A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Joan Baez In Nottingham

There But For Fortune

Show me a prison, show me a jail
Show me a prisoner whose face has grown pale
And I'll show you a young man
With many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I

Show me an alley, show me a train
Show me a hobo who sleeps out in the rain
And I'll show you a young man
With many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I

Show me the whiskey stains on the floor
Show me a drunk as he stumbles out the door
And I'll show you a young man
With many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I

Show me a country where the bombs had to fall
Show me the ruins of buildings so tall
And I'll show you a young land
With many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I
You or I

Joan Baez sang this song by Phil Ochs in Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall last night. I was privileged to be there.

Click here for Alex Ramon's review of her concert in London's Royal Festival Hall on 17 March.

From the perspective of our current culture, it’s slightly tormenting to think back to a period when songs like There But For Fortune and Blowin’ in the Wind were massive mainstream hits. Baez’s status as a bridge back to that tumultuous yet perhaps more engaged and more conscientious time clearly constitutes a considerable part of her enduring appeal. And yet her gigs seldom feel like exercises in nostalgia, and that’s due not only to the timeless appeal of the material but also to Baez’s ability to extend a bit of the past into the present, as evidenced by her dedication of a stirring Joe Hill to the Occupy movement. How urgently we need the lessons in compassion and empathy – and the calls to action — promoted in these songs, these days. And how heartening it is that, all these years on and as vibrantly as ever, Baez is still out there, delivering them.



Rubye Jack said...

The late 60's may have been tumultuous but at least stuff could happen in those days and it seemed like people cared more than they do today. I love Joan Baez! It seems she lives her life as a good example and role model also.

George said...

Thanks for this post, Robert. The lyrics of the song are very meaningful to me, and to others as well, I'm sure. As I witness right-wing conservatives in my country support what is essentially social Darwinism, it's nice to be reminded that there are still voices of empathy among us.

am said...

Thanks for the link to the review. Would have loved to hear her sing "Farewell Angelina." Interesting to see that her son, Gabriel, is the drummer. Sweet to see the couch, lamp and little table with flowers on the stage with her. Just in the last few days, the words of "There But For Fortune" were playing in my mind.

Goat said...

Last time I saw a couch and a lamp on stage, I think, was the director John Waters a couple of decades ago. It was a very cool couch...

Sounds like a great show!

Dominic Rivron said...

Great lyrics, those. I wasn't familiar with them. I'll have to hunt down the song.

I've never really listened to Joan Baez - or folk music generally, much. I've always wanted music to make more noise (punk, I thought, was great).

The Weaver of Grass said...

You lucky thing Robert - she is one of my favourites and has never lost her appeal. Wish I had been there with you.

Ruth said...

Just last night we were talking about the old songs from the 60s and 70s, and how potent the lyrics were, and what a privilege it was to be a teenager in those days. I love that Baez's message has not changed, and it is timeless in any case. What has changed, really, except for ourselves?

ksam said...

Funny how somethings seem to just keep cropping up in my life again. Baez was probably my first musical "hero", way back when ever! Spent time singing along to some of her tracks on Youtube with one of the grandbabies yesterday, trying to make sure her ears grow accoustomed to real voices, real lyrics and real harmony, musical as well as life! SO would have love to have seen her. Perhaps...

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for all of these comments.

She sat on the couch — leaning right back — for a honky tonk version of 'Stagger Lee'. Pretty cool.

Yes, nice that her son is playing with her, am.

Great you're exposing your grandkids to real music and real songs, Karin! And songs with a political and idealistic import too.

Potent songs, indeed — as you say, Ruth.