As a young man, Wayne County
Sheriff's Deputy Darron McKinney played saxophone in church and later in
gospel ensembles while studying music at Southern University in Louisiana.
He often found himself playing alongside jazz notables Branford Marsalis,
Joe Sample and once with legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
While many saw McKinney's name in lights, he knew deep down public service
as a policeman was his mission.
Two years ago, he produced A Call to Courage, a song of commitment to the
badge. With help from his brother, Nathan McKinney, and lyricist Kareem,
the trio crafted the CD, which contains the tune sung by Nichelle Colvin
and an instrumental version. The tribute to the men and women who protect
the public was distributed to record stores throughout Metro Detroit.
"I just saw a need to capture the essence of what we do in law
enforcement and to write a song that would bring police and those in
public service closer to God," McKinney said.
Ever since the September tragedies, music stores can barely keep up with
demand for the patriotic tune. In Metro Detroit, McKinney's compact disc
is becoming a local hit.
Sandy Bean, vice-president of advertising for Harmony House records, said
that sales of patriotic-theme recordings haven't soared as high since the
"Music is a very powerful elicitor of memory and emotion," said
Wayne State University graduate psychology instructor Ty Partridge.
U.S. citizens may be gravitating toward patriotic tunes because it moves
them beyond their identities of being New Yorkers or Detroiters or any of
the qualifiers that segment members of society, Partridge said.
"It's a combination of a shared experience in that these songs are
reminders that we, as Americans, have a common experience, a common
heritage," Partridge said.
When Bishop David L. Ellis of the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit heard
McKinney's song, he was moved to tears.
"The melody and the lyrics are very soothing and certainly
appropriate," Ellis said. "It memorializes those in law
enforcement who have really gone beyond the line of duty or given the
McKinney shies away from the publicity that tends to accompany the
spotlight. He'd prefer focusing on charitable acts, which sometimes
includes paying homage to officers killed in the line of duty. He performs
on his own time with a chorale of local law enforcement officers, most
recently for fallen Detroit Police Officer Neil Wells Jr., who was shot to
death by a suspect during a narcotics raid in April.
"It's sad and humbling, and never gets easy," McKinney said.
The grief he feels over losing a brother or sister in blue is tempered
with the joy of reaching out to at-risk youth. As the father of 8-year-old
Corey and 1-year-old Briana, McKinney looks forward to mentoring area
While playing in the Brown Bears band, McKinney complemented the Detroit
Police Department's Blue Pigs musical group by playing at elementary,
middle and high schools. And even though he now plays jazz with the Jam
Squad, he'll never forget the youngster who praised his rendition of 9-1-1
is Not a Joke and told McKinney the rap remake opened his eyes to the
importance of emergency numbers.
"But it's not just the music; we mentor them about drug awareness,
personal respect and crime prevention," McKinney said. "I am
thankful ... that I can enforce the law, and in some circumstances,
minister through my position as well."
McKinney has pledged to donate a portion of his CD sales to the families
of the officers who perished in the World Trade Center tragedy. The CD
sells for about $6.
Paula Bridges is a Metro Detroit