My friend Craig Thatcher asked me to join him and Nyke Van Wyk on a music video project on Monday in one of the old buildings on the Bethlehem Steel Company site – the Turn and Grind Building. LA singer songwriter Ken Goldstein and award winning producer and director Peter von Puttkamer were putting together a music video about the demise of the Steel and how it’s rebounded with the arts at Steel Stacks. “The Song of Bethlehem” is an interesting tune that Craig sent me, and I figured out the chords and arrangement on Sunday night and Monday morning. Live, Craig would play guitar, Nyke violin and I would chip in on mandolin. Eventually, a local choir came on board to do some vocals. All the rehearsal happened on site in 40 degree temperatures.

It was a cold morning in the dilapidated building, with the occasional space heater cranked up, some coffee and bagels and a full crew of video and audio folks on hand. When I got there, Ken was recording his vocals and guitar and we waited patiently for our turn. There were many pauses to let the frequent trains pass by. I thought that was pretty cool but not for recording. Eventually, after more than an hour or so, we were set up to do our parts. The arrangements were done on the fly, and we were pretty rough to begin with, trying to play along with Ken’s guitar part, his vocal and a click track in our headphones. It was pretty cold – Craig and Nyke were having the worst of it. My hip was bothering more than the cold. 

As we worked through the arrangement, my mandolin part was shoved back further and further into the song. Ken’s initial guitar rhythm on the track was a problem, and I had some problems with synching up. But, I was fine with sitting out while the song builds. We ended up doing about 10 takes while Ken figured out what he wanted. Craig and Nyke are champs and were able to add some fine licks while I added my mando noodling in the back. It actually turned out nicely. Craig heard some of the final mix and thought my part was great. I wasn’t as confident, but it was good to hear it from my friend.

We eventually took a break to get some lunch in the warm visitors’ center nearby, and I got to catch up with my fellow performer/clown Bruce Ward who also spend a long time working in the Steel while it was still functioning. He gave me the lowdown on that building and his time on the job. He has also taken it upon himself to produce several videos on the Steel and laid a copy on me. He said it wasn’t as cold as standing on a metal ladder outside a shut down furnace, with a sub-zero wind whipping down the Lehigh River. Perspective.

I headed back into the shoot site to get paid, but ended up waiting an extra hour to ask Ken for my money. Not terribly professional on several parts. Just because you’re from LA doesn’t mean you treat the locals as an afterthought. Still, I appreciated the chance to experience this whole thing. I got my $200 in cash, signed the waiver and finally headed home after four and a half hours in the cold.

The local TV-69 crew did a 10 minute piece on the shoot and I got a couple of close-ups on my mandolin, my tapping foot (!!) and the three of us playing in the cold. All in all, it was a marvelous experience, a chance to play with my two good friends and contribute to a historical piece about my home town.

Bethlehem Steel

By Kenneth Scott Goldstein

intro C | F   C / Am

  1. 1. They closed down the steel plant that Winter,

And left the people out in the cold.

No work to do, no plans offered, no sympathy,

The day Bethlehem Steel Factory closed.

2, Families, generations – lost their wages

As they watched their benefits go up in smoke

These were the same men and women who built America

On Bethlehem Steel Factory’s goals

But what they left a legacy of integrity,

From hard work, their families would prevail.

Deep in the soil beneath the furnace

Their roots burrowed deep

They dug in, trusted and believed

They went boom bang boom we’re going to re-build this city,

Boom bang boom this time on solid ground.

Boom bang boom no fear of this land will break us,

Because Bethlehem Pennsylvanians won’t back down.

3. From the banks of the Lehigh River you can feel it,

But the factories got a make-over you just gotta see.

Where once stood ghosts of things they’d lost; stands a vision

Of a future proud to have this past.

What they built was a legacy of integrity,

From hard work, their community will prevail.

Deep in the soil beneath their homes

Their roots run deep,

Because they created; re-imaged; and believed.

They went boom bang boom we’re going to re-build this city.

Boom bang boom this time on solid ground.

Because Bethlehem Pennsylvanians won’t stay down.

Because Bethlehem Pennsylvania is our home.