Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” is one of Minnesota’s iconic songs, its success propelling the 1992 album Grave Dancers Union to multi-platinum status. The song is also known for its distinctive video, which put the faces of three dozen actual runaway children on MTV — helping families and authorities to recover contact with most of the kids.
A quarter-century (and change) later, the song has received a high-gloss remake and an interactive video that focuses viewers’ attention on missing children near them. If you watch “Runaway Train 25” today in the Twin Cities, for example, you’ll see the faces of Roseanna Forcum (missing from St. Cloud since 1998) and Corrine Erstad (missing from Inver Grove Heights since 1992).
“The interesting thing to me is that we’re still talking about [‘Runaway Train’], which is pretty cool,” Soul Asylum leader Dave Pirner told Billboard. “After I heard the whole song, I was like, ‘All right, it’s definitely different. It’s definitely more modern-sounding…’ And then it’s also very cool that they came to us, they sent me the song, and then asked for permission.”
Jamie N Commons, Skylar Gray, and Gallant collaborate on the remake, which trades the folk-rock vibe of the original for a genre-spanning sheen with Gray leading the chorus. A Wisconsin native, Gray is best-known for guesting on hip-hop tracks and co-writing the Eminem/Rihanna chart-topper “Love the Way You Lie.” Jamie N Commons handles lead vocals, with support from rising R&B star Gallant.
In a statement, John Clark of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said, “This video is a game changer. It highlights critical issues runaways face and will show real pictures of missing children. By creating and sharing this video, everyone has the ability to make a difference in their communities. It’s truly incredible.”
The song’s original video was directed by Tony Kaye, who helmed the Oscar-nominated 1998 feature American History X and also made music videos for Johnny Cash (“God’s Gonna Cut You Down”) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Dani California”). Different versions of the video highlighted missing kids in various countries.