Songwriters: Send us your original song on the tragedy in the Gulf

The devastation in the Gulf of Mexico cuts across so many lives — from fishermen to oil workers to tourists — and so many places — from beachfront hotels to bird sanctuaries.

We’ve all been moved by the photos and personal stories of loss, disappointment, despair and, yes, hope.

What we haven’t heard is a song that captures some of those feelings.

So we’re calling on our readers to try their hand at capturing the mood of the moment in an original song.

One thing we’ve found in our ongoing photo series on the changing seasons is that there are a lot of talented folks across the country with something to share.

For those of you inclined to compose, we invite you to watch the 2 1/2-minute slide show above (or click here) of the Gulf oil and write an original song to accompany it.

You pick the style: From country music to New Orleans jazz to Jimmy Buffett with an edge. In short, whatever moves you.

We’ve asked songwriter/artist Craig Bickhardt to select five finalists and a winner, but we’ll also ask readers to vote for their favorite.

Craig is the perfect choice to lend an ear for the project: His songs have been recorded by more than 150 artists including Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Alison Krauss and Kathy Mattea. He can be heard singing two of his songs in the Academy Award-winning film Tender Mercies starring Robert Duvall, and has written songs for other films such as Switchback and At Close Range.

Here are the rules:

1) Send your song as an MP3 file to by Aug. 1. Include a lyric sheet, the names of the writers, and an e-mail and phone contact number (which we will NOT publish).

2) We’re limiting this to talented amateurs and non-professionals, which means people who do not make their profession in the music business. (You know who you are!)

3) The winner won’t be judged on the quality of the production, but the song should meet an appropriate sound standard for posting online. It should also fit with the video above, both in content and in length.

4) By submitting your song, you grant USA TODAY and anyone authorized by USA TODAY, a non-exclusive, irrevocable and royalty-free license to reproduce, transmit, distribute, publicly perform and otherwise use the musical composition and the sound recording (the “Song”), in whole or in part, throughout the world in perpetuity in connection with USA TODAY’s website, including, without limitation, for permanent storage and real-time transmission on or in connection with the USA TODAY website, for the purpose of making the Song available on the website and permitting end-users of the website to access and listen to the Song. You represent and warrant that you are the sole author of the Song; you are the sole owner of all rights in or otherwise have the right to license the Song; you have the full right and authority to enter into this Agreement; and USA TODAY’s use of the Song will not infringe or violate the rights of any third party, including without limitation, any copyright, trademark or right of privacy or publicity. Except with respect to the license granted to USA TODAY, you will retain all rights, title and interest in and to the Song including without limitation, any and all copyright and other proprietary or intellectual property rights contained therein.

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