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The spirit of Coney Island — and of one-time resident Woody Guthrie — lives on in the latest song by the poet laureate of the People’s Playground, Amos Wengler.
The troubadour who brought the world songs about the Nathan’s Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest and the New York Aquarium is serenading his favorite neighborhood once again, this time with a tune celebrating the amusement district’s emergence from the waters of Hurricane Sandy, entitled “Coney’s Coming Back.”
Wengler, who moved to Coney from Iowa in 1962, said he was aghast at seeing the devastation to his beloved Playground of the World on the day after the storm.
“When I saw the beach, I’d never seen anything like that, so much debris. I saw houses, places flooded, people throwing things out, everything in ruin. It really affected me,” said Wengler.
But the strong recovery effort gave Wengler fresh hope, and a song request from Coney’s unofficial mayor got his creative mojo rising again.
“Dick Zigun, he told me, ‘Hey, Amos, we need a comeback song for Coney Island,’ ” said Wengler, who soon got to work. “I’m very optimistic about it, and this is my way of contributing, giving encouragement that it’s coming back.”
While the start of the song laments the destruction Wengler witnessed, the last few verses are more upbeat, promising the People’s Playground’s return to its former glory. And to add an extra touch of innocence and wonder, Wengler is getting the kids at P.S. 90 on W. 12th Street between Surf and Neptune avenues in on the act, rehearsing the song with the school choir. Wengler said having neighborhood children join in fit both the song’s sound and its message.
“They’re right in the middle of Coney Island, they really got hit,” said Wengler. “And I realized after I wrote the song, that a children’s choir would fit in real nice, because it’s almost a kid-oriented song, like John Lennon’s ‘Happy Christmas.’ ”Reach reporter Will Bredderman at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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