How a Utah musician’s song from the 2002 Olympics became a COVID-19 relief tribute
Inspirational theme song for 2002 Winter Olympics now serving as tribute, fundraiser for coronavirus relief
SALT LAKE CITY — It was late at night after a hard day of work in Wyoming, and Greg Ericksen was traveling back to Utah when a song came to his mind.
“I heard it, and it just kept spinning in my head, both the music and the lyrics and the harmonies and everything else,” Ericksen said. “I have no explanation for it, other than I attribute it to a gift from a higher power.”
It had been decades since Ericksen had picked up a guitar as a member of the popular 1960s Utah band The Grimm, formerly known as The Four Fifths. But in the early morning hours after Ericksen returned home, he penned the tune about offering light to others.
A few years later, “Light Up the Land,” sung by Jenny Jordan, became the inspirational theme song for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. At one point during the Olympics, about 2.5 million people were listening to the song online in about 83 countries, according to Ericksen.
“It really was humbling that they would consider that song as the inspirational song for the Olympics,” Ericksen said. “I got a lot of feedback on how that helped people’s lives and how it brought people together, and the theme was spreading your light and doing service for others, and I was very grateful to have been able to help get that message out during the Olympics.”
Now, the song is serving as a tribute and fundraiser for COVID-19 relief.
“I’ve thought of that song as a gift to me for something more than I am, and I thought any use of that song by anybody that wanted to do that and spread some light and service would be wonderful,” Ericksen said.
Now reunited, The Grimm joined forces with Utah musicians including Carmen Rasmusen Herbert, Ryan Shupe and Jordan, as well as artists from Italy and China, to release a new version of the song and create a “Light Up the Land” tribute video.
“One of our kids is a pharmacist in Florida and married to a doctor down there, and they were on the front lines,” Ericksen said. “It was such a courageous effort that I started to see among the health care providers that it really fit into the theme of the song of letting your light so shine and to uplift everybody that you could.”
The music video was filmed at Ericksen’s Park City Film Studios in Salt Lake City on the London Rooftop, a virtual background based on a rooftop where The Beatles performed their last concert in 1969 at 3 Savile Row in London, England.
“That rooftop no longer exists, so we virtually created that through some technology that we have in Utah that’s been used on CBS ‘Last Man on Earth’ and Nickelodeon and kind of some major productions,” Ericksen said. “We use that technology to try and give major artists a venue because right now during this COVID, all of the concerts or most of the concerts worldwide have been canceled, and who knows when they’ll have them again, and so we’ve got an outlet now that we can put on a concert that appears to be any place in the world.”
All proceeds from the release will be donated to charities helping with COVID-19 relief efforts.
“What I hope is that it will spread and bring hope to people,” Ericksen said. “There’s nothing out there that is encouraging people to get along, lift the other person up, spread their light and pass it along, like we see in the example of our first responders.”
“Light Up the Land” has served many different purposes. Through Greg Ericksen’s brother Mike Ericksen, who covered the song with his band Cedar Breaks, “it was considered the official song commemorating the rescue of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies,” according to Mike Ericksen’s book “Upon Destiny’s Song.”
“I was very involved in looking for my ancestors and the handcart pioneers and such, and I gave the song to a friend of mine I came to know, which was President Scott Lorimer up in Riverton, who led the ‘Second Rescue,’ it was called, doing the temple work for the handcart pioneers, and he sent the song to President Hinckley and said, ‘This is what we’re about,’ and he declared that the song of the ‘Second Rescue,’” Mike Ericksen said, noting the song has been used at many firesides and programs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over the years.
The song has also been used as part of an anti-drug program at Woods Cross High School and to open a national Native American conference, according to Mike Ericksen.
For the month of June, Empath Media LLC and the Cedar Breaks band will donate $1 for each free download of its cover, “Light,” (available at cedarbreaksband.com and upondestinyssong.com). All proceeds from other music and book purchases on the site up to $25,000 will go to local charities helping those in need, Mike Ericksen said.
“The way I look at it is a gift that was not intended to be commercially exploited so to speak, but to help others, and a lot of times music does that,” Greg Ericksen said. “I’m a real believer in that.”