Troy Harrington and Brian Thomas have teamed up for more than 30 years to write songs, four of which were included in the 2010 movie “Standing Ovation.”
But their latest song and video focuses on a subject that Harrington has seen too much of while he worked security for 12 years at Davenport’s West High School and for six years at the district’s Keystone Academy: bullying.
It was Harrington, 49, of Davenport, who called up Thomas, 46, a graphic designer in Minneapolis, and told him his idea, and as usual, the two clicked and got to work.
“With so much of the bullying going on in our society, in our schools, along with the shootings, I felt it was necessary that we try to address it in a positive way and see if we can reach some kids and try to prevent some of it,” Harrington said.
“There’s bullying even on social media,” he added. He no longer works in the school district because of an injury caused by a student, but Harrington said his 18 years working security taught him that there's something new every day for kids.
“It starts with the parents, or the lack of parents, but it’s also a combination of everything in society,” Harrington said. “With the whole social media thing, what’s being said on Facebook and who’s saying it and how it’s being said and how it’s being portrayed, I had to deal with a lot of those issues.”
Harrington said that when he was in junior high and high school, “we had sports as our outlet.”
“There were so many kids out there the schools had to have two or three different teams," he said.
“Now they can barely get enough kids to be on a team to make a team, sometimes, at the smaller schools,” he said. “The kids these days seem too busy with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and other social media outlets.”
Harrington said his education into what words can mean to a child began back in elementary school. Back then, it was common for young boys to throw insults back and forth at one another in what was then called “capping,” he said. It’s a game of words between two people, he explained.
“I was doing that with one kid and we were going back and forth, and I said something and he started crying,” Harrington said. “I didn’t know what was going on, and making someone cry wasn’t the point. We were just supposed to be having fun. And then the next day he came to school with a knife to come after me. That taught me at that moment this is not a good thing. I’ve never talked to anyone to hurt them.
“When I started working at West High School in 2002, we were dealing with the ‘wannabe’ gang stuff,” he said. “Now, it’s the internet stuff, the social bullying, people making threats through the computer. The gangs are not as prominent, but today it’s what was said on Facebook, and one group of kids saying to another group, ‘We’re going to meet you here because of what you said on Facebook.’
“Before the internet and Tweeting and posting on Facebook, people seemed to be a lot more careful and cautious about what they said and did,” Harrington said. “You had to be face-to-face with someone. Now people say anything and everything, whatever comes to mind because now there are no filters. You can be anybody you want to be on the internet, and that can be dangerous.”
Harrington’s outlet growing up was poetry, and that outlet has served him well today. He is often the wordsmith while Thomas, who plays keyboards, is the music portion of the duo.
They met in junior high school and have been best friends and co-writers ever since.
“When Troy told me about the anti-bully song I thought it was a great idea,” Thomas said. “From a mainstream standpoint, you don’t hear a lot of songs that focus on bullying.
“When you come up with an idea, you want to get it together and get it out fast and we were thinking there had to be other bullying songs out there,” Thomas said. “We always do searches on YouTube and other search engines and we didn’t find a much.”
Harrington said the demographic they are trying to reach is the elementary school kids, such as Harrington’s 7-year-old son, but also have the song current enough to reach older kids.
“Back when we were younger, we didn’t have social media,” Thomas said. “We were taught values and how to behave in public and how to behave toward other people. But social media today is a whole other issue when it comes to teaching your kids to have the same values and apply them to social media. That’s not happening.
“It’s hard to control,” Thomas said. “My wife and I have had to have discussions with our daughters. We tell them that a lot of the time you may not know or realize you’re bullying somebody, or you may not realize you’re involved in the internet chain that’s bullying somebody. You have to be on it and talk to them.
“Once you say something on social media, it’s out there,” Thomas said. “You can’t take it back. There are too many people out there who want to stir the pot and attend to their own agenda.”
Eventually, they want to expand their video to include local kids, but for now, the two men said, it’s the message that’s important.