Chris Mars, founding drummer of the Replacements, devotes most of his time and energy these days to his second career as a painter. He released four solo albums in the ’90s, wrote a 2012 song in honor of former bandmate Slim Dunlap, and contributed a Dunlap cover to the Replacements’ 2013 EP Songs for Slim, but it’s rare to hear new music from Mars.
Mars, who still lives and works in Minneapolis, has now broken his silence — moved, as many have been, by the death of Philando Castile. An original song called “July 2016” is now available as a free download on Mars’s website.
Announcing the song on Facebook, Mars wrote, “I wrote a song for Philando Castile, a St. Paul man shot and killed by police in July 2016. Last week, his killer was acquitted. The song is called ‘July 2016’ and is available as a free download in my webstore. Let’s keep the memory of Philando Castile alive. #justiceforphilando.”
The folk-rock song’s lyrics recount the story of “a young man killed in cold blood.” Mars describes the actions of Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who captured the shooting’s aftermath on Facebook live video. “Why did your birthday have to turn into a death day?” asks Mars, referring to the fact that Castile was preparing to celebrate his birthday when he was shot by Officer Jeronimo Yanez.
Mars praises Reynolds’s bravery and calls for justice to be done, poignantly describing the actions of Reynolds’s young daughter, who attempted to comfort her mother in the wake of the shooting. Calling for listeners to “stand together as one” and “ride out this ugly storm,” Mars expresses hope for the future: “I know the sorrow and the pain will lead to change.”