Joe DeFilippo says he enjoys the intersection of music and history. A retired Baltimore County history teacher of nearly 40 years, he believes he can use music as a way to portray events of the past.
"As opposed to a typical love song, I thought it would be interesting if a song could inform or instruct people," he said.
About three years ago, he started a project in which he wrote and recorded songs about history for adults. From 1983 to 2010, he wrote songs for classroom use, including about 15 albums.
In a song he recently released — "Catonsville Nine (War No More)" and now available online — deals with the Catonsville Nine, activists led by brothers Daniel and Philip Berrigan, who burned draft cards in protest of the Vietnam War at the Selective Service Office in Catonsville on May 17, 1968.
DeFilippo didn't want their story to be forgotten. As a history teacher, he said students were more familiar with the Catonsville Nine 10 or 15 years ago.
The song's lyrics take a look at what motivated the activists and recount the events of that day, he said. The song was recorded by the R.J. Phillips Band, five musicians in the Baltimore area.
"When people hear the song, I want them to examine the event," said DeFilippo, who lives in Baltimore. "A lot of people don't know who the Berrigans were."
The song begins with a spoken word performance of the prayer of Daniel Berrigan — "We make our prayer, in the name of that God, whose name is Peace, and Decency, and Unity, and Love, Amen" — which he said prior to the draft cards being burned, DeFilippo said.
"Those words really reflect their purpose or motive and what they did," he said. "I thought it was fitting."
The song was recorded at Bratt Studio in Woodlawn. Studio owner Bill Pratt, who plays drums and the organ and sings background vocals on the track, said the song makes the history more approachable.
He said the song gives insight into the struggles the nine activists went through as they took a stand at a time when taking a stand was unpopular.
"He's always had his eye toward historical songs," he said about DeFilippo.
To listen to "Catonsville Nine (War No More)", visit https://soundcloud.com/user660132316/catonsville-nine-war-no-more-050117.