Music video: Portraits of loss in Mary Jane Riemann’s ‘Goodbye’

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Arts and culture

This story was originally written for Alaska Dispatch News. 

The inspiration for Mary Jane Riemann’s song “Goodbye” came from a challenge she made for herself to write a song about grieving the death of a loved one.

Riemann was becoming tired of hearing the same songs over and over at funerals, memorials and other somber events and knowing that the lyrics didn’t really correlate to what was happening.


“Sometimes people attach songs to these things, but lyrically, they’re completely inappropriate,” she said, mentioning Sarah McLaughlin’s song “Angel” as an example.

“It’s a beautiful song, and I happen to know Sarah McLaughlin a little bit, we’re both from the East Coast and met when we were young. ‘In the arms of the angel’ is about heroin addiction, it’s about being high on heroin in a hotel room,” Riemann said.


Riemann, who grew up in Newfoundland, Canada, and now lives in Anchorage, believes that people reach for music for comfort.

When she wrote “Goodbye,” “I went right to the center of grief, and I wanted to just be in that moment and invite music to happen. It was an assignment in a way, but if you force it, it just doesn’t come out well. It was more like opening up the floodgates and saying ‘okay, go into that space and see if you have anything to offer.'”

Riemann wrote the song in 2013. The video, shot and produced in 2014 by her husband Kurt Reimann, features powerful portraits of different people — old and young — holding pictures of their loved ones who have died.

The guest soloist featured in the song is renowned Irish piper Davy Spillane, who plays the uilleann (pronounced ILL-UN) pipes and sings backup vocals.

For more on Riemann’s music, see

The Author

Hi! My name is Sam Davenport. I am a freelance writer and lifelong Alaskan who loves reporting on the state’s history, food and culture. I am a graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage, where I received bachelors degrees in journalism and political science. I was the executive editor of The Northern Light — UAA’s student-run newspaper — for 2.5 years During my time at UAA, I completed internships at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. I am the managing editor of The Spenardian, an award-winning hyper-local news blog and magazine for the neighborhood of Spenard. I have been published in Vice, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News, The Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska Magazine, Alaska Business, The Northern Light, The Anchorage Press, The Frontiersman, Alaska’s Energy Desk, KSKA, KTOO, Last Frontier Magazine, Crude Magazine, Mountain View Post, The Spenardian, Alaska Contractor Magazine, Wildheart Magazine and True North Magazine. For freelancing rates or a copy of my resume, please email me at

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