Protesting Child Abuse – Martina McBride’s “Concrete Angel”

Child abuse is a escalating problem in the United States. According to the National Child Abuse Statistics, four children die every day from abuse, and three out of four of these children are under the age of four (Childhelp 2006). Three million cases of child abuse are reported in the United States every year, but some experts believe that there are at least three times as many cases that are not reported (Childhelp 2006). In 2003, country singer Martina McBride released a single song to radio that brought the topic of child abuse to the forefront of many listeners minds (Fabian 2007). This song was entitled “Concrete Angel.”

“Concrete Angel” is the story of a young, school aged girl who is suffering from physical abuse at the hands of her parents. The child in the song shows signs of abuse such as wearing the same clothes every day, attempting to cover bruises, and crying out in the night (Yahoo! Music 2007). Despite a teacher and neighbors noticing that there may be a problem, they never attempt to ask the child or intervene on her behalf (Yahoo! Music 2007). Because of their hesitancy to become involved, the girl dies from abuse. All that is left of her by the end of the song is a grave that is marked with a “concrete angel” (Yahoo! Music 2007). The term “concrete angel” also applied to the child while she was alive. She was unable to “rise above” her terrible circumstances, but “dreams (gave) her wings” and in those dreams she would “fly to a place where she’s loved” (Yahoo! Music 2007). This, in the minds of the songwriters, was the very definition of a “concrete angel“ (Feek 2006).

The songwriters who penned “Concrete Angel” are Rob Crosby and Stephanie Bentley (Feek 2006). Some people incorrectly believe that Martina McBride both wrote and recorded the song, but that fact could be attributed to McBride’s involvement with child abuse charities after the song was released. Crosby was interviewed about the writing of the song after McBride released it. He told interviewers that Bentley had the idea of placing a “concrete angel” in a song, but they initially did not know who the angel should be (Feek 2006). A few possibilities were tossed around until they came up with the idea for an abused child (Feek 2006). Crosby stated that he and Bentley felt that the song had touched a lot of people (Feek 2006). In addition to the song, the music video that accompanied it gave the number for Child Help USA at the end (Feek 2006). Crosby related that he had been told of instances where an abused child had seen the video and called the number themselves (Feek 2006). He said that the knowledge that the song had a positive impact was very “gratifying” (Feek 2006).

After Martina McBride released “Concrete Angel” on a greatest hits album, people began to send stories and words of thanks by email and posts to her website (Fabian 2007). Some of these people were social workers and child abuse investigators, but many were survivors of child abuse (Frontpage Publicity 2007). McBride was already involved with the National Domestic Violence Hotline through her songs “Broken Wing” and “Independence Day,” but the response to “Concrete Angel” made her want to become more involved with groups preventing child abuse (Frontpage Publicity 2007). This led to her involvement with the Prevent Child Abuse America campaign (Frontpage Publicity 2007). Not only did she use the song “Concrete Angel” to stir others to action, but she also taped a personal plea for help and action to find child abuse sufferers and save them from their fate (Frontpage Publicity 2007). McBride’s actions have no doubt saved many abused women and children. She seems to choose songs that focus on problems plaguing the world, such as abuse, addiction, and poverty. Even though the songs are not always a commercial success, McBride is able to say that she uses her gift of music for more than just the money it can bring. She uses her beautiful voice to bring help to the needy, and hope to the hopeless.

Unfortunately, despite the moving words of “Concrete Angel,” child abuse cases continue to rise. It seems that the song has not made a large impact on abusers, but every little bit helps. More than a few victims of abuse have been changed over to crusaders against abuse. Many people who did not realize what an enormous problem child abuse in the United States was have been educated, and hopefully some have been moved to report seeing children who look unusually bruised and unkempt to the proper authorities. In fact, the rise in the number of reported child abuse cases could be looked at as a hopeful thing instead of a tragedy. Perhaps people have been encouraged to report child abuse since “Concrete Angel” moved Martina McBride to bring the issue into the spotlight.

When all is said and done, “Concrete Angel” put child abuse out into the open and served as a shock to people who would have rather not heard such a heart wrenching song. Because it got a lot of airplay on many different types of radio, many people were exposed to the shocking lyrics. Many more saw the music video and paid attention, even thought it was very hard to watch. Even though the writers did not even start out writing a song about child abuse, they felt that once they had the idea the song basically “wrote itself” (Feek 2006). We cannot ever be sure of how many people were saved by this unplanned song, but we do know its impact on the world. It has moved many people to activism, and perhaps one day we will be able to see a positive change in the number of child abuse cases. If we do, we can thank people like Rob Crosby, Stephanie Bentley, and Martina McBride. When people put need over potential commercial success, a lot of good can come from it. “Concrete Angel” has become a rallying cry for many, and perhaps it will save many children from the fate of becoming a “concrete angel.”