They say sing while you slave and I just get bored

This isn’t by any means the most famous Solomon Burke single but it was the one I played when I heard that he had died a week ago because it’s one of the highlights of an excellent new compilation called How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan. I thought of Dylan’s song again on Wednesday, when Margaret Thatcher’s 85th birthday was, rather wonderfully, overshadowed in the news by rejoicing miners, because the Specials and U2 both covered it, with fresh intent, in the early 80s (the Specials changed “National Guard” to “National Front”). Dylan wrote it in 1965 while he was in the process of disowning protest songs and the scene that came with them — buzzing with electricity, this was the song which outraged folk’s old guard at Newport that year — but it sounds like one nonetheless.


  1. I had the specials version of that when I was a kid. To be honest, it wasn’t very good, but that wasn’t the point! Nothing really could match Stand Down Margaret for a contemporary anti-Maggie song. I like in Stand Down Margaret how it sounds like a plea, as much as a protest song.

    • Yes, I was going to post the Specials version until I listened to it again and realised it was a bit rubbish. Stand Down Margaret always strikes me as unusually polite for a protest song. It came out when she was still quite new to the job and relatively weak – the songs got angrier she more her power grew.

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