(Picture from Bruce Conner’s video for Devo’s “Mongoloid”)
“Yes, the doctor told me, boy, you don’t need no pills.
Just a handful of nickels, the juke box will cure your ills.”
Carl Perkins, disabled rockabilly pioneer
As in Art, Literature, Movie or else, Disability as a topic has also a long tradition in music. Anthony Tusler has now compiled a CD entitled: “Disability: Songs, Singers & Songwriters”. Some good stuff on it. Here is the annotated tracklist:
1. T.B. Blues • Otis Spann*, 4:12
Muddy Water’s long-time band mate and pianist died of TB.
2. I Have Had My Fun • Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee*, 3:33
Since 1939 Brownie and Sonny have been instrumental in bringing country blues to mainstream audiences. Sonny lost most of his sight in early childhood.
3. Wade In The Water • The Blind Boys Of Alabama*, 3:34
Singing in the blind school and gospel traditions this Grammy winning group has enjoyed mainstream success.
4. Bess, You Is My Woman Now (excerpt) • William Warfield, 1:56
Goat cart-using para celebrates love, romance, and intimacy.
5. My Little Tune • Joni Eareckson†, 4:01, Joni’s Song, Pop
The Christian author sings about her relationship to her disability and God.
6. In the Disability Rights Movement • Jeff Moyer†, 2:11
Heart-felt, earnest folk music recognizes the struggle for Disability rights.
7. In Northern California (Where the Palm Tree Meets the Pine) • Danny O’Keefe, 3:19
Able-bodied folkie describing a one-night-stand with a braced and crutched woman. (“Creepiest song I’ve ever heard.” Anthony Tusler)
8. Little Crippled Girl’s Prayer • Marsh Family, 3:31
Does this mean that heaven isn’t accessible?
9. There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere • Elton Britt, 2:48
World War II had its own plucky disability candidate.
10. Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town • Kenny Rogers
Ruby has it all — politics, anger, self pity.
11. Daddy Come and Get Me •Dolly Parton, 1:79
Forced institutionalization rears its unexpected head in this country weeper.
12. Disabled People Do It! • Jane Field*, 2:53
Wheelchair-using folk singer tries to convince us that crips are sexy.
13. The Letter • The Medallions†, 2:49
“I was a very lonely guy at the time. …14 years old, …and I walked with crutches,” Vernon Green, lead singer.
14. Save the Last Dance for Me • The Drifters, 2:30
The wheelchair-using Doc Pomus wrote this for his fun-loving, ever dancing, able-bodied wife.
15. All Is Lonlieness, Moondog*, 1:20
The Viking of 6th Avenue tell it like it sometimes can be (disabled or AB).
16. Johnny’s Blues • Johnny Crescendo and the P.O.P. Squad†, 3:44
The U.K.’s Disabled flag bearer and his Piss on Pity Squad
17. What’s In a Name • The Cripples†, 4:12
They should know.
18. Takin’ Retards to the Zoo, • Dead Milkmen, .48
What can you say? But why the crash?
19. Cretin Hop • The Ramones*, 1:18
Joey Ramone’s OCD viewpoint adds another politically incorrect song title and lyrics to the genre.
20. Spasticus (Autisticus) • Ian Dury & The Blockheads†, 5:11,
The Disabled author of Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll writes a BBC banned anthem for the 1981 International Year of the Disabled.
21. Mongoloid • Devo, 3:45,
Easier to rhyme than Down’s Syndrome.
22. Santa’s In A Wheelchair • The Kids Of Widney High†, 3:13,
Widney High is the Los Angeles area special school.
23. Beautiful People • Marilyn Manson*, 3:38,
Marilyn’s early years in the hospital informs this dig at the mainstream.
*=disability identity (AT determined)
† = disability identity (self)