Henry's Songbook

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  • (Harvey Andrews)

    In a station in the city a British soldier stood
    Talking to the people there if the people would
    Some just stared in hatred, and others turned in pain
    And the lonely British soldier wished he was back home again

    Come join the British Army! said the posters in his town
    See the world and have your fun come serve before the Crown
    The jobs were hard to come by and he could not face the dole
    So he took his country's shilling and enlisted on the roll

    For there was no fear of fighting, the Empire long was lost
    Just ten years in the army getting paid for being bossed
    Then leave a man experienced a man who's made the grade
    A medal and a pension some mem'ries and a trade

    Then came the call for Ireland as the call had come before
    Another bloody chapter in an endless civil war
    The priests they stood on both sides the priests they stood behind
    Another fight in Jesus's name the blind against the blind

    The soldier stood between them between the whistling stones
    And then the broken bottles that led to broken bones
    The petrol bombs that burnt his hands the nails that pierced his skin
    And wished that he had stayed at home surrounded by his kin

    The station filled with people the soldier soon was bored
    But better in the station than where the people warred
    The room filled up with mothers with daughters and with sons
    Who stared with itchy fingers at the soldier and his gun

    A yell of fear a screech of brakes the shattering of glass
    The window of the station broke to let the package pass
    A scream came from the mothers as they ran towards the door
    Dragging their children crying from the bomb upon the floor

    The soldier stood and could not move his gun he could not use
    He knew the bomb had seconds and not minutes on the fuse
    He could not run and pick it up and throw it in the street
    There were far too many people there too many running feet

    Take cover! yelled the soldier, Take cover for your lives
    And the Irishmen threw down their young and stood before their wives
    They turned towards the soldier their eyes alive with fear
    For God's sake save our children or they'll end their short lives here

    The soldier moved towards the bomb his stomach like a stone
    Why was this his battle God why was he alone
    He lay down on the package and he murmured one farewell
    To those at home in England to those he loved so well

    He saw the sights of summer felt the wind upon his brow
    The young girls in the city parks how precious were they now
    The soaring of the swallow the beauty of the swan
    The music of the turning world so soon would it be gone

    A muffled soft explosion and the room began to quake
    The soldier blown across the floor his blood a crimson lake
    There was no time to cry or shout there was no time to moan
    And they turned their children's faces from the blood and from the bones

    The crowd outside soon gathered and the ambulances came
    To carry off the body of a pawn lost in the game
    And the crowd they clapped and cheered and they sang their rebel song
    One soldier less to interfere where he did not belong

    And will the children growing up learn at their mothers' knees
    The story of the soldier who bought their liberty
    Who used his youthful body as a means towards an end
    Who gave his life to those who called him murderer not friend

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1972:] If you can con an ordinary man into protecting your interests, he gets done when the crisis comes, not you. Many soldiers are not professional killers, they're kids who couldn't get a job, and as unemployment has soared, recruiting for the army has increased by over 60% in three years. The average soldier is unimportant in the final analysis, it's the ones who shelter behind him that count [...] and they always seem to survive! (Notes Harvey Andrews, 'Writer of Songs')

  • [1973:] Written from newspaper clippings. (Forces Folk 11/73, p 10)

  • [1975:] Hugh [Fraser] has a friend, an officer in the Brigade of Guards, just back from a tour of duty in Northern Ireland. While they were there forty of his men bought themselves out of the Army, as their wives would not have them being shot at in Ireland. Meanwhile, partly because of the boom, but partly because of Ireland, the recruiting figure for April this year was half the number for April 1972. (Cecil King, Diary 1970-1974, July 3rd, 1973, p 297)

  • [1979:] His next major song, however, inadvertently created a controversy which, for a while, clearly damaged Andrews' standing and viability. 'Soldier', in spite of an unambiguous sleevenote, was widely interpreted as a pro-establishment glorification of military heroism and, therefore, by left-wing logical extension, of authoritarian violence; whereas in fact it was a simple (if lyrically somewhat overwritten) story of a young man caught in an impossible situation. The song was neither for the British authorities nor against the Irish rebels; it was about the senselessness of violence, applied on a personal level. [...] Harvey Andrews' Belfast song ('Soldier') was not a lasting success (though it remains popular, for obvious reasons, with army audiences in Ulster and Germany). (Woods, Revival 115f)

  • [1990:] In Northern Ireland, this song written in 1972 by a professional songwriter, Harvey Andrews, has become very widely known among soldiers, and at the same time divorced in classic folk-song style from its author. (Palmer, Lovely War 18)

    In 1971 in Belfast a soldier called Sergeant Willis cleared a room of civilians because of a bomb. As he went to close the door afterwards, the charge exploded, and he was killed. [...] Harvey Andrews, was so struck by the incident that he wrote the song to make the point that soldiers, too, are human. (The incident of the soldier's embracing the bomb was poetic licence.) Broadcasts of Andrews' record were banned for some time by the BBC lest feelings be exacerbated in the nationalist community of Northern Ireland. The Ministry of Defence advised (and still advises) soldiers not to sing the song in pubs where it might cause trouble. Some have interpreted this as a ban. Nevertheless, they sing it 'all the time', according to one source, on military transport and in messes and canteens. It has been said that some units require newcomers to learn to sing or recite the song before they become fully accepted. Andrews' authorship is not widely known, and many different stories about the song's origin circulate. [...]

    The text has appeared in the 'Soldier', the 'Methodist' magazine, and the 'Manchester Evening News' (where in 1988 it won a poetry competition for a youth who sent it in over his own name). (Palmer, Lovely War 199)

  • [1997:] Someone told me my song was banned in the army, so I thought the ones to know would be the Ministry of Defence, and asked them. [...] They even had it in their files that the song was 'written by Harvey Andrews, who'd been in 2nd Para'. I never was in the army in my life! (Harvey Andrews, pr. comm.)

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Quelle: England

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aktualisiert am 14.06.2010