“Danny’s Downs But Love Is Up”

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time, according to The Jerome Lejeune Foundation, when “we applaud caregivers, families, and medical professionals — but most of all, we applaud all the wonderful people with Down syndrome.” We’ve been running new stories so far this month. Here is one that is among my personal favorites.

I’m no musicologist, but, like you, I know the power of music to speak to the heart, soul, and spirit. “Danny’s Downs,” sung by Michael Kelly Blanchard, brings a tear to my eye every time I play this song.

The song was inspired by the unspeakably sad, wholly unnecessary death of “Infant Doe” in Bloomington, Indiana.

One of the worse weeks of my life were those six days in 1982. A baby boy, born with Down syndrome and an esophageal blockage which made it impossible for him to swallow, was neither fed nor had the blockage repaired.

In “Danny’s Downs,” the parents are confronted with the same temptation to “send him back where he came.” They overcome their weakness, thanks to an old Jamaican cleaning woman whose encouragement allows the parents to overcome the “death” of their dream of a “perfect baby.”

I absolutely love that song, which is etched into my heart.

I remember like it was yesterday, the first time I heard “Danny’s Downs” played.

As it happened, an old friend of mine was sitting at the same table. A woman who combines relentless energy and determination with a pretend world-weariness, she bawled like a baby.

We all did.