Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dirty Old Town: The Pogues

Many of my relatives came from Ireland to England to escape poverty and hunger, some of them ended up in Salford.  I remember visiting family in Salford as a child, the cobblestone streets still there.  This song was written by Ewan MacColl who was born in Salford, an English man born of Scottish parents all socialists. Here it is sung by and Irishman. It is a song about the working class though, about our lives, our history, our world and our communities no matter how poor or grimy. An industrial town in England's north, in a county where thousands of workers, many children, processed cotton for as long as 18 hours a day, cotton that slaves picked in the American south. I used to live in East Oakland here in the US. It is a fairly poor part of town, high unemployment and crime that goes with it.  It was predominantly black at one time but many different people live there, it is one of the more integrated cities int he US I would say and very working class. Our home is our home and we make the best of it.

People who just happened to drive through it drew those conclusions they are supposed to, that it was hostile, unfriendly and populated by the wretched of the earth; they couldn't get out fast enough.  But working class communities no matter how poor, have strong communal ties and families have strong connections and solidarity with each other under the worst of circumstances, it's how we survive. Class matters.

That Shane MacGowan sings this song here only adds to that internationalism. No matter what our nationality or language, all workers have these songs and they can move us to tears. McColl's internationalism reached America's shores and he wrote beautiful songs. Many people don't realize he wrote two of Roberta Flack's hits, Killing me softly and the First Time Ever I saw Your Face.

Workers of the World Unite

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