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songs about disabilities

26 Feb 03 - 01:48 PM (#899268)
Subject: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,

A group of teachers is working on a project about songs with a message. We are trying to find lyrics in English about disabilites. Can you think of any title or webpage where we can find something so specific?

26 Feb 03 - 01:56 PM (#899276)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,Elfcall

The best i can think of is 'I can Jump Puddles' by Huw and Tony Williams

26 Feb 03 - 02:09 PM (#899292)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: sharyn

As a disabled person I need to say that I find songs written about people with disabilities (usually by people without them) to be condescending and offensive. These people don't have the experience (which varies widely even in the same diagnosed disability).

If you keep looking you are bound to run into some of these songs. Two I have run into are "Walking on my Wheels" and "I'm a Little Cookie." I find both of these songs offensive. A better idea, to my mind, is to feature the songs or paintings or writings of disabled artists without looking for songs about the issue. We are whole people with whole art and lots to say on a variety of subjects.

By the way, I have cerebral palsy. I have friends with disabilities ranging from MS to autism and I work in an inclusion recreation program for able-bodied and disabled children.

26 Feb 03 - 02:10 PM (#899295)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: black walnut

Jane Field (from Toronto, Canada) did a tape of songs in 1994. It's called The Fishing is Free. I'll see if I can round up any information on how to get hold of it.


26 Feb 03 - 02:11 PM (#899299)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: wilco

Can't help with websites.But, i do a lot of work with the mentally ill, many of whom become homeless. I sing "Tramp on the Street" at many public functions, to raise awareness. I add an extra verse:

Your brothers and sisters, your fathers and mothers,
your sons and your daughters, your sisters and brothers.
The beggars, the drunks, the whores of the street.
Living and dying among us, just tramps on the street.

26 Feb 03 - 02:21 PM (#899309)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Leadfingers

The Dubliners recorded a song 'Scorn Not His Simplicity'on the vinyl
album Revolution. Dont know if its still available, but the song deals
with mental handicaps.

26 Feb 03 - 02:41 PM (#899325)
Subject: Lyr Add: SHORTNESS OF SIGHT (Hughie Jones)
From: Doug Chadwick

(Hughie Jones)

Oh pity, oh pity, oh pity my plight
And all those who suffer from shortness of sight

On a stage or a platform I never am frightened
No matter how much the audience is lightened
I just stand there and go into attack
I can never see more than seven rows back


At sport I am no go and never will be
I couldn't play football so they made me referee
I saw all the fouls and the sly offside passes
'Til a big centre-forward came smashed in my glasses


Last week I noticed more than most
I'd written a letter that I wanted to post
When I got to the box and I looked at it close
T'was a little fat lady in a straight cut red coat


Whistling at girls I did in my leisure
But now I must find alternative pleasure
I whistled a bird, she had hair long and yella
But it cost me a thumping 'cos he was a fella


The ring road round town with its sodium lights
When viewed from a distance is a wonderful sight
Lots of tall lamp-posts in neat little rows
They look like chrysanthemums growing on poles


26 Feb 03 - 04:24 PM (#899414)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: sharyn

I thought I would add that the best book I have read on disabilities -- and I have read a lot of Crip Lit -- is Missing Pieces by Irving Kenneth Zola.

26 Feb 03 - 05:16 PM (#899455)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,Zany Mouse

The fantastically talented Graham Knights (who uses a wheelchair) sings a song called "Don't Disable Me".

It is written by Janet Wood and is on Graham's CD "Echo From Afar"

On his CD he says:

"I heard Janet sing this song and immediately thought that's for me. It says a lot about life and has become somewhat of an anthem for me."

A powerful song indeed.


26 Feb 03 - 05:45 PM (#899482)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Herga Kitty

I was going to post a message about "Don't disable me" but ZM got there first. It's about being a person, not a broken down machine, or pitied or labelled.

26 Feb 03 - 05:56 PM (#899490)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,Claymore

Actually the very best song I've ever heard about disabilities is Steve Warners, "Doin' the Best They Can" about two people with disabilities (one mental, one physical) falling in love, getting married, and having children. Don't have the words handy, but I will try and locate...

26 Feb 03 - 05:56 PM (#899491)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Uncle_DaveO

Peggy Seeger, I know, did (probably still does) a wonderful song about being out jogging, and ran into a woman in a wheelchair. She used the term "disabled", and the woman challenged her to a race. The woman won.

They go to a restaurant, but have to enter by the freight elevator because there's no wheelchair access. The waiter takes the singer's order, "And what will she have?"   "What will WHO have?" "Her (pointing to the new wheelchair-seated friend.)" "Why don't you ask her? She had a disease when she was a child, but she's not stupid!" He does, and she orders.

The manager comes around and asks if everything is all right. The lady in the wheelchair complains about no wheelchair access. "Oh, that's all right. We don't get many handicapped here anyway."

Somehow the wheelchair lady relates having taken part in a demonstration for handicapped access, and she, along with most others there, was arrested. But they had to send her home, didn't hold her in jail. Seems there was no wheelchair access to the jail, either!

Dave Oesterreich

26 Feb 03 - 06:42 PM (#899535)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities

Barry Finn has written a song about autism. Sorry, I don't know the name but I believe the lyrics are somewhere on Mudcat. Can anyone help?

26 Feb 03 - 06:52 PM (#899541)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities

DOH! It's in the "Songs About Disability" thread listed above.

27 Feb 03 - 12:04 AM (#899556)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Mark Cohen

Uncle Dave, the song you're referring to is called "Talking Wheelchair Blues" and it's by Fred Small. It was on his album "The Heart of the Appaloosa".

Sharyn, I didn't know you found "Walking On My Wheels" offensive. That's the first such reaction I've heard. Not that that invalidates your reaction, of course, and I respect it. I'd be interested to know more about your feelings. (And we can still be friends--I hope!)


27 Feb 03 - 12:14 AM (#899560)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities

Check out Candy Man - in the Rugby Song Thread - lots of diabilities there.

27 Feb 03 - 12:18 AM (#899566)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities

eric bogle has a few songs about rosie...who is the daughter of a friend of his....

27 Feb 03 - 12:28 AM (#899571)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Callie

What about that Si Kahn song - i don't remember the title but the chorus starts "it isn't what you're born with but what you do with what you've got".

27 Feb 03 - 10:53 AM (#899631)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Sooz

Everyone, ablebodied or not should hear Graeme Knights sing "Don't disable me" (Although at his full volume a good place might be a bunker in the next town!) Here is the chorus:

Don't disable me pity or label me
For I'm a person not a broken down machine
Not a mass of moving parts
But a soul with a feeling heart
So don't disable me

27 Feb 03 - 11:05 AM (#899645)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,Piers

Here's the song Leadfingers mentions:
scorn not his simplicity

27 Feb 03 - 11:19 AM (#899660)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Pooby

The only one that comes right away to mind is "The Last Great Waltz," recorded by the Smothers Brothers and written (I think) by Shel Silverstein. For those unfamiliar, it's the story of a perfectionist dancer who finds true love and an ideal dance partner when he meets a woman with three legs. Lyrics can be posted if desired.

One-two-three, one-two... One-two-three, one-two...


27 Feb 03 - 11:28 AM (#899682)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

What about that Si Kahn song - i don't remember the title but the chorus starts "it isn't what you're born with but what you do with what you've got".

That gets sung a lot... And although, as a person with cerebral palsy, I like the message that handicapped* people have more abilities than disabilities, I resent the implication that we are inherently a saintly bunch because of our physical and/or mental conditions.
It's a message that's implied for most of the song, and stated directly in the last verse:

between those who use their neighbours
and those who use the cane
between those in constant power
and those in constant pain
between those who run to glory
and those who cannot run
tell me which ones are the cripples
and which ones touch the sun?

I know for a fact that using a wheelchair does not impair your ability to be a power-hungry, money-grubbing S.O.B., if that's your choice, it only makes it harder to get up a flight of stairs. I've yet to see a pedestal that was at all accessible ;-)

Actually, I think the best song about "The issue of disability" wasn't written for that purpose at all -- the 'novelty' song: You can't rollerskate in a buffalo herd (but you can be happy if you've a mind to) by country-western singer Roger Miller, the lyrics to which can be found here.

*Although the word "handicapped" is considered politically incorrect today, because it sounds like it's about begging (cap in hand), and because of its association with government agencies of past generations, I much prefer it to "disabled". The word actually comes from a 14th (iirc) century bartering/gambling game, with the implication of having to pay a higher price (in time, effort, frustration, etc.) to achieve the same goals as everyone else, but that we are strong enough to do so. "Disabled" simply means "not able" or "broken". And that just aint so!

27 Feb 03 - 11:34 AM (#899692)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities


27 Feb 03 - 02:40 PM (#899879)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,Tiger

Billy Murray did "K-K-K-Katy" in 1918.

Before that, he did "The Boy Who Stuttered and the Girl Who Lisped" with Ada Jones in 1909.

"The Dutchman" is a touching treatment of dementia.

"Take Her Out of Pity"

"Anne Boleyn"

And, course, "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" :)

27 Feb 03 - 04:41 PM (#899974)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Sandy Mc Lean

Years ago folksinger Terry Kelly was performing in the St. Peters area of Cape Breton. At the time I was a microwave radio technician with the telephone company and spent a lot of my time maintaining 2 transmitter sites in the area. While Terry had no sight, he was into marathon running and he used to train on these back roads along with a sighted runner at his side. When I would see them go by I often thought that there was no way that I would be able to keep up to them.
It set me to wondering "what is a disability?" It was obvious that Terry did not feel that he had one.
Since then Terry has become more famous and I don't know if he still runs, but when I see him on T.V. I sure don't see any invalid. I guess it is in the way one plays the hand that life has dealt.

27 Feb 03 - 05:07 PM (#899995)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities

Take Her Out Of Pity"???? The one I know is about an old maid aching for a husnand.

27 Feb 03 - 05:23 PM (#900011)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,Tiger

Likely the same one, Sinsull.

"I had a sister Sally, she was ugly and misshapen,
By the time she was sixteen years old she was taken.....etc."

...But Sarah's almost twenty-nine,
And never had an offer."

27 Feb 03 - 05:29 PM (#900017)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: open mike

i remember when fred small played the "wheelchair" song
when he performed near here. I was sitting next to a
friend with M.S. and we both held hands and were in tears.
She was in a chair. it was a very moving song.

27 Feb 03 - 07:10 PM (#900082)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Zany Mouse

I would agree with Tiger that The Dutchman is a very touching song. Well worth singing. Run Of The Mill do an excellent version of it.

It can be found in Digitrad.


27 Feb 03 - 09:57 PM (#900165)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Abby Sale

Now terms to use can get interesting. Some years back, down the block from out house in Duns, in the Scottish borders (a block in Scotland is often 50 or 60 miles around) comming up the hill, just before & around the bend of some unknown & unnamed institution there was my all-time favorite street sign, Caution - Cripples Crossing. Seemed ok to me - you sure knew just what to be cautious of.

28 Feb 03 - 01:09 AM (#900262)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: sharyn

Abby, when I was a child, calling me "a cripple" was about the cruelest thing anyone could say -- on a par with "retard." A lot of physically dsisabled people now use the term "crip" in the same way that gay people sometimes use "faggot" -- to reclaim the term as an in-group word. I mentioned "Crip Lit" in one of my earlier posts, for example. But I don't think I'd like seeing that sign in a serious context.

28 Feb 03 - 12:26 PM (#900462)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

From Sharyn: As a disabled person I need to say that I find songs written about people with disabilities (usually by people without them) to be condescending and offensive. These people don't have the experience (which varies widely even in the same diagnosed disability).

(I know I'm responding relatively late to this, but my ideas neaded to swim around in my brain for a while before they came to the surface)

If the project the teachers were working on was about disabities, I'd agree with you.... but, AIUI, it's a project about songs with a social agenda.

However, your comments bring up an interesting point: Song is such a powerful medium for getting a message across -- and spread to a wider audience (people are more likely to sing a new song they learned at a rally than to pass on a pamphlet, or make a trip to an art gallery).

So why isn't song used more often as a medium of expressison in the Disability Culture movement? I don't have an answer to this... I'm just curious...

And if writing our own songs is something we should be doing, then I myself have backed away from that goal. The song I posted here: A New Song From CapriUni, started out as an idea for a song about my experience as a disabled person (inspired by a line I spoke in a dream, in response to someone calling me 'Peter Pan': "That's right! I can't walk, but I can fly!"). But almost as soon as I started putting my idea into words, it morphed into something else. Yes, Peter Pan's flight is an expression of individuality and strength of spirit, but Peter is also a perpetual child -- which is a perception of the disabled that I don't want to encourage or suggest to an audience...

And that prompted the questions: Why is expression of individuality, strength of spirit, and personal empowerment (what magic is, metaphorically) so often limited to the realm of childhood? Why is it so blissfully taken for granted that Jackie Paper must leave Puff behind, or that Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are each no longer welcome in Narnia when they reach a certain age? Could there be a fear that imaginary empowerment might become real empowerment when the children reach adulthood?

So that's what the song ended up being about, instead of my personal experience with CP. Maybe I will write a song about the latter -- someday. But not yet.

Although, in my own mind, there is a connection to a silent unspoken question: is one reason why so many comedians make jokes about handicapped parking spaces -- and other visible consequences of ADA -- because they make the empowerment of the disabled visible, and that empowerment is equally frightening?

28 Feb 03 - 01:37 PM (#900511)
From: catspaw49

As the parent of wonderful young autistic son, Barry Finn's song that Sinsull mentioned is wonderful. It's both in the other thread and in the DT, but if you haven't looked, I'll post it here. Barry is a Dad and knows from where he speaks.........

(Barry Finn)

"You're not listening to me. Are you deaf in both ears?
Don't you see what you've caused? Have you been blind all these years?
Could you just give an answer, so I know you're not dumb?
For Christ's sake, you bird brain, has a cat got your tongue?"

Cho: I'm as cute as any other kid. I can run, jump and shout.
You wouldn't know it to look at me. At times, I can't work things out.
I'm not stupid. I'm not lazy. I try very hard.
With a little compassion, I could go pretty far.

Well, school is a torture. The teasing won't quit.
My thoughts go off track and my aide has a fit.
There are some things I excel in, so much that I'm bored.
You wouldn't know it to look at me. It takes all that I'm worth.

The kids scorn and laugh at me. I don't have a friend.
You can feel my heart break. I wonder when this will end.
The mistreatment and abuse I take, it's really a crime,
But I'm told to ignore it, though it happens all of the time.

I know it's hard on my family. I can't change a thing.
The aunts and uncles blame it on my folks and say it's poor upbringing.
The love and affection others get all the time,
I only hear people yell at me, when I ask, "Where is mine?"

I never feel comfort, no shoulder, no hug.
A system to support me was pulled out like a rug.
If you can't understand this, you may be worse off than me,
But I won't hold it against you, 'cause you're deaf and can't see.

I may be mildly autistic or just plain O. C. D.
I may twitch with Tourette's, or have A. D. D.
If you see me cross my eyes, instead of my T's,
You wouldn't know it to look at me that I have special needs.

Words, (c) Barry Finn, 1998.
Tune, traditional Australian, "One Of The Has Beens."


28 Feb 03 - 10:11 PM (#900816)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Barry Finn

Hi Kat & thanks for the kind post.

Just a correction (not splitting hairs here). I'm the ADHD dad to a Touretter whose also Bi-Polar. You're dead on about him being a wonderful kid though.


28 Feb 03 - 10:18 PM (#900820)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: catspaw49

Actually Barry, I worded that wrongly, if you're referring to my post.....I am the father of an autistic son. I should have been more detailed about your own situation instead of mine. Bottom line is though, they're both great kids and it's WONDERFUL song!!!


28 Feb 03 - 11:04 PM (#900858)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Barry Finn

Heh Heh, I can mix up & turn inside out any phrase or sentence ever written, unless I go over it a few times. Again thanks for the compliment on the song. Barry

28 Feb 03 - 11:18 PM (#900864)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Barry Finn

Sorry that should've been "cat". See, isn't that a great example without trying. Barry

28 Feb 03 - 11:44 PM (#900875)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Mark Cohen

I thought people would be interested in the PM discussion Sharyn and I have been having, based on her comment about my song, Walkin' On My Wheels. For the record, we've known one another since about 1983 or so, though we haven't been in touch in around 15 years, until bumping into each other again here on the 'Cat. (As you'll see if you read through, she gave me permission to post her messages.)

Hi Mark,

I've been offended by this song since the very first time I heard it. First, deconstruct the chorus:

"Walking on my wheels" : using a wheelchair is not walking and people who use them know the difference. Some people
who use wheelchairs can walk and would never refer to one activity as the other, even mataphorically.

"People let me tell you just how good it feels." Get real. It doesn't
feel good to use a wheelchair -- it's tiring and people get sore from remaining in the same positions if they can't shift
themselves and even if they can. And using a wheelchair is still stigmatizing, even if it helps someone gain mobility

"I can go anywhere if I've got my chair." Oh really. Except in hallways, unreconstructed restrooms, staircases, dance floors,

"Watch me now, I'm walking..." Many disabled persons do not wish to call attention to their disability, since we get plenty of
attention for that and often not much for other aspects of our lives.

You get my drift, I'm sure.I'm sure you meant well, but I would never sing the song or want any of the disabled kids I work
with to hear it: they are regular kids and like regular kid stuff. It's much more valuable to them to see disabled persons
functioning in jobs, making art, singing thmselves than to hear yet another temporarily-able-bodied person's imaginary take
on disability. Have you ever heard of "Stick to the things you know?" as a writing guideline?

I'm probably sounding a bit more pugnacious than I am (email is a deceptive medium) and as far as I am concerned we are
as much friends as we ever were. This is a bit of a hot issue for me. And I highly recommend Zola's book

Thanks for writing



Thanks for responding. I do understand your points, and I admit I hadn't thought of the song in that way.

On the other hand, there may another way to look at it, which is the way it was intended. (I'm sure you recognize this, but I'll spell it out anyway.) The "purpose" of the song, as much as a piece of music can have a purpose, is to help people who come in contact with a child in a wheelchair to see a child, who happens to use a wheelchair to get around, rather than a piece of furniture that includes something that looks like a human being but somehow isn't. That's why there's the verse that says, "Can you come over...we can use the computer or just tell jokes." (That verse also brings up the issue of accessibility.) I felt that the first step was to get people past the stage of the substitute teacher, who "thought I couldn't think just because I couldn't walk."

I know that using a wheelchair isn't "really" walking, and I don't expect anybody else to think it's really walking. But I remember growing up as a child seeing wheelchairs (and, by extension, the people who used them) as frightening and even threatening, and I know that's a very common reaction. So the message, "This is just how I get around because my legs don't work" is, I think, an important one for children (and adults) to hear. And, frankly, "Locomoting on my Wheels" doesn't scan nearly as well.

I don't mean to be flip, and I do understand your concerns. To a large extent, I agree with them. Nevertheless, the decision to write the song as I did was essentially an "artistic" one, trying to balance the various messages with the desire to come up with a song that people would enjoy hearing and singing. I guess what I'd like to know--and it's a poor reflection on me, I know, that I've never tried to find out--is how kids who use wheelchairs feel about the song. Do you know?

If you've noticed the thread on the song about the suicide prevention hotline, you'll see that I'm taking what is in some way a similar position to yours. That is, "I know people like the song, but I wish you wouldn't sing it because it offends me." Oh, well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. (And we won't even start on THAT song...!)

Mark (still mostly TAB, but aging enough to be grateful every day…)

PS What would you think about posting these messages on the thread? There might be a lot for people to think about...especially in your message.

Thanks for writing back, Mark.

I guess that I don't think trying to provide something to fill a gap is a good enough reason to speak for a group of
marginalized people who get misrepresented and spoken for a lot -- e.g. the story on the disability songs thread where
someone asks "What will s/he have?"

I do work with a group of kids with various disabilities, including some in wheelchairs, and I haven't sung your song to them,
anticipating from them the same kinds of objections I have to it (some of them are pretty sophisticated).

I agree, you did address the issue of accessibility in one verse -- and I noticed this -- but I think the repeated line "I can go
anywhere if I've got my chair" undercuts it. I assume that you were trying to make a really positive statement. This is part of
the problem. In my experience, the kids who get really excited about wheelchairs are able-bodied kids who want to play in
them (we sometimes do wheelchair races or obstacle courses at work): for them, chairs are a novelty and they know they
can get up later and go play football.

The verse I like best of your song is the one about wheelchair basketball: I worked for a couple years with a ten-year-old
girl with CP and she was really happy the day we figured out a system for including her in softball games. I pitched (and had
a pinch runner since I had an ankle injury that wouldn't let me run) and she batted and threw and had someone to catch for
her and someone to push her around the bases. She loved it and for awhile we played everyday.

I sent you a private message so as not to vet your song in public. I had already registered a few public comments on the
subject. Please feel free to make any of this public that you wish if you think it will be useful.

An aside: when I wrote my own song "Wallflower Waltz" about a love affair I was trying to resuscitate someone wrote a
review of the recording and mistook the song for a disability epic. Other people have insisted that it was literally about
dancing and changed words to make it fit. So I do know that what you or I write and what others see in it is not the same
thing at all.

If you are interested, you might consider helping some disabled kids write their own songs about their lives and see what you
get: we'd both learn from that I am sure.



Lots to think about here.


01 Mar 03 - 07:59 AM (#901005)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: cujimmy

There is a lovely song by Fred Small called "Leslie is different", at

about a little boy who learns to play piano despite many dissabilities - check it out. Fred Small has also written other songs about dissabilities and they are well worth purchasing.

Hope thi link works - first time I've done one - regards jimmy.

01 Mar 03 - 11:38 AM (#901103)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: black walnut

I talked to Jane Field last night (see my mention of her way up near the top of this thread). She says that she still has some of those tapes of hers available. Jane is a singer-songwriter who has been a quadriplegic for several years. She has a way of getting to the issues in an often very humorous way. She doesn't believe in barriers....she's even bungy-jumped in her wheel-chair. If you are interested, 'Guest Teachers', or if anyone else is interested, you could order a tape from her via me.


01 Mar 03 - 04:32 PM (#901258)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities

Just came across "Ramblin' Hunchback" by Patrick Sky. Not for the faint of heart. Irreverant.

01 Mar 03 - 06:22 PM (#901313)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Abby Sale

I've thought about this thread for some time now. I think I know how I feel about the issue now. I'm agin' it.

I'm against feel good songs about disabilities. Disabilities don't feel good.

I'm against euphamisms in any context. I'm not Challenged or Other Abled or any of those things. Maybe I'm handicapped. I have less then the usual number of skills & muscles the average person has. I'm certainly crippled.   On the other hand anyone demeaning me on that account might wind up with a baseball bat shapped dent in his/her skull.

I don't want disabled kids conned into thinking "they're just as good as anyone else."   I can tell you a monobrachius will rarely become a good basketball player or speed typist. That's it. No matter how good s/he feels or is encouraged or loved it won't happen. A paraplegic will always be an out and out dud at track and mountain climbing. I'm just not as good as most people when it comes to brachialness. I'm a damn sight better than most in a bunch of other ways. So what?

Take what you have and learn to live with it! Don't feel good about it, feel BAD. Then get on with life and hope to get trained to do work in which the particular problem is irrelevant. A paraplegic can be a lawyer, a blind person a translator, etc.

No one has ever actually called me a cripple. I doubt anyone would dare today. (Actually, my disability hardly shows so most don't even notice.) I don't know how I'd have taken it as a child...I hope I'd have responded "and you're a fucking asshole."

So my take to teach kids? Don't be gratuitously cruel to anyone for any reason. Including crips, Moslems, retards or even folkies.   If I hear this near me I tell them. And their friends and parents. My duty is to not walk on by when I come across hate crimes (and this is just another form of hate crime). I stop and protest as firmly as it takes.

When I do that the talk stops.

There's another side, of course. Those whose problem is so great that they cannot get on in life without help. Each case is different but for those that need my help, I help them. Without qualms. And without sympathy. AND I expect them to help ME when I need it and they can.

01 Mar 03 - 10:44 PM (#901431)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

From Abbey Sale: I've thought about this thread for some time now. I think I know how I feel about the issue now. I'm agin' it.

Excuse me, but what exactly is "the issue" of this thread? If I understand correctly, it started as a request by a teacher looking to do a school project on songs with a social message, and the existance of disabilities as part of the human condition raises some social issues... so she (he? can't tell from the e-mail address) was looking for songs about the subject. Are you against teaching this to children? Are you against addressing these issues? Are you against social activism among people with disabilities to fight for their civil rights? From what you've said in the rest of your post, I doubt it.

Maybe you're seeing something here that I'm missing... Or maybe I just have a few pieces missing tonight ;-)

From Abbey Sale again: Each case is different but for those that need my help, I help them. Without qualms. And without sympathy. AND I expect them to help ME when I need it and they can.

If you define "sympathy" as a synonym for "pity," I agree wholeheartedly. However, I always thought it was a closer synonym for "compassion", so I found this last paragraph a little jarring.

01 Mar 03 - 10:52 PM (#901433)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Bobert

Hey, this thread would not be complete without John Prine's song (title unknown) that speaks about aman who comes home from Viet Nam with a drug habit. Went something like this:

"There's a hole in daddy's arm
where all the money goes
Jesus died for nothin'
I suppose...


02 Mar 03 - 06:18 AM (#901588)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: winterchild

This isn't really a change of topic, since he created simple little tunes to go with his topics; does anyone know what Mister Rogers' approach was on this topic? He seemed to be able to think like a kid, so I'm interested.


02 Mar 03 - 06:37 AM (#901595)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Callie

CapriUni - thanks for posting the last verse of the Si Kahn song. I had only ever heard the chorus and thought it was an uplifting song. I take your point!


02 Mar 03 - 07:32 AM (#901615)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)

So my take to teach kids? Don't be gratuitously cruel to anyone for any reason- you said it, Abbey. I finally teach in a school that recognizes the value of permeating every moment of every day with basic social skills, the most basic being something like the Golden Rule combined with the message, "Everybody is of value."
I won't say my days are free from the need to discipline, but I will say that no matter who comes to visit our school, they all are struck by how kind and caring and alive and responsive the kids are. I don't teach "disability songs" but my kids are getting the message without spelling it out in song.

03 Mar 03 - 12:53 PM (#902479)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

From Abbey Sale: I don't want disabled kids conned into thinking "they're just as good as anyone else."   

Okay, this has been rattling around in my head, and bothering me all the while. I grew up as a disabled kid in the '60's and '70's. If my mother hadn't been obnoxious and pushy in insisting to the experts that I had the potential, at least, to be just as good a human being as anyone else, and if she hadn't taught me to stick up for myself, I'm certain I'd be a mental vegetable in some assylum by now -- if I'd be alive at all.

Two cases in point (which may be fodder for a song, if I can figure out how to write it):

When I was born, in 1964, it was the assumption that cerebral palsy and retardation went together as the rule rather than the exception. So when I was 2, my parents were told to bring me in to the hospital for a cognitive evaluation.

My parents and I were sitting in the waiting room, having a conversation. They were facing the door; I had my back to it. Then the nurse came in, said hello to my parents, grabbed the back of my stroller, and without a single word to me, wheeled me away into another room, where I waited until the psychologist came in (most of this story comes from memories of my mother retelling it, but I still have a visceral memory in the pit of my stomach of being grabbed from behind and spun around).

Well, the psychologist starts talking to me, and asking me to do stuff, and I just stare at him, and not say a word (since I don't know him from a martian). So he concludes that I must be retarded, and calls my mother in to break the bad news... Meanwhile, she has been stewing over how I was treated by the nurse, and decides that, in order to keep her cool, she'll answer questions with only: "Yes," "No," or "I don't know."

She comes in, sits down next to me and smiles, and when the psychologist tries to demonstrate how I don't respond, I complete all the tasks without mistake (now that Mom was there, I felt okay), while she is answering every question with "Yes," "No," or "I don't know."

So the doctor takes the evaluation of "retarded" off my chart, but puts my mother down as "hostile and manipulative" (she was obviously manipulating me, since I would only "perform" with her in the room. :-P)

I shudder to think what would have happened to me if she had been the kind of woman who is cowed by authority figures, and had accepted the doctor's diagnosis...

Fast forward roughly ten years:

Decades before ADA and IDEA, my parents fought for me to be put in a mainstream classroom, so in fourth grade I was the only kid in a wheelchair in my class -- I sat against the wall near the door, because that was where I had enough room to manuever into my desk.

Well, one day, the class was particularly chatty, and wouldn't quiet down as the teacher was trying to give her lesson. So she got angry and said that she would write the lesson on the blackboard and we had to read the instructions. If we didn't do the lesson, we would get an F (or something along those lines)... Well, from where I was sitting, all I could see on the blackboard was glare, so I raised my hand and called the teacher over. I told her I couldn't read the lesson, and as I had been one of the few who had been trying to listen, could she please whisper the lesson in my ear -- I promised I wouldn't cheat and tell anyone else. She refused. She said the punishment was for the whole class, and I was part of the class, so it wouldn't be fair if she treated me differently.

Needless to say, I was pretty upset when I came home that afternoon, and told my mother what had happened, she said: "I have a PTA meeting tonight, and your teacher will be there. If you write a letter of protest, I'll deliver it for you." So my mom helped me write that letter. She helped me make it polite, firm, to the point, grammatically correct and neatly printed.

When I came down to breakfast the next morning, she told me that I had written a really good letter -- that it was so strong, it had the teacher scared -- that her hand shook while she was reading it, and she was so nervous that when she folded the letter up again and creased it, she ripped it through the middle.

Well, when I got to school the next day, as we were settling in waiting for attendance to be called, the teacher came over to my desk, knelt down beside my chair and "yelled" at me sotto voce, while shaking that letter in my face, saying that I was the student, she was the teacher and that I had no right to question her authority.

All that time, I was staring at a vertical tear in the middle of the letter, and remembering my mother saying I must've been in the right, because otherwise, the teacher wouldn't have been so scared. I couldn't help thinking that although the teacher may have had the authority, I was the one with real power.

My mother taught me:

Because of my CP, the hill I have to climb is a lot steeper than others' -- but that doesn't make them or me any better as people.

Others will see my disability before they see the rest of me... So if I put my hand to something, I'd better be damn sure I don't do a half-arsed or lazy job, and earn their respect through the excellence of my work.

And that if I want to be treated like a princess, I have to practice Noblesse Oblige, first.

03 Mar 03 - 01:46 PM (#902524)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: AggieD

I like Leon Rosselson's 'The Ugly Ones'.

This covers far more than "disabilites", encompassing a far wider theme of those who are sidelined because of being able to do anything other than standing on 2 feet, or who do not fit in with anyones terms of what they believe is able.

I spent many years caring for my mother who had severe arthritis, & was unable to go out except in a wheelchair & we also experienced the 'what does she want syndrome. Most people were shocked when they got short shrift from me, especially when I told them that my mother was a far more able bodied person than them, because she wasn't rude.

If the teacher wants to analyse the reasons for the songs being written, then I don't see much harm in it as a subject for study, but I have always looked on life that we are all disabled in some way, not one of us on this earth is able to carry out every physical or mental task they would like to.

So we should all treat each person as an individual & consider what they can contribute to this life.

03 Mar 03 - 05:06 PM (#902672)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Abby Sale

CapriUni: There you go! That's what I meant. (Don't worry about the semantics.) The disabled often need to work some harder to stay even. So what? That's the way it is. So if they work harder they do stay even. Or ahead. Or way ahead. They're still "disabled" but no longer particularly "handicapped." (The terms don't matter, you get the idea.)

If they just sit on their duffs there being "just as good as anyone else," as if it were some kind of value judgement then they're just cripples depending on good will. And most people don't have much good will.

And no, no sympathy, compassion, heartfelt this or that. Just do what's needed. If I saw you wheeling up to a heavy door in a supermarket I'd hold the door open as a matter of course. But I'd do the same for Hulk Hogan if his arms were full of packages and the door would be awkward.   It's called courtesy, not sympathy.

Screw the lovey-dovey songs about our poor-ass chalenged Americans. Let them feel good by doing the best they can. And kicking butt when necessary. And, of course, singing folksongs. (You can get some interesting fire-breathing dragon decals at the Auto Zone and some intriguing stuff from the Harley dealer to stick on the wheel chair. And a six-pack cooler fits over the arm & doesn't hit the wheel. The things are still stupidly designed for the occupant to use but slowly improving. There's no good place to mount a machine gun but plenty of room for an air horn and a bayonet fitting on the foot rest. Watch it, Bub, there's a cripple coming up the path at speed and you're in the way!)

As a completely separate issue, I've come to believe that most USians are actually deeply afraid of the disabled - or the seriously ill. I especially include health care professionals in this. Don't want to really get into this now because it's a long rant. But I've seen too many doctors & nurses hide their eyes from those who either 1) the medics can't help or 2) refuse to conveniently die. Maybe it's some kind of fear of "There but for God go I" or maybe failure to control the world around them or being faced with their incompetance - I don't know.   But most of the outrageous behavior - talking to the care giver instead of the patient, mockery & cruelty - all that I think is based in some fear.

03 Mar 03 - 07:25 PM (#902774)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

Sorry, Abbey -- can't help it. I cannot ignare semantics... Blame it on another one of my afflictions -- it's called English-Majoritis (okay, so I'm the only one that calls it that, so sue me! ;-P)

You wrote: And no, no sympathy, compassion, heartfelt this or that. Just do what's needed. If I saw you wheeling up to a heavy door in a supermarket I'd hold the door open as a matter of course. But I'd do the same for Hulk Hogan if his arms were full of packages and the door would be awkward.   It's called courtesy, not sympathy.

Well, I call it sympathy -- from the Greek syn- together, and pathos emotion. The second definition of sympathy is "pity", but the first definition (at least, in the American Heritage) is a shared affinity between people and things, and the mutual understanding that arises from that afinity.

When you open the door for Hulk Hogan when his arms are full of packages, you are recognizing the nature of his situation and that you have been in similiar ones, remembering your own frustration, and aleviating his.

"Courtesy" comes from the old French for "court" and governs the rules politeness and outward show of respect. Sometimes, there is sincerity behind it, but not necessarily.
===End of vabulary lesson===

In my life, I've discovered that the people who bend over backwards to be courteous to me are often the ones who hold me in the most contempt, beneath that show... (and are often doctors).

The thing about pity that makes it so disgusting is that it is not real sympathy. Instead of recognizing the truth of our common humanity and acting on that recognition, the pitier sees in me only the symbol of an imagined pain and wallows in it (typical exchange with pitying man in the street):

Man: "How long have you been in a wheelchair?"
Me (short version): "All my life."
Man: "How sad!"
Me: ?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!! :::insert rolling of eyes, and shaking of head:::

You also said: Let them feel good by doing the best they can. And kicking butt when necessary. And, of course, singing folksongs.

That could (and should) be said of every human on the planet (okay, I suppose, if a person would really prefer it, they could sing rap or country-western, instead). In order to be good, we all have to make ourselves good. And my having a disability neither robs me of my ability to do that, nor obsolves me of the responsibility to. But it seems that some people are blinded by the symbol that rises in their brain when they see my wheelchair, and don't believe that last bit.


Oh, and no one has yet tackled my question from earlier (it was not posed rhetorically):

Why is it that most protest songs about disability (at least, all the ones posted here, as far as I know) were written by TABs? Why haven't activists in the disabilities rights movement taken one of the biggest lessons from their philosophical forebearers, and used the power of song to spread their message?

03 Mar 03 - 09:42 PM (#902853)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Abby Sale

How about...

Man: "How long have you been in a wheelchair?"
Me (You): "About 5 foot 9."

Man: "How long have you been in a wheelchair?"
Me (You): "Since I sat down."

Man: "How long have you been in a wheelchair?"
Me (You): "Just about a week. Just got it from Wheelchairs R Us. Got titanium axles, full camber, CB radio and a built-in dart gun right over here. What do you think of it?   Oh, real sorry about your foot! I guess I'm still getting used to the way it handles - I'm crippled, you know; not too good at steering. Any other questions?"

03 Mar 03 - 10:22 PM (#902879)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

Man: "How long have you been in a wheelchair?"
Me (You): "About 5 foot 9."

Man: "How long have you been in a wheelchair?"
Me (You): "Since I sat down."


Actually, one exchange I actually have had:

Stranger: "Were you born like that?"
Me: "Well, sort of. I didn't have the crutches, yet, though."

03 Mar 03 - 10:59 PM (#902893)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: mg

good one CU...


03 Mar 03 - 11:04 PM (#902895)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

I've been holding off on this ...but since our visitor JES has not checked back in....I know that I am among "family" and they will appreciate the humor.

What do you call a man with no arms and no legs hanging on your wall?


What do you call a man with no arms and no legs on you front porch?


What do you call a man with no arms and no legs floating in your pool?


What do you call a man with no arms and no legs on the bottom of your pool?


What do you call a woman with no arms and one short leg??????


What do you call a Japanese woman with no arms and one short leg??????



Cripes - I just love non-returning-guests as straight-"men"

03 Mar 03 - 11:06 PM (#902896)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

Amazing Abby - how kindred souls think alike?

03 Mar 03 - 11:13 PM (#902899)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Bev and Jerry


If it weren't for bad taste you wouldn't have any taste at all.

Bev and Jerry

03 Mar 03 - 11:17 PM (#902904)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,,gargoyle

Sorry Jer....I'm sure Beverly liked it....

Its probably a "guy thing."


Then again...if you are could have been Bev and then Jerry....sorry.

04 Mar 03 - 06:54 AM (#903025)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Dave Bryant

Perhaps you could include Shel Silverstein's THREE LEGGED MAN.

The chorus goes:

I'm a three legged man with a two-legged woman
Being chased cross country by a one-legged fool.
Though he's huffing and he's puffing and he shows no sign of stopping
I tell you boys this life is hard and cruel.

05 Mar 03 - 04:23 PM (#904203)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: sharyn

Abby and CapriUni, nice to make your acquaintance. I liked the "How long have you been in a wheelchair sequence, especially the "Wheelchairs-R-Us" bit. Usually when people ask me "What is wrong with you?" I just tell them I have brain damage. It is technically true and it stops them cold (If they are friendly and say something like "I was wondering why you walk like that" I say, "Because it is the only way I can. I have cerebral palsy. If they ask "What's that?" I explain.

Why don't I write songs about being disabled? Because I am usually too busy writing songs about things that interest me like lost love, cowboys, not liking to work, etc. and learning lots of traditional songs to sing. But if a "disability song" ever pops up I'll send it along.

06 Mar 03 - 11:31 AM (#904818)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,paulbobbybuzz

This is a poem my wife wrote about an experience she had in the hospital after being stricken with Guillian-Barre Syndrome. It left her with residual paralysis, fatigue and weakness, enough so that she is on disability. I, for one, know first hand that the disability does NOT make the person. She is the strongest person I have ever known, and carries her spirit of love, compassion and hope with her wherever she goes. This poem can be found on our cd "There's Somethin' Goin' On Here" at (bald-faced plug!!), along with 13 other inspirational songs of healing and hope. My point being, again, in apology to any who disagree over semantics, that my wife is a PERSON who happens to have a disability. In her case, she sees it as an opportunity to use her pain to help others heal. Thanks for listening. pbb

                                           Intensive Care
                                                            Joan Papalia Eisert c. 2002      
Oh God   are You here                                                                                             
You are here?   You are here                                       
This bed is mammoth
I am molding into the noise
vibrations   noise digesting me
noise   surrender   noise
euphoria   noise

You are here   You are here
I am flaccid in Your hands
the bed is You
Mauve billowy heartbreaking love
You love me    You love me
I am suspended   surrounded
permeated with the knowledge of You
the love of You
My pores emanate   Your love   Your mercy

No longer am I paralyzed
as I lay here paralyzed
Machines breathe for me
only my eyes can blink
but my soul is dancing   my spirit is rejoicing
with unimaginable unspeakable clarity

I become Your purpose   I become my life
I become my vision   I become my voice in silence
One nerve at a time   one tear at a time
one battle at a time   one victory at a time
Infinite wounds countless scars
complete prayer gracious mending
until I walk with You again for the first time

I will fall so many times
choking on the sludge of despair
I will question   I will want to die
over and over again
But You saved me before when I was
maimed   starved
in worthless oblivion to You

You gave me my daughter   my husband
You gave me the finest silken thread
from which I clung
in absolute atrophy
My thanks to You are beyond my realm
incapable of tangibility
so I will spend the rest of my days
walking towards Your Light

09 Mar 03 - 05:19 PM (#906049)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

Great poem, paulbobbybuzz! Thanks for sharing...

10 Mar 03 - 11:49 AM (#906593)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,noddy

from a different but similar view whatr about Si Kahns " What You Do With What Youve Got"

10 Mar 03 - 12:08 PM (#906611)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Rick Fielding

Jane BUNJI-JUMPED, Walnut!!!??? Boy has she got guts! Did she write about the experience? Me, I'm stickin' to the ground.


10 Mar 03 - 04:37 PM (#906800)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: denise:^)

Another that I've heard:
"Danny's Downs"
(recorded by Noel Paul Stookey on PPM's "Flowers and Stones."


10 Mar 03 - 05:01 PM (#906816)
Subject: Lyr Add: I AM WHAT I AM (Mark Dignam)
From: The Dane

Try an Irish singer/songwriter called Mark Dignam - he did an album a few years back entitled Poetry & Songs From the Wheel featuring a song called I AM WHAT I AM:

In awe at distance and height
I feel sometime a Life long ago
I took for granted flight
Perhaps the why my Spirit whispers
It can do what my body says it shan't
and my more disabling fear cries I can't

I am what I am because you say I am

You give me a name
'cause I can't do what you do
But I don't label you
'cause you can't sing like me
I don't label you
'cause you can't love like me
and I don't label you
'cause you can never
ever be like me

I'm a prisoner
in your able bodied world
Oh! Yes I am

Take a look at me
I'm a special child
Take a good look at me
I'm a special child
A special child, given
alternative routes of travel
A special child, given
special things to do
A special child sent
to special school

I'm a prisoner
in your able bodied world
Oh! Yes I am

In awe at distance and height
I feel sometime a Life long ago
I took for granted flight
Perhaps the why my Spirit whispers
It can do what my body says it shan't
and my more disabling fear cries I can't

I am what I am because you say I am

Hope these lyrics might help you
Jacob Svendsen

18 Nov 03 - 01:22 PM (#1056355)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,bjorm

I need the lyrics to Pat Humphries song We are one

18 Nov 03 - 11:03 PM (#1056670)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

While I was going to suggest the "Fuck Hymn" ....perhaps, a newer version of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" with the gesters of "Do It Like Superman" (cock your head to the right, freeze, and mumble through the song.)


07 Apr 05 - 08:14 AM (#1454289)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Muttley

A reply to "CapriUni" and "Abbey Sale"

I'm sorry, Abby that you're so hostile regarding not considering a 'disabled' person to be as good as an 'able-bodied' one. Moreover, you got it wrong!

A legless person CAN climb a mountain: One chap did it here in Australia about 7 yeras or so ago. It wasn't a really big one, but it was bloody rugged and has defeated a great many 'able-bodied, fit climbers/adventurers and is right slap-bang in the middle of Tasmania's wilderness. And he did it alone.

I consider 'disabled' people who achieve to be about a rung higher than their able counterparts (no slight intended) as they have had to do more just to stay even.

We ARE disabled, but it DOESN'T mean we're LESS - I certainly will not accept it that I am lessened by my capabilities.

CapriUni - you are one of the more gracious persons I think I have 'met'. You handle yourself with dignity and pride: Damn good show! The teacher you spoke of was WRONG - a poor example of the breed and a coward to boot; how DARE she 'attack' you for being wrong herself - I agree she did have the authority (poor application of it) but YOU had the power.

In my case, I have two examples:

My dear wife Patricia is a true inspiration. At 13yo she was taken to a "Careers Guidance Consellor" this moron assessed her and informed her parents "Your daughter is below average intelligence. I'd suggest not wasting good money on educating her - but when she is old enough, take her out of school, find her a good job suiting her personality and then marry her off so she can become a good mother and wife - it's the best she can hope for"

What this idiot failed to notice was that Trish is severely dyslexic. Add to that the fact that, though born in Australia she lived in France until she was about 6 or 7 and returned not speaking a word of English and had to learn a new language while in Prep.
Fortunately, as her grades stayed OK, her parents kept her at school and she finished high school and got into University. She missed out on her degree after being scared off after being failed by two separate lecturers because she refused to sleep with them - and left Uni two units short of a degree.
HOWEVER: in her late 30's she went back and completed her degree and (a Bachelor of Arts) and then added a Diploma of Education and a Bachelor of Social Work to it. So now with 3 degrees under her belt and working in a great career, she can now turn to that so-called "Careers Guidance" bloke and give him the two-fingered salute.

In my case, I am an Asperger and growing up was hard 'cause I just didn't fit in. Awkward, obnoxious, unfeeling/unthinking/uncaring - all these labels were used. Stupid/ careless/lazy/brain-dead: these were as well. One teacher went as far as to tell me that "one day You'll be digging holes at the side of the road when xxxxxxxxx will drive by in his new car, because he's smart and you're an idiot"

A high school teacher (the only one) was puzzled as to why I could appear to be not paying attention in class while everyone else was (and he'd give me the strap for it) but months later, in revision time, I was the ONLY one who could recite virtually word-for-word what was said and no-one else could even recall the salient facts without going through their notes - I didn't even have to open a book!
I passed my final year in high school purely on memory alone!

I, too went to Uni (Teacher's College), got my diploma which i then converted to a degree; have gained other academic diplomas and such (Diploma of Applied Science: paramedic Studies), Have worked as a Teacher, Paramedic and Youth Worker among others: The problem was that I was picking up their info TOO quick and was BORED at school; no-one catered for a kid with an IQ of 155 in the early 60's and 70's - unless you were good at Maths - - - and I wasn't. I tbored me because no=one would explain WHY certain things happened when you used a certain algorithm or equation. Allthey'd say is "It Just IS!!!!" - Do IT!"; Only my Prep teacher, who promoted me to Grade Two (skipping Grade One) because despite being only 4 1/2 when I started school; I had already taught myself to read and write to a grade Six standard; ONLY she ever saw any potential and she stayed in contact all through my school years encouraging me when I was falling flat: She was prouder than my parents when I came home with a teaching degree and she was there at my wedding in 1979: Sadly she has passed on but now, as a teacher again, I give my all and try to be like her - No-One CANNOT learn and everyone has value irrespective of their physical/ social / emotional "defects". As a result of a near-fatal motorcycle accident I am also, now a multiple-injury, officially "disabled" person. But I refuse to let this stop me. I challenge my fine-motor defects by building 1:48 scale models and carving celtic designs into crosses made of Australian hardwoods. I challenge my physical disabilities (destroyed shoulders/back&knee) by umpiring cricket - I can no longer play despite having played at very high level before my accident: BUT I am going to further challenge the 'disabilities' by attempting to play Veterans Cricket next season. I can no longer play Soccer properly (despite having played for Victoria as a younger man); Next year I plan to try to find a "disabled comp" or Veterans Comp" that will accept a "Veggie" and try to once again 'Keep Goal" - who knows, I may yet represent Australia at the disabled games sometime!!!

Reality; especialy Abbey; we ARE disabled but it doesn't mean I am less. I do not rail against those who are insensitive around me (about others as I hide my disabilities well); I politely question their attitude and explain a few home truths. I have even threatened to report one captain who referred to his players as "Spastics" he was affronted at first, but we became firm friends after. Quiet dignity achieves far more than open hostility and I REFUSE to accept that someone is better than me because they are NOT disabled. Abby - you say being disabled is bad - IT IS NOT: It's not good either, it's just DIFFERENT and has unique challenges which, for one, I am willing to overcome - even in the face of fellow Disable'ds!!!

John W

07 Apr 05 - 11:38 AM (#1454452)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,joseacsilva

"Moonshadow" from Cat Stevens would be a great song for the topic


08 Apr 05 - 01:15 AM (#1455075)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

Thank you for refreshing this thread, Muttley. I haven't been back to this discussion in over two years... It's good to be reminded of what's important. And the question of what makes a complete human being is always important.

Here are some of my thoughts about Christopher Reeve and his advocacy, which I posted to my journal shortly after his death (I was reminded of it after rereading comments about how healthcare professionals often have the worst attitude toward disability):

(Please note: the feelings I am expressing here have been filtered through the lens of my own experience. Some might say that lens brings things into sharper focus. Some might say it distorts. Since it is the only lens I have, I cannot say which is closer to the truth. My feelings are just as they are. I in no way mean to belittle the kindness, generousity and good intentiosns of others)

First and foremost: May he rest in peace. May his family and friends, who loved him deeply, find peace in that love that endures after death. He was a man of faith and conviction who had the courage to act, and keep acting (including, but not restricted to, acting in the theatrical sense), when many others woud have been just as happy hiding in a private corner, somewhere. And for that, he deserves the respect and thanks of us all ... ... ... (can you sense what's coming next?)


It bothered me that (at least in the beginning) he put so much of his his star power and clout behind "finding The Cure," and so little into fighting for civil rights for the disabled.

I think I should back up, here, and give a little sample of some of that experience I talked about above:

Over the span of four years in the mid-to-late '70's (I think-- I started around the age of ten or so), I spent two weeks each summer at a summer camp for disabled kids, run and funded by the Children's Aid Society of New York. The cabin arrangements were segregated by type of disability; one boys' cabin and one girls' cabin paired together, and sharing a common front porch where we could socialize. Although some activities were conducted for all the campers together, most of the daily activities (eating, swimming lessons, art class, etc.) were done cabin by cabin. There were cabins for deaf kids, and cabins for blind kids, and cabins for mentally disabled kids, and cabins for kids who were "mobility impaired" (crutches and wheelchairs) -- some of whom were also deaf, blind, or mentally disabled.

If a kid was deaf and in a wheelchair, she stayed in the wheelchair cabin, not the cabin for deaf kids. If a kid was mentally handicapped and in a wheelchair, she stayed in the wheelchair cabin, not the cabin for mentally handicapped kids ...The wheelchair overrode every other factor.
And when Christopher Reeve became injured, then he and I were lumped together, too, in the eyes of the general culture, even though our two lives, and our two conditions, could not have been more different.
We tend to think of the days when the disabled were sterilized and locked away as being long behind us.

But as recently as this year, states have argued in the Supreme Court for their right exclude the disabled from public places, employment, and public life. And the votes have been close (If Bush gets four more years in office, and gets to appoint more "States' Rights" justices, I wouldn't be surprised to see ADA rolled back completely).

And just this last April, I was watching a show on PBS, all about adult stem cells, and saw a doctor, in his white coat of authority, say: "...I will be able to just say to somebody with a spinal cord injury, yes, you will walk again, as opposed to telling them life is good from a wheelchair."

Now, I don't wish other people to live in wheelchairs. I don't want anyone to have to worry about pressure sores, and fever, and water getting into their breathing tubes when they go to take a shower...

But what am I supposed to think when I hear that? That I'm only fooling myself when I think I have a good life?

What bothered me about Christopher Reeve's advocacy for spinal chord injury research was that, in the early years, it was all about complete cure -- that he would walk by his 50th birthday. Not a healthier life. Not a life of greater freedom or dignity. But a Cure...

Almost as soon as he started his advocacy campaign, I started to envision a future world where The Cure was found...for some people, with some disabilities... who could afford it. They could return to the world of "normal" people, would be allowed to get jobs, get married, raise kids. Businesses and governments wouldn't worry about making themselves accessible. The disabled could live in hospitals, after all, while they "recovered." The rest of us -- those who couldn't afford it, or for whom that particular therapy wouldn't was a shame, but we'd have to stay in the instititutions. For the good of society as a whole, of course, so as not to be a burden on social services or government coffers.
My respect for Mr. Reeves soared, though, when he went back to work. He didn't wait for The Cure, and he didn't hide out of sight. He got in front of the camera, and he didn't try to hide his chair. He made us see him as he was, and earned our respect as a complete human being.

I'm just saddened that he didn't get more time to play that role.

A guide to Disability Rights Laws
The Center for an Accessible Society: Disablility Issues Information
Innovation -Life, Inspired; "Miracle Cell" (you can get to the transcript via a link in the left column... scroll down)
In a later comment attatched to this entry, I wrote:

And no doubt about it: Spinal Chord Injury is a hateful disability, and it affects so much more than (ahem) "simply" being able to move. No doubt about it: I'm all for searching aggressively for a cure. That's not the question.

The question is how we search, and how we talk about it, and what we expect from ourselves and our societies along the way.

I remember very clearly, early on in his advocacy, how Reeve made the case for funding SCI research: That one day, we will be rid of disability, and thus save money in the long term, because we won't have to pay for long-term care.

That's just not true. Those who live to be disabled are those who've touched the cusp between life and death, and survived (perhaps that's why the disabled tend to make us uncomfortable). The more people to survive, the more we'll have with disabilities.

I was the smallest baby to date to survive at the hospital where I was born, in 1964 (2 lbs, 14 oz at birth, dropped to 2.25 lbs the next day). My lungs were barely developed. Today, that's almost routine, and those children grow up without being disabled at all. But now, even younger premies are surviving -- born before their stomachs are fully formed, and who therefore have to be fed through tubes all their lives.

So yes: search for cures. Search long and hard and creatively. But don't expect there ever to be a world where life is no longer fragile.

09 Apr 05 - 02:12 AM (#1455967)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Muttley

I'm interested by your comment that - all our views are coloured by the lens through which we view life - yes, I know I paraphrased.

It raises a really interesting aspect of myself: As mentioned I am an "Asperger" - that is I tend to be socially inept, say the wrong thing at the wrong time (even though it's usually the truth) - or even the right thing at the wrong time. I tend to obsess about things. I focus to the detriment of all else; I appear indifferent and many other aspects.

As such I am often misunderstood - especially as as Aspie (as we call ourselves) I tend to say things a sI see them; often very blunt assessments of situations where tact would be more appropriate: I CAN be socially correct but to get to that point has (as I said in another thread) has cost me a great many punches in the face, growing up, to learn the "Normal World's" version of etiquette.

However, the point I initially wanted to make was that of another Aspie, a woman who lives in South-western Victoria here in Australia. She's an author and writes on Aspergers and what it is to BE an Aspie. One of her experiences is worth retelling as it brilliantly illusrates the whole "see life through your own lens" - and NO-ONE, I think sees life quite as uniquely (or as uncomfortably for "normals" as Aspies.

This woman's son was killed (can't recall how - it may have been a motor accident - but drowning is ringing a bell, too; I think the car scenario is most likely) and his funeral was attended by an enormous crowd of several hundred mourners. As the crowd was so large, the chapel set up speakers outside so later arrivals could hear the service and as the day was rainy, most of those outside wore coats, carried umbrellas or just got wet.

Naturally there was that usual large space around the casket left for "the sake of respect" and for viewing of said casket. The boy's mum (our Aspie) couldn't see WHY people were letting themselves get wet when there was still room inside (around the casket) So she went outside and said "Why don't you come inside and fill up the space around the casket, XXXXXXXX is dead and he isn't going to know you're crowding him"! The mourners were horrified that the young man's own mother could be SO insensitive about his passing; when in actuality she was simply stating a fact that was apparent to her - she WAS grieving, but there WAS room INside so people didn't have to get wet !!!!!
This is typical Aspie thinking. So many times I have been given a 'dirty look' because someone has said "we can't do such-and-such" (bowing to social mores / political correctness / social acceptability or whatever matter of etiquette) and my candid response has been an immediate "WHY / WHY NOT?" It seemed logical, to heck with delicacy, just do it!

I also agree with your assessment of Christopher Reeve: I was terribly disappointed that all he ever seemed to do was talk about a cure and about how he would walk again - I can't recall HOW many people I offended by my standard reply of "Bullsh*t" when those quotes were aired. I was terribly offended by his apparent lack of all he COULD have done FOR the disabled community from his not uninfluential position - and he did not.

Finally, I know only too well from my days as a paramedic of the medical community's lack of proper respect for disabled people - I think it is a protective mechanism and an aspect of "Familiarity breeds contempt" combined. I found myself adopting the same attitude on occasion but managed to turn myself away from it more often than not - my worst enemy in this arae was my Aspergers, which made me seem apparently indifferent to suffering at times or being somewhat scornful of certain injuries because they could have been avoided if the oerson had shown more comon sense: but again I managed to overcome these over time (My wife Trish helped enormously with this growth - her gentle correction and teaching was not always graciously welcomed, but eventually proved correct) - and this was BEFORE we found out I was an Aspie.
I also know from experience how life is viewed from a wheelchair and how difficult life can BE for someone in a wheelchair and how being in one can often DEFINE who and what you are to other people: To this day the international symbol for a disabled person is a stick-figure in a bloody wheelchair. I spent nearly 5 months in one following my accident and it was hard work: and now being physically disabled I am often looked at in askance when I get out of my car after parking it in a disabled spot because I can WALK away from the car. I even had a "checkout Girl" harangue me at a supermarket because she saw me get out of my car and walk into the Supermarket. She pointed this out to the five or six people AT her register at the time and they all hung around to have a go as I left via her register (it was the only one operating and she had a go LOUDLY so as to alert others of my "indiscretion" until I pointed out that I WAS disabled, I had a disabled drivers PERMIT on my windscreen and then for the benefit of the 'onlookers' I then detailed my injuries in fairly graphic terms. I then reported her to her supervisor - in full hearing of herself and her audience: there were a LOT of shamed faces "looking the other way" as I left.

Hang in there mate - you are one of God;'s children as are we all and you have a unique place on this planet: revel in it.

BTW - I was taught my greatest lessons about living and loving life, by seeing the humour in everyday things and by gracious acceptance of my environment when I went away as medical officer to 17 CP adults back in 1982 (The Year of the Disabled). Lessons I have NEVER forgotten. Beautiful people.

09 Apr 05 - 02:51 PM (#1456403)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni


As I read your discription of what it's like looking at life through the lens of Asperger's, I was reminded of all the stories I've read learned about the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes the Cynic.

He was infamous for ignoring social mores. In his society, it was as unthinkable to eat in public as it would be for us to have sex on the street. And yet, once he was seen chowing down while wandering through the market. When someone asked him "Why?" he said: "Because I was hungry in the market." I now wonder if Diogenes was an Aspie, too. ... he seemed to do well by it -- he lived to be 90.

As for Reeve: I used to be offended by his "advocacy," but I softened over the years. After all, he was just this guy who had the misfortune of being an icon for invulnerability. He had no chance to educate himself, or to redefine his identity before he was pounced upon to be the frontman for "The Cure Cause."

Of course, just when I was in the middle of forgiving him, his widow starts doing the media circuit, promoting this book: Dewey Doo-it Helps Owlie Fly Again (CapriUni rolls her eyes. By the forge of Hephestus! Will it never end?!). That, of course, touches on another pet peeve of mine: pedantic, "uplifting" children's books where all the characters are infantile and have names that end in ie, because that's the only way kids will identify with them...

10 Apr 05 - 07:40 AM (#1456934)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: NormanD

Well, here's one you won't like. Sometime in the 1960's, there was a televised concert in the UK of a charity bash called something like "SOS - Stars Organisation for Spastics". One of the stars was Rolf Harris, who sang his current ditty "I'm Jake the peg, with the extra leg".
Even in those relatively less-enlightened times, I remembered my jaw falling at the insensitivity.
Said you wouldn't like it....


10 Apr 05 - 08:48 AM (#1456993)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: kendall

Some years ago I sand Shel Silverstien's "Three Legged Man" at a picnic. As I was crouched down putting the guitar in its case, I heard this creaking sound, looked around and there was a man with a brace on his leg standing over me. I knew he was about to brain me and I looked up, he was grinning, and he asked if I would sing it at his gathering. He thought it was very funny.

10 Apr 05 - 10:19 AM (#1457077)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Big Al Whittle

I wrote two songs for my first album about my experience as a carer.

my wife became diasbled with rheumatoid arthritis when we were both in our mid twenties. she sang both songs, although she wasn't very fond of them, as songs - we had had a hit record singing together a few years earlier..

I was in my late thirties at the time of the album. The situation with arthur had cost us our careers as teachers and much else, and to be honest I just didn't feel that I could leave the subject out in something that was attempting a degree of self expression.

That wheelchair bound lady who was always on telly at one point playing a saxophone slagged us off in Disability Now.

Eventually I was offered a folk club gig, but the organiser told me afterwards that the subject of dsability made his audience uncomfortable - so it was back to jolly ploughboys and the infinitely more cosy horrors of the world war one, for them.

After that, I gave up any hope of addressing the issue - the middle class folk club audience just weren't ready for it.

Anyway if anyones interested I still have the album on cassette, and I'll send anybody who wants one, a copy. Free of course - gave up on that one a LONG time ago.
all the best

Big Al Whittle

10 Apr 05 - 10:57 AM (#1457110)
Subject: Lyr Add: SEAWHEELS (Ken Stevens)
From: Charley Noble

Here's a relevant song (1984) by nautical singer-songwriter Ken Stevens of Southhampton called "Seawheels" which is dedicated to the tall-ship "Lord Nelson" of the Jubilee Trust which is designed to be sailed by the disabled, including those on wheelchairs. Here are the lyrics that I got from Ken when he paid a visit to Maine back in 1991:

(Words and music by Ken Stevens © 1984)

I've got my seawheels under me and I'm rolling –
I'm rolling on an ocean so blue,
I've got my seawheels under me and I'm rolling –
And I hope that some day that you'll be lucky too.

For many years I've had pain and I've had suffering –
At times I've doubted all that I could do;
But with my seawheels under me I'm rolling –
And I hope some day that you'll be lucky too.

A man with legs cannot walk upon the ocean,
Or fly like a bird in the sky,
But with my seawheels under me and a tall ship
I know it's the next best thing to try.

I'm outward bound and I'll wake up in the morning
To the sound of the sea and seabird's call;
There's a surprise in every sunrise upon the ocean,
So I'll waste no more time staring at the wall.

I've got my seawheels under me and I'm rolling –
I'm rolling on an ocean so blue;
I've got my seawheels under me and I'm rolling –
And I hope someday that you'll be lucky too.

Charley Noble

10 Apr 05 - 12:29 PM (#1457178)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Uncle_DaveO

When I was a freshman at the University of Minnesota, I remember that some kid slipped somehow and both legs were cut off the the wheels of a streetcar.

Of course there was an outpouring of public sympathy. I remember hearing a late-night diskjockey who honored a phone-in request on the young man's behalf by some teenage classmates, asking that he play--are you ready for this?--You'll Never Walk Alone!

I was never sure how I should have taken that, but I knew that it was at best a terrible lack of thought on someone's part, and at worst despicable.

Dave Oesterreich

10 Apr 05 - 02:28 PM (#1457295)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

Even in those relatively less-enlightened times, I remembered my jaw falling at the insensitivity.
Said you wouldn't like it....

Oh, I don't know, Norman. I might like it a lot...Wouldn't know until I heard the song -- take note of Kendall's experience.

That's actually one of my pet peeves. No one batted an eye when Rossanne Barr made jokes about being fat, or Joan Rivers joked about being in a bad marriage. But if Geri Jewell joked about having CP, then suddenly, it was all in "Very Bad Taste" -- or, "Oh, so Very Heartwarming!"

Comedians (and songwriters) are expected to put their personal lives into their work -- unless that experience includes disability. Then, for some reason, we're expected to put our lives high on the Pedestal of Sensitivity, right where everyone else wants it to be. The only problem is: there's not much room for living, up there.

Uncle DaveO:
Of course there was an outpouring of public sympathy.

This goes back to my discussion with Abby Sale, back when this discussion started -- whether sympathy means "compassion," or "pity."

Frankly, in this case, I suspect the latter; "the public" never knew this young man -- they only saw a symbol of their own fears, and they were reacting to that. And I actually find that pity more disturbing than the choice of song... pity like that sucks the life out of a person. If his teenage friends really were his friends -- kids who hung out with him and teased and ribbed him prior to the accident, than that choice of song is letting him know that the accident and his resulting disability won't change their friendship.

I don't know about you. But that's the message that would raise my spirits far more than hundreds of roses, or syruppy get-well cards...

11 Apr 05 - 01:02 PM (#1458102)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities, and singers with....
From: NormanD

Hi CapriUn
Try "Spasticus Autisticus" by Ian Dury, a great piece of defiant anti-disablity discrimination music. The BBC banned it from radio play about 20 years ago, and it's still not often heard.

And how many high-profile singers (with noticeable physical disability) have there been? Excluding those who were/are blind or visually disabled, I can't recall too many. There's Robert Wyatt (the first and only time a wheelchair has made it to Top Of The Pops?); Ian Dury; sweet Gene Vincent; Doc Pomus.

Who else??


PS A big hit at the moment in France is a CD called "Dimanche à Bamako" by Senegalese couple, Amadou & Mariam. They are both blind.

11 Apr 05 - 02:22 PM (#1458167)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

OOh! Ian Dury! I was interduced to him by a friend in Scotland... one of my friend's all-time favorites. He sent me Dury's "reasons to be Happy" on a compilation CD of fun songs...

I'll have to look up "Spasticus Autisticus," and ask my friend if he's heard it.

And you're right... there are woefully few visibly disabled performers of any kind, though especially few singers.

I remember a time a few (or was it more like a dozen?) years ago when a pop singer (Don't remember who -- Celine Dionne, maybe?) fell off the stage, and injured her back. And the popular media was full of buzz about whether she would walk again, or whether it would end her career.

I couldn't help thinking: "Why does it have to, if she still sings well?"

I know pop singers these days are expected to put on flamboyant stage shows, with pyrotechnics, glitzy costumes, laser lights, film clips and, yes, dancing on stage (which is how she fell off, in the first place). But the way concert tickets are priced these days, most fans never see a concert in their life.

And yes: putting out a music video is as commercially required as putting out a single for the radio play, these days. But those are so dream-like and filled with special effects that a wheelchair, or even a cane (which is just as unthinkable in American pop music, it seems) would barely be noticed.

And even if people did notice it, I have faith in the basic common sense of most of them to still apreciate the music, first.

14 Apr 05 - 02:13 AM (#1460729)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Muttley

Just rejoined this thread after a few days in Western Victoria - where despite my buggered leg, I still managed to do a fairly strenuous bushwalk up and over "The Picaninny" (a 'smallish" hill - small compare to the other peaks in the region) of The Grampians - a rugged set of ranges in the west of the state - and I still managed to 'outwalk' and 'outendure' my 13-year-old!!!

Absolutely WET myself over the song title played for the amputee by his friends: That kind of humour is just SO Australian (mot to mention so Scottish as well: both of which are my heritage - I have both Highland and Convict blood - but that's another story). The fact that it's also a major theme song sung by the die-hard fans of Liverpool Football (Soccer) Club in England - of whom I am a huge fan, also makes it more poignant. But HOW perfectly appropriate.... You'll Never Walk Alone for an amputee, that's just SO caring and SO empathic and shows such love of their friend that they can still joke about it. Capri - I think your interpretation was right; it WAs an affirmation that - the loss of limbs changes our friendship 'NOT A WHIT' !!!! As it should be.

Capri - I too HATE syrupy children's titles and characters: For example I just absolutely DESPISE all the Beatrix Potter garbage - The Flopsy Bunnies, Peter Cottontail, Jemima Puddleduck - that woman should have been drowned before she got the chance to pollute children's minds with that kind of saccharine-sweet rubbish. Another is those bloody "Teletubbies"; I don't think ANYthing insults the intelligence of children from 1 day old to whatever as much as those revolting things do. I am not moved to write serious songs; but I do write the odd parody; "Saltwater" (using Julian Lennon's tune) is a song about rancid tuck shop (canteen) food at school and was done to honour a friend - a Christian muso - who suicided a couple of years ago. And most lately "Blame It On The Tellies" - using the tune to "Blame it on the Kelly's; a song about the Australian Bushranger and his family. I play it for kids at school and tell them the story about how I freaked out a store security guard who challenged me over belting Teletubby dolls around our local K-Mart store with my walking stick not long after I got out of the wheelchair - they LOVE it. I have a couple of others I have written too, but I don't play my own stuff very often; just don't think they're that good.

However, on the subject of disabled entertainers: We have one over here called "Steady Eddie". Eddy is a CP who can walk and communicates well. His speech, expressions and mannerisms are all fairly obviously CP, but he also does a stand-up routine around the country (think he's been to a couple of international comedy festivals as well) and his whole routine is based aroundCP and the way "normals" react to it - usually poorly - unfortunately his language leaves a LOT to be desired and he has become somewhat 'dated' as well.

As for "welittledrummer"; I'd LOVE to hear your music, friend. I'd be honoured to receive your tape.

Anyway, there's my 'sixpence in the hat' again


14 Apr 05 - 05:58 PM (#1461509)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Abby Sale

Hmmm. I notice there's very little in the thread offering traditional songs dealing with disabilities. No classic ones, certainly. I don't know if that means disability wasn't an issue (if you were king with a hunchback, you were still king) or if disabled were just not interesting enough to write about. Well, there are quite a few songs in Digitrad in which a character is hurt some way - lamed, blinded or whatever but then the song pretty much ends. Still there are some that go into it briefly. One of my favorites deals briefly (although I'm not sure what "lesson" is to be learned from it):

From "Johnny of Braidesley"
(Child #114)

The first shot that the forester fired,
It wounded him on the knee;
The nexst shot that the forester fired
His heart's bleed blin't his e'e.

Then up rose Johnnie oot o' his sleep,
And an angry man was he;
Says, "Ye micht hae waukened me frae my sleep,
For my heart's blood blins my e'e."

He has leaned his back against an oak,
His foot against a stone,
And he has fired at the seven foresters,
And he's killed them all but one.

His has broken four o' this man's ribs,
His arm and his collar bone,
And he has set him on to his horse,,
To carry the tidings home.

Not too bad for a guy with a bust knee and (assumedly) unable to see.

14 Apr 05 - 07:22 PM (#1461570)
From: Muttley

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)

14 Apr 05 - 07:49 PM (#1461604)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

I think one reason why there are so few "real" (aka "old") folksongs about living with disability is that, in order to be disabled, you first have to survive. Christopher Reeve's injury, for example, was called a "hangman's break" for good reason.

And even in 1964, my survival at birth was quite touch-and-go for a while... if it weren't for the technology of incubators and penicillin, I wouldn't have lived more than 41 hours, much less 41 years. My song, 100 years ago, would have been a mourning song for a dead infant...

There is, however: Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye, which is a wonderful song about what disability means to family members.

15 Apr 05 - 12:30 AM (#1461797)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

Here's another song, that I was trying to remember earlier, when I was posting about "Johnny, I hardly knew ye," above:

Mrs. McGrath.

This is one that I remember from my childhood, as we had it on an old Burl Ives album. I don't recall the album title, now, or the date of the recording, but I've sent my father back to our record stacks to find it. ;-)

I remember liking this song, as a kid, because of the rollicking tune, and that even without his legs, Ted has enough spirit to talk back to his mother (something all children appreciate, I think). But I wanted to give the mother what-for for her comments in this verse:

Oh, Teddy, me boy, the old widow cried,
Yer two fine legs were yer mammy's pride,
Them stumps of a tree wouldn't do at all,
Why didn't ye run from the big cannon ball?

Why wasn't the whole Teddy his mammy's pride?

Even at the age of 6 or 7, I had a palpable frustration at being defined as a person by what my legs can and cannot do for me, usually from the adults in my life (but luckily, not my mammy).

Now that I'm adult, I'm thinking of all those soldiers returning from today's wars with their limbs blown away, and facing similiar reactions from their families...

:::Sigh::: The more things change...

15 Apr 05 - 02:54 AM (#1461845)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Muttley

Sadly, Capri - it's not just the limbs blown away that cause the problems. I spent over 10 years as 'Padre' to the Vietnam Veteran's Motorcycle Club over here in Australia and I can testify to the amount of grief caused by the minds that have been fractured by war.

That remindss me ..... ah, where have me brains gone???

two brilliant Australian songs detail disability:

One by Eric Bogle, but sung more poularly by "The Bushwackers Band" is called "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". To get the whole song - check it out on a lyrics site: But here are a few excerpts.

"So for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive, as around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head;
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
I saw what it had done - an' I wished Iwas dead
No more Waltzing Matilda for me"

and later

"They collected the crippled, the maimed and they shipped us all back to Australia;
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane;
Those brave, wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay (Sydney)
An' I looked at the place where me legs used to be;
I thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me:
To grieve and to mourn and to pity.

CHORUS (following the above verse)
And the Band played Waltzing Matilda as they carried us down the gangway
Nobody cheered: They just stood there and stared
And they turned their faces away"

"So now ev'ry April I sit on me porch and I watch the parade pass before me.
I see my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams and past glories.
But the old men march slowly, their bones stiff and sore
They're tired old men; from a forgotten war
And the young people ask: What are they marching for?
And I ask meself the same question"

But the Band Plays Waltzing Matilda
The old men still answer the call
But as year follows year; more old men disappear
Soon no-one will march there at all.

This song deals with a healthy young "Swagman" and shearer (doesn't call him those - but if you're an Aussie, you recognise him as these from the opening verse) who gets called up for service in World War I and is sent to Gallipoli - landing there on April 25th, 1915.

It mentions his horrors faced and the futility ("We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs - - - then we started all over again") and then his horrific injuries. It mentions other disabilities - amputation, blindness and insanity - in those days they would have called it "Shell-shock"; these days it's PTSD and is STILL the same real and debilitating condition.
Later he deals with the "disability" which is Old Age.

The second song is by a band called "Redgum" and is based on the experiences of a Vietnam Veteran who came home from Vietnam as a paraplegic from the results of his best mate triggering a land mine and sings about the terrors that memories and stimuli hold for him:

The song is as follows:

Mum and Dad and Dinny saw the passing-out parade at Puckapunyal
(It was a long march from cadets)
The Sixth Battalion was the next to tour an' it was me who drew the card;
We did Canungra, Shoalwater; before we left
And Townsville lined the footpath as we marched down to the quay
This clipping from the 'paper shows us young and strong and clean
And there's me, in me slouch-hat, with me SLR and 'greens'
God help me! I was only 19

From Vung Tau, riding 'Chinooks', to the dust at Nui Dat
We've been in and out of choppers, now, for months
Me made our tents our homes; V.B. and pin-ups on the lockers
And an Agent Orange sunset through the scrub.

And can you tell me doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
The night-time's just a jungle-dark and a barking M-16
And what's this rash that comes and goes? Can you tell me what it means?
God Help Me! I was only 19

A four-week operation, any step could be your last one on two legs
(It was a war within yourself)
But you wouldn't let your mates down 'til they had you 'dusted off'
So you closed your eyes and thought about somethin' else

And then someone yelled out "Contact!"; an' the bloke behind me swore
We hooked in there for hours; then a God-Almighty roar:
Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon;
God Help Me! He was goin' home in June!

I can still see Frankie drinkin' "tinnies" in the Grand Hotel
On a 36-hour 'Rec leave' in Vung Tau
An' I can still hear Frankie; lyin' screamin' in the jungle
'Til the morphine came and killed the bloody row
And the 'ANZAC' legends never mentioned blood and mud and tears;
An' the stories that my father told me never seemed quite real;
I caught some pieces in me back - that I didn't even feel
God Help Me! I was only 19

And can you tell me doctor why I still can't get to sleep
Why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet
And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means:
God Help Me! I was only 19
And can you tell me doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
The night-time's just a jungle-dark and a barking M-16
And what's this rash that comes and goes? Can you tell me what it means?
God Help Me!.................[fade]

I probably need to interpret parts of this song for non-Australians.

PASSING OUT PARADE - for when a young soldier passes his 'Basic Training' prior to his being posted to a regiment for active service.

PUCKAPUNYAL - Large Army training base in Central Victoria

CANUNGRA - Jungle training facility in Queensland
SHOALWATER - Beach landing training facility in Queensland

During the Vietnam War, all soldiers sent to 'Nam were required to complete their training prior to embarkation at these two facilities.

TOWNSVILLE - city in northern Queensland - a lot of troops going to Vietnam shipped out from Townsville: the troops were actually cheered prior to leaving and then villified and abused after they came home!

SLOUCH HAT - the symbol of the Australian Soldier sinc before WW1. A plain khaki-brown hat with one side turned up and pinned to the side of the crown
SLR - Self-loading Rifle
GREENS - plain green army fatigues

VUNG TAU - "safe" base where the Australian Army HQ were quartered and where soldiers from Nui Dat would go for a short R&R leave.

CHINOOKS - huge, twin-rotor troop-carrying helicopters

NUI DAT - Primary "front-line' base for the Australian Task Force, Vietnam.

VB - Victoria Bitter: a very popular beer (actually MORE widely drunk in Australia BY Australians than is Fosters Lager (I hate both of them - not fond of beer at all, will drink it, but prefer soft drinks!

AGENT ORANGE SUNSET - Agent Orange was the most insidious stuff our lads ever came in contact with - it's killed more Australian Vietnam Vets than the VietCong or the North Vietnamese Army ever did. It was a defoliant and when sprayed onto jungle foliage from helicopters / cropdusters it would denude that patch of jungle of greenery within hours. It was loaded into aircraft from drums by Aussie soldiers wearing just their greens - sometimes just shorts. No-one warned them of its toxicity. Since Vietnam, literally THOUSANDS of diggers (nickname for Aussie soldiers) have contracte incurable and frequently debilitating skin rashes - these are the "lucky' ones. Others have contracted various cancers - all of which kill. One of my best mates was soaked in this stuff and then fought Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for the last 14 years of his life: I buried him about 4 years ago.

DUSTED OFF - pulled out by helicopter - usually referred to pulling out troops in 'hot' extractions i.e. under fire or with the enemy nearby. Dust off was also the term for a battlefield medical evacuation by chopper for wounded diggers - I believe the American term is Medevac.

TINNIES - cans of beer (usually VB as it was supplied to the army

ANZAC - literally it is an acronym for "Australian & New Zealand Army Corps. It generally refers to all Australian and New Zealand Soldiers; but specifically, it refers originally to those Australians and New Zealanders who stormed ashore at Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915 in World War 1 and were massacred. They held on for about 10 months before the British High Command realised they'd screwed up and sent our boys in as cannon fodder and pulled them out again.
To this day, the main Australian/New Zealand base area is known as 'ANZAC Cove' (the Turks officially renamed the bay in honour of their foes after the war).

CHANNEL SEVEN CHOPPER - in the Seventies and Eighties, the news services in Melbourne (where the song was written) used twin-bladed helicopters to fly personnel to breaking stories. Twin-blade choppers make a distinctive "thwop-thwop" sound - just as the "Hueys" used for landing troops in the jungle, dusting them off and coming in low-level to strafe nearby VC or NVA as gun-ships. Just the sound can send a Vietnam Vet into "flashback" mode and diving for cover

Sorry, this has been REALLY long - hope you enjoy the songs and the lyrics and the explanation.

BTW - in case you haven't already 'twigged'; the name of the second song is "I Was Only 19" Subtitled "A Walk In The Light Green" - the colour refers to maps used. Light green shading meant light jungle, rice paddy, rubber plantation etc - anywhere an ambush could be laid with an expectation of a fair degree of success. The only thing that frightened diggers going off on a four-week jungle patrol was the thought of having to patrol the 'light green'. A bloke could get killed there. Dark Green areas were too heavily jungled and were thus (surprisingly) "safer".

15 Apr 05 - 06:10 PM (#1462515)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

Sadly, Capri - it's not just the limbs blown away that cause the problems.

Oh, I know. And the invisible disabilities are often the hardest disabilities to live through, simply because they are invisible.

Frankly, I think it's a rare human being who can go through military training, much less combat, and come out the other side as whole as when they went in.

But now, that's another topic for another thread.

09 May 05 - 11:39 PM (#1481284)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

(Aside: Just watched The American Experience: The Carter Family on PBS, and have "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" going through my head as I'm typing this.)

One question I've asked in this thread a couple of times, and it's come back to me now, is this: "Why aren't more songs about disabilities actually written by people with disabilities?"

Most "Sailer songs" were written by sailors. Most cowboy songs (the early, pre-Musikbiz ones, at least) were written by cowboys. Most farming songs were written by farmers. So why is it that most of the well-known songs mentioned in this thread (including all three in the Digitrad links at the top of this page) written by non-disabled people?

And this has been as much a question of my own psyche as of the "society at large." Why do I: an articulate, communicative adult woman, have so much trouble when it comes to communicating my own experience with disability -- an experience that has touched every aspect of my life since the day I was born?

Why does my brain shy, like a skittish colt, away from the idea of writing a novel about a protagonist in a wheelchair? Why can't I seem to write that "Disability Rights" song that I'd be proud to sing at a rally in Washingiton?

Maybe ... just maybe... I've got to sit myself down and force myself to do just that... hmmm...

Does anyone else out there have subjects, like this, that makes their brains skittish?

10 May 05 - 09:02 AM (#1481570)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Abby Sale

Just a guess, but it's harder to be objective and to tell the story dispassionately. It's also harder to tell the story passionately without being preachy.

Biographies tend to give far better perspective & fact than autobiographies.

There was a movie, "Wits" that scared the hell out of me but aside from straight documentaries, I think the tale is better told if the disability is incidental but crucial, not central to the story. Eg, that of Hoffman's Ratso in "Midnight Cowboy."

Remember, no one wants to hear a Disability Song (Roll, me bully boys, roll ?????) unless it's comic and comic isn't what you meant.

10 May 05 - 02:20 PM (#1481804)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

Remember, no one wants to hear a Disability Song (Roll, me bully boys, roll ?????) unless it's comic ...

Or sentimental, or morally allegorical, such as Sy Kahn's "It's Not Just What You're Born With," referenced earlier in this thread. People seem to love songs like that.

And besides, folk music has a long history with songs on subjects that "no one wants to hear" about.

Your comment does get to the core of my question, however: what is it about disability that makes it a more repulsive subject than, say, murder, or war, death, betrayal, abject poverty, or corrupt politicians?

But, frankly, I think you've hit the nail on the head. No one has said it to me directly, but there is a subtle and almost constant message being aimed at the disabled in this society that people really wish they could still keep us locked up in the back room, and that what we have to say about our own experiences is invalid. And I fear that hearing this message from childhood has taught me to edit and silence myself.

Now, this makes me angry. And more determined than ever to write a "Disability song." If you think that makes me a "bitter woman," so be it.

02 Sep 08 - 06:17 AM (#2428484)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Zany Mouse

There is an excellent Mudcat thread on this subject. It might help if you looked at that. Old Mudcat thread


08 Jul 11 - 10:32 PM (#3184114)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: MorwenEdhelwen1

"Tie-Tongue Mopsy/Tie-Tongue Baby" by Lord Kitchener? I know this is late, but in response to CapriUni's post, I also have (very mild) cerebral palsy which means that i find it difficult to perform some vocal exercises. I want to be a calypsonian, and whenever I remember that Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts), who also composed Harry Belafonte's hit "Jump In The Line (Shake Senora)" had a speech impediment, it reminds me that it is also possible for me to be a calypsonian.

11 Jul 11 - 05:23 PM (#3185678)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: CapriUni

Hey, MorwenEdhlewen -- do you have the lyrics to "Tie-tongue Mopsy"? Do you know when it was written?

11 Jul 11 - 06:07 PM (#3185703)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: olddude

I wrote one about one families struggle with autism. It is called
"flowers on the moon"

Flowers on the Moon

11 Jul 11 - 06:54 PM (#3185727)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: MorwenEdhelwen1

Capri, I think it was written in 1946. Sometime in the 1940s. Unfortunately I don't have the lyrics.

11 Jul 11 - 09:07 PM (#3185780)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: MorwenEdhelwen1

Capri, about "disabled" versus "handicapped", I think it has to do with what the person wants to refer to themselves as. I don't prefer one term over the other, but if someone else wants to call themselves one or the other it's their choice. However if someone with no physical handicaps called someone with them "disabled" or handicapped" it could be seen as offensive. There're both words which can be offensive or non-offensive, depending on who uses them. BTW, I was born in 1993 and attend a mainstream high school.

21 Jun 12 - 10:23 AM (#3366207)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,Claire M


I have cp too. I think mine would be called severe. My life IS very difficult. That's how I got into the music I did; the nightly physio was so painful that music was the only thing that took my mind off it. I love blues too and I'm forever making up my own songs.

One of the worst things – of which there are many – is having to spend time with carers you don't really like, and have nothing in common with -– yet you've still got to be around each other. It gets really draining. They often have no interest in anything (and don't want to have any), and then they ask ME what I do all day! To them things that aren't physical = nothing.

One of the best things was when Maddy Prior – the carers said "WHO??" -- asked what was wrong post-gig and was really cross on my behalf, she seemed to be impressed I managed to "stay jolly" (her words, not mine) I floated home.
In my short stories, the characters do not get rid of their disabilities (that's just silly) but they find a different way to think of them.

21 Jun 12 - 01:03 PM (#3366288)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,Don Meixner

I have done Si Kahn's song "People Like You" in performance for many years. And as I work with many people with a variety of disabilities and the Syracuse UCP affiliate I am often thinking of that song.


21 Jun 12 - 03:20 PM (#3366350)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,murrbob

Peter, Paul and Mary sang a very powerful song "Don't Laugh at Me," that deals with just about every discriminated minority you can think of (autism, homelessness, obesity, anorexia, etc) and choruses the plea:

             "Don't laugh at me,
               Don't call me names,
               Don't get your pleasure from my pain;
               In God's eyes were all the same,
               Someday we'll all have perfect wings,
               Don't laugh me."

    I'm not much of a "God" person, but this song moves me tremendously.

22 Jun 12 - 05:53 AM (#3366554)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: matt milton

Weepy's Song by Utah Phillips

22 Jun 12 - 06:48 AM (#3366573)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: JohnInKansas

A recent news report:

31 Year Old Man Climbs Mt Kilimanjaro

The punch line is that he lost his legs when he was 5.

He was able to use a wheel chair for about a fifth of the way up, but the other 80% was all "by hand."


The article probably doesn't really tell enough about him to provide enough to write a song, and he might not really want one - but he's earned one if he wants one.


23 Jun 12 - 06:01 AM (#3366977)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: pavane

No one seems to have mentioned a traditional song

Five Cripples

"Five London men with various disabilities, so well fitted that it appears their limbs are perfect, stop at a rural inn. They run up a huge tab. They remove their prostheses, are taken to be devils and persuaded to leave without paying the tab."

Related song Three Cripples was recorded by Martin Carthy many years ago.

23 Jun 12 - 08:11 AM (#3366995)
From: Big Al Whittle

This a song written about the patronising nutters whom one seems to atrract when you're in a wheelchair.


What do you find to do all day when you're sitting in that chair?
I shouldn't mind it one small bit - all you do is just sit there...
Well you don't have to go work, that can't be too bad
No getting up early, like i do, I reckon I could settle for that!

What do you find to do all day when you're sitting in that chair?
I shouldn't mind it one small bit - all you do is just sit there...
Well I bet you do get a bit fed up, when you see folks running around
But you don't have to rush round shops
That'd blooming get you down!

Well it was only about a week ago
I saw a feller on TV
He was lifting up weights and playing basketball...
Its all in your mind a bit, if you ask me

Well I bet you're glad that I passed by
(I get on with with disabled folk)
I always say a word when I see a chair
I always have a laugh and a joke...!

Well there's no point in letting it get you down
I can see you're feeling glum!
But I can't sit round here all day
I can sit around, like some!

Y'see I'm the sort that likes moving around
I've got to have a walk about.
I can't sit round like you all dy
I can't just sit there doing nowt...

What do you find to do all day when you're sitting in that chair?
I shouldn't mind it one small bit - all you do is just sit there...
Well at least you're not starving out in Africa,
I mean, them chaps have got it real bad
At least you're warm, and you've got TV
You're not doing too bad, if you ask me!

What do you find to do all day when you're sitting in that chair?
I shouldn't mind it one small bit - all you do is just sit there...
and listen.....
I shouldn't mind it one small bit - all you do is just sit there...

(written by Alan Whittle and sung by Denise Whittle on the cassette album Frost at Midnight in the late 1980's - reviewed by Stirrings magazine and virtually no one else)

Ah well back to songs about Peg leg Charlie in the eighteenth century -my word! folksong is such a brave artform!)

23 Jun 12 - 02:18 PM (#3367119)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: GUEST,Claire M


That's what people ask me! & the "all you do is just sit there" is true too. Thanks!

As a disabled person, another thing I've never understood is when you go off a certain type of food, music, football team, anything – as you do throughout your life – if you're not disabled, it's fine, but if you are it's this big shock and something must be wrong with you. It's in your notes that you like ____, so you *must* like it/have it forever.

23 Jun 12 - 09:04 PM (#3367234)
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
From: Big Al Whittle

Thankyou Claire, that was very heartening.

here is the original recording, which sounds a bit crappy = xcan't believe it was done in a proper studio! Anyway - now you know the tune!