Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, he is free at last!
And he’s soon to be a hit song, too!
Days after John O’Hara, the only man prosecuted in New York State for voter fraud, was finally cleared on appeal of the politically motivated felony charges that sullied his name, cost him his law license and forced him to do more than 1,000 of community service, he took a victory lap on the airwaves of Brooklyn Paper Radio, the paper of record on the overzealous persecution of O’Hara by then-District Attorney Charles Hynes.
“If it wasn’t for the Brooklyn Paper, I never would have been cleared,” O’Hara told show co-hosts Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Daily News and Brooklyn Paper Editor Vince DiMiceli. “You guys covered it every step of the way.”
But even the Paper wasn’t able to completely exonerate O’Hara, which a state judge did last week after a witness recanted. Previously, the witness had testified that O’Hara could not have legally voted from the address he had given to the Board of Elections because his basement apartment was not actually an apartment.
Wrong. It was. O’Hara voted legally. Case closed.
The two-decade-long case intrigued the show’s other guest, Don Rauf, the lead singer of seminal Brooklyn band, Life in a Blender. Rauf suggested that O’Hara’s story could easily be made into a stinging rebuke of lying politicians and a corrupt system in the style of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane.”
Rauf was unable to come up with lyrics on the spot, so Kuntzman improvised: “Here comes the story of an O’Hara named John — The man the authorities said was a con.”
“I think we can do better,” DiMiceli said.
Perhaps, but one thing that could not be improved upon is Rauf’s seminal hit, “What Happened to Smith?” the ultimate gentrification song that is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
After a spirited in-studio sing-a-long with Kuntzman on lead vocals and DiMiceli on harmony, Rauf shared the story behind the song, which he penned when he lived on Smith Street at Second Place.
“I saw the changes coming,” he said, referring to his own lyric about the disappearance of the “$5 hero” sandwich that’s now “$20 and tip!”
Rauf was on hand to promote his band’s Jan. 20 show at Barbes on Ninth Street in Park Slope.
“It’s inauguration day, so you’ll need a drink,” he said, before introducing another hit song, “Good Answer,” which centers on the stultifying conformity in America.
“That’s what’s f—— wrong with our country!” Kuntzman screamed. “That song is needed now more than ever!”
“Good answer,” DiMiceli said, parroting the song’s chant-and-repeat chorus.
Brooklyn Paper radio is recorded and podcast live every Tuesday at 10 am — for your convenience — from our studio in America’s Downtown and can be found, as always, right here on Brook