Steven E. Brown
Co-Founder, Institute on Disability Culture
© All Rights Reserved, Institute on Disability Culture, Jan. 2015
I love music, and as someone who came of age as a protester in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I appreciate how music, protest, culture, and change, connect.
Someone once attributed Emma Goldman with saying, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” With that in mind, I share my top 25 Disability Pride songs. Someone else would compose a different list, and that is great because it means we have many songs to choose from.
Some of these songs were at the top of my head when I sat down to write. For example, Jeff Moyer’s “For the Crime of Being Different,” #1 on this list (and this is the time to state that there is no priority order to this list other than when I thought of each song or artist), may not fit someone else’s definition of pride, but for me this stark rendering of the life Mark, Jeff’s late brother, led in his early years, shows the depths of how music can be used to protest injustice and demonstrate pride in who we are, no matter our diversities. Johnny Crescendo sings in “Pride,” listed at #3:
“Pride is somewhere in your soul…
Pride is the peace within that finally makes you whole
Celebrate your difference with pride…”
“For the Crime of Being Different,” is a clear statement of why we need pride in our lives, how much things have changed-and how much they have not.
In compiling these songs, I included a variety of genres, cultures, and countries, because musicians with disabilities are creating in all of them and because, with international access, those of us in the U.S have access to, and are influenced by, what is happening all over the world. While compiling this list, I realized once again how many songs of our lives are out there and how many are yet to be experienced. Each time I looked up a song to find lyrics, examples, or websites, I discovered songs, artists, or styles, and often, new information about the songs or artists. The bottom line, as Van Gogh sings in “Unbound,” #25, is:
“It’s time to take the reins and
Break away the chains that are holding me
I am unbound
There’s no stopping me
I am unbound…
Tell the world I am unbound.”
1. Jeff Moyer, “For the Crime of Being Different.” One of my favorite Jeff Moyer songs because it rings true, yesterday, and unfortunately still today, even though it was written many years ago. Jeff is known, among many other things, for being the “resident musician” of the 1977 504 Federal Building takeover in San Francisco. Check him out at: www.jeffmoyer.com
2. Elaine Kolb, “We Will Ride.” An early ADAPT anthem in the fight for lifts on all public buses. Elaine shares the song is still evolving and she’s adding verses about riding in customized wheelchairs, that is, wheelchairs designed to meet the needs of each rider. She’s at: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Johnny Crescendo (aka Alan Holdsworth), “Pride.” An English activist and singer-songwriter, currently living in the U.S., this song is on his iTunes collection, “Piss on Pity,” and at: https://myspace.com/johnnycrescendo/music/song/pride-8980213-8781397
4. Jane Field, “The Fishing is Free.” The title song of a 1994 cassette from a Canadian artist, I use this song in presentations and trainings to this day. As far as I know this is Jane’s only disability-related music. It’s full of humor and incisiveness. In compiling this list the contact information I have for Jane is no longer valid. Perhaps she will see the list and update?
5. Jane Field, “Disabled People Do It.” A song about sex, with humor, on the “The Fishing is Free” album.
6. Kim Palmer, “Allergic to the 20th Century.” “Pardon-moi, don’t mind me, I’m just allergic to the 20th century,” and “I’m not dead yet, but mister please put out that cigarette.” A sampling of lyrics from an up-beat anthem about the deadly consequences of what is being done to our environment by the late Kim Palmer. A good explanation of the song, Kim’s life and these issues are at: http://lindasepp.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/kim-palmer-was-allergic-to-the-20th-century/
7. Mark Goffeney, “We Are The Same”: Known as “Big Toe” because he plays the guitar with his feet. This song clearly states, “We are more the same than you may think, You and me we are the same…” See: http://www.markgoffeney.com
8. “Free Our People.” Another ADAPT anthem, sung by many, including Diane Coleman, who is pictured along with lyrics at: http://www.disabilityprideparade.com/history/Parade06/freeourpeople.php
9. Beethoven’s Nightmare, “Turn It Up Louder.” Self-described as the “Greatest Deaf Rock Band in the World.” See their work at: http://www.beethovensnightmare.com/
10. Mike Higgins and Ian Stanton, “Tragic But Brave.” Sung by both English artists, but probably better known by the late Stanton. See tribute and lyrics at: http://tonybaldwinson.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/to-ian-with-love-programme-7-december-1998.pdf
11. Jeff Moyer, “Do You See Me as an Equal?” This is an older, pre-ADA song, but it still speaks to me. As with #1, see www.jeffmoyer.com
12. Johnny Crescendo, “I Love My Body.” The title says it all and is also available at his iTunes collection, “Piss on Pity,” and at: https://myspace.com/johnnycrescendo/music/song/pride-8980213-8781397
13. Klaus Kreuzeder, “Tumbling Derwish.” German saxophonist who had polio. An English Wikipedia page is at: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klaus_Kreuzeder&prev=search
14. Lindsay Carter, “Useless Eaters.” A hauntingly beautiful song, with the proud chorus, “We’re not going to let you wipe us out, we’re here to stay, our genes are fine, our DNA is A OK.” I first heard the late Carter on the compilation “Lend Us Your Ears,” by English artist Angryfish (aka Robin Surgeoner—see #24).
15. Sean Forbes, “Watch These Hands.” Perhaps the most commercially successful of deaf rappers. More at: http://deafandloud.com/
16. Signmark, “Fighting.” According to his bio, this Finnish artist released the world’s first sign language hip hop DVD in 2006. In this song, the chorus, which includes “Be brave-don’t fall down, Be free –do it now,” is sung, signed and captioned. See http://www.signmark.biz/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfNoMJ1GYzM
17. Staff Benda Bilili, “Mwana.” I like many of their upbeat, up-tempo songs. A group of street musicians, many of whom had polio, and all of whom have disabilities, from Congo, who have become famous internationally in recent years, especially in France and Europe. Benda Bilili means “look beyond appearances,” and in addition to their music a documentary about the band premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Check out “Mwana” with NBE at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqga1CmJKBU
18. Station 17, “For Those About to Screech.” Formed in 1989, a group of individuals living in a German institution became a rock band collective, then a successful rock band with a focus on electronic dance music, whose sound has evolved over time. See http://17rec.de/artists.htm and http://www.odditycentral.com/news/the-inspiring-story-of-station-17-germanys-disabled-rock-group.html
19. Leroy Moore, Jr., “Hip-Hop Hear This!” The founder of Krip Hop Nation issues a clarion call to hip hop to pay attention to the existence of, as Leroy then labeled it, “Crip-Hip-Hop.” See http://poormagazine.org/node/1681 and take a look at http://kriphopnation.com/ for all the work that is being done, including and beyond music.
20. Lady MJ Warrior! “No More Tears Inside.” From England, a rapper/singer who is one performer on Krip Hop Nation’s MCees with Disabilities. She’s also getting gigs these days in the U.S. See http://ladymjwarrior.wix.com/peace#!__page-1 and
20. Kounterclockwise, “Krippled Boy.” Urban Krip Hop from husband and wife collaborators Deacon Burns and Kaya Rogue. They create songs, videos and have an animated movie called Forever-Land, which is subtitled at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxDzRy5jRMM. “Krippled Boy” (not captioned) is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52LJTfk4vVU#t=10. Check out everything at: www.kounterclockwise.com
22. Prudence Mabhena and Liyana, “Going Nowhere”. A band and their lead singer, with the voice of an angel, from Zimbabwe. I had the pleasure of seeing Prudence at the 2010 International VSA Arts and Disability Festival in Washington, D.C., where she performed several songs. Check out “Ipi Ntombi (Where’s My Lady”) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzGll1-K3Nk. I can’t find a captioned version.
23. Keith “Sho’Roc” Brown, “I’ll Survive.” “Sho’Roc”, another deaf performer, focuses on pop music and I can easily imagine hearing this song on the radio. See https://www.facebook.com/shoroc81/posts/131988853666364 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BryLD4QF0z0
24. Angryfish (aka Robin Surgeoner), “Song of 2 Halves.” A former athlete, current activist and artist from England, Angryfish has put out his own music and a compilation of various artists (see #14). In November 2014, Surgeoner promoted and performed at the Why? Festival, a Micro-Festival of Music, Comedy, and Performance. See what he’s up to at: http://www.angryfish.co.uk/
25. Van Gogh, “Unbound.” This rock band from Georgia in the U.S. has been producing music since the early 1990s. See: https://www.facebook.com/VanGoghmusic/ to hear this song.
Comments, or your favorites, with DETAILS welcome,
and we'll see how to grow the list.