan Cooney on the Brooklyn Bridge in their new music video, which can be seen on YouTube by clicking here.

By Peter McDermott

“We’re all in this together.”

Andy Cooney kept hearing the phrase over and over

“And before I know it, the chorus is in place,” he said. “’We’re all in this together, together we are one.’

“Ryan then came up with the second verse of the song,” said Cooney, referring to his son, with whom he first performed it in a Facebook concert on April 27, 2020.

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“That’s about all we were able to do,” he said, commenting on the platform’s role as a creative lifeline. “We decided to write something to end our Facebook live concert.

“With the reaction we had, we knew we had something special,” he said. “We must have received 5 or 600 requests to record it.

“It was one of those things that came together. That happens a lot in songwriting. Sometimes a song can take months to write and sometimes it can take 30 minutes to write,” said Cooney, who has toured and collaborated closely over the years with Phil Coulter, perhaps Ireland’s most famous songwriter.

Record it they did, via Nashville producer Jeffrey Teague at Direct Image Studios. It was mixed and mastered by Fred Guarino at Tiki Recording in Glen Cove, N.Y. and Kieran McGirl has made a striking video at the Brooklyn Bridge to accompany it. (It's featured on the Pond Mill channel on YouTube and can also be seen on Andy Cooney's Facebook page.)

It begins with Ryan Cooney and his father walking on the Brooklyn Bridge, wearing New York sports-themed masks. The iconic skyline backdrop is juxtaposed with close-ups of signs in windows of shuttered businesses promising to be back — “See U Soon,” with a smile added, is one and another is “See on the other Side,” with a heart. And there are other handwritten and printed messages supporting nurses, doctors, other essential workers, and front-line responders and agencies generally.

The song’s lyrics acknowledge people’s worries and their struggles with lines like: “Let’s persevere and conquer fear”; “It won't last forever, if we’re all in this together”; “We must stay strong and stand our ground, though the world seems full of doubt”; “This is our time to come together, to show our love for one another”; “We never know what comes around through all the ups and downs.”

Andy Cooney.

All the while, father and son share equal time on the record and video. “I’ve played Carnegie Hall nine times, and Ryan has done something on all of those shows.” He also has been involved on a Christmas album Cooney performed with the RTE Concert Orchestra.

His father extolled the young singer’s multiple talents. “He is a good writer and a wonderful Irish step dancer,” he added. “So through the years, we’ve always encouraged him.

“What he’ll do in life, I’m not sure,” the elder Cooney said. “He’s somebody who did very well in school.”

The St. John’s University graduate certainly has options, with a physics degree and anMBA under his belt.

Ryan Cooney in a sense is the fourth generation of the story. Andy Cooney, the man the New York Times has called “Irish America’s favorite son,” grew up one of nine children on Long Island. A big influence was his Dublin-born grandfather Andy Feehan, who schooled him in the Irish song traditions from a very young age.

“They came over in the 1920s, lived the American dream and raised a family,” Cooney said. “Of course, at that time there were so many like them coming over, they stuck together. So the traditions were really embedded here.”

And, he added, those traditions were inevitably passed on to his parents and then to his generation.

Cooney’s professional career was launched at age 19 in 1986 and he has recorded a score of albums since. Other collaborations include his work with the New York Tenors, a group comprised of Cooney himself, Christopher Macchio and Daniel Rodriquez, and, representing the city’s Irish, Italian and Puerto Rican traditions, the trio has filled in recent times the David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center.

Cooney is well-known in the Irish community for productions such as his “Cruise of Irish Stars,” his nationwide touring and trips to Ireland and the UK. However, public television specials have brought his work to a wider non-Irish audience and he has produced shows with Grammy winners such as Larry Gatlin and Crystal Gayle.

Right now, though, he is focused on the task facing all of us. As his son Ryan sings in their song: “We have to try to abide and unite the human race.”

For more on Andy Cooney, go to his website here.