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A SONG FOR THE MANIACS

An 11-year old girl beat out 16,999 other aspiring songwriters to earn a concert for herself and her schoolmates by the rock group 10,000 Maniacs.

The band's lead singer, Natalie Merchant, chose Amy Dean as the winner because of the girl's song about the plight of a poor black woman.

"I kept coming back to Amy's piece because the image was so clear and direct and the story so simply told," Merchant said.

The Maniacs played eight songs Friday before 475 students at Fern Ridge Middle School. But Amy was the opening act, reading the lyrics to her song, "I'm Black and I'm Blue."

She wrote the song after meeting a black woman who couldn't afford to buy a Christmas tree at her family's tree lot last winter. The Deans made sure the woman left with a tree.

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