The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #57244   Message #1461570
Posted By: Muttley
14-Apr-05 - 07:22 PM
Thread Name: songs about disabilities
If we're travelling that particular line of talking about battle-inflicted injuries creating disability then one can't really go past Steeleye Span's "FIGHTING FOR STRANGERS". In this there is no suggestion or implication of injury but actual detail of them and the consequences (despite being a "war hero" and "veteran"). The third verse is the one that REALLY tells the story of the consequences of his wounding and consequent disablement.

   What makes you go abroad fighting for strangers?
   When you could be safe at home free from all dangers.
   A recruiting sergeant came our way
   To an inn nearby at the close of day,
   He said, "Young Johnny you're a fine young man.
   Would you like to march along behind a military band,
   With a scarlet coat, a big cocked hat,
   And a musket at your shoulder?"
   A shilling he took and he kissed the book;
   Oh poor Johnny what'll happen to you.

A recruiting sergeant marched away
From the inn nearby at the break of day.
Johnny went too with half a ring;
He was off to be a soldier, he'd be fighting for the King
In a far off war, in a far off land,
To face a foreign soldier.
But how will you fare when there's lead in the air;
Oh poor Johnny what'll happen to you?


Oh the sun shone high on a barren land
As a thin red line took a military stand.
There was sling shot, chain shot, grape shot too,
Swords and bayonets thrusting through.
Poor Johnny fell but the day was won
And the King is grateful to you;
But your soldiering's done and we're sending you home;
Oh poor Johnny what have they done to you.

Oh they said he was a hero and not to grieve
Over two wooden pegs and empty sleeves.
They carried him home and they set him down
With a military pension and a medal from the crown.
You haven't an arm, you haven't a leg,
The enemy nearly slew you.
You'll have to go out on the streets to beg;
Oh poor Johnny what have they done to you.

Chorus (x3)

I LOVE this song for its poignant story and the way that Steeleye actually perform it - no 'music' accompaniment as such just Maddy Prior supplying the plaintive vocals of the chorus and (I think) Tim Hart singing the verses - both basically doing so 'a capella' with only a VERY light and VERY much "in the background" percussion - probably by Nigel Pegrum.

A very graphic and heart-rending tale in song as this was the common lot for seriously disabled "Vets" of England's various wars. It's interesting that this kind of message never seems to crop up in Scottish or Irish songs of war or injured soldiers - I wonder if that was because the tradition for both of these peoples was that, a soldier who came home unable to care for himself any longer immediately became the responsibility of his whole village or town. The English never seemed to promote this picture of themselves in history and it would appear that outside his family a badly injured serviceman was pretty much 'on his own'.

However, the thread WAS on songs ABOUT disability - I think, maybe, that contributors followed that line of thinking and passed over "Songs about GAINING a disability / disabilities)