Friday, 27 November 2020

'Silence is Complicity'

I got myself into bit of a spat with a mate of mine by putting that phrase on a FB post.  He felt it unfairly pressurised  or implied criticism of people who choose not to take up the option of speaking out about it when they encounter an example of someone, or a group, perpetratinginjustice upon another, or upon a group of people.  I felt obliged to explain myself.

I can understand how/why people feel in some way pressurised when they choose not to speak out and call it out when they have come across an injustice of some sort, especially when someone else suggests they are in some way complicit inthe injustice by remaining silent.  And yet I find myself compelled to agree with this view.  Those who are familiar with the bible story of the good Samaritan will perhaps have some understanding of the principle.  To be aware of and then not, in some way react when an obvious injustice has happened is, in some senses to "ignore" it - almost, to pretend you did not know it took place. 

 The phrase "silence is complicity" implies that-  not to call it out when someone is abused, harassed, discriminated against, persecuted or, in some way, treated unjustly is to allow the injustice to be unchallenged in any way - the perpetrator, for want of a better description, gets away with, the "offence", which may possibly mean it may be continued or repeated.  On the other hand, if the observer of an injustice speaks out about it, tells others about it, 'spreads the word', so to speak, then that person has helped to create an awareness of what has happened.  If the perpetrator knows that his/her 'offence' has been publicised and that others now know about it , it puts pressure on him her to amend his/her offending behaviour, possibly to try and make up for it and not to repeat it.  For the injustice to have happened unchallenged, risks its continuance and may even allow the perpetrator to feel emboldened.

I hope I've not made too much of a meal of  this - it's only because I feel that if we want a better world and for things to change for the better, we should not stay silent - or, even sit on the fence about -injustice, inequality, oppression, etc.  It's a non-violent way of helping our fellow humans - just by telling others about what is happening.  Words have a sort of 'ripple effect' - people tell each other and talk about what's happening and hopefully, the awareness results in change for the better.  So, the moral is, don't be afraid to speak out - the more people know what's going on, the better!  Good luck!

Wednesday, 11 November 2020


 Hey Friends, Brothers, Sisters, who love justice and equality:  I've just had the huge honour of a whole radio programme devoted to my songs being broadcast in my beloved Aotearoa (NZ). Here's the link:

Just wanted to say a bit about songwriting, which, musically, has been my life since I first started writing songs, in about 1964, I think. This isn't meant to be any kind of 'workshop' or anything,  just a bit of insight into what the experience of songwriting is for me.

People will tell you it's a cathartic process and that's very true.  It can be a way of getting stuff off your chest - stuff that's been bothering or haunting you.  In fact it's very true that when you use songwriting to try and express that 'stuff',  the sense of relief when you've actually got a song that has dealt with it -  is very real.  After many years I finally wrote a song about my own origins - or what I knew of them - (some of them are very shrouded) - I felt as though I'd had a massive emotional release, so strong was it. The song in question, although not recorded, is called "In the Mist of '45". I do hope I'll record it one day, at least for posterity.

And that word posterity is important.  Although your songs may not always be biographical in the literal sense, they nevertheless will inevitably feature biographical elements, and those will sometimes only be apparent when you've finished writing the song and sit back, as an observer, and look at it.  It may not be until you look at a larger crossection  of a songwriter's output that you can get a feeling of that "biography", for want of a better expression.

For me, songwriting is a journey of discovery.  Some may be surprised at that - assuming that if you set out on putting your thoughts on a subject into a song, you would know what you were going to end up with.  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.  What comes into your mind as you're fossicking around for the inspiration, or the idea, or the catalyst that will move the song on, can be truly surprising.  It may be a phrase, or a catchy riff, or a tempting bit of melody, or something you find totally baffling - that makes you say - where on earth did that come from?

It's true that these happenings sometimes come from the instrument you're using, but certainly not always.  In short, it's unpredictable, but don't be surprised if it happens to you - it could even occur in something as simple as when you're trying to think of a rhyme.  The allure of this unpredictability can be quite addictive.

I usually start with some sort of verse or chorus that I've just thought of in my head, because I've often found that  those words, that verse, can suggest a tune or melody to me simply because of their pattern, rhythm, or cadence. 

Just one more thing - be patient.  If it's not working, forget it for a while and go do something else, and come back to it later.  The thing is, you see, that your mind/brain will, without you being aware of it, continue to tussle with the challenge while you're off doing the more mundane things of daily life.  I once wrote a song, called "Daydreaming", while I was hoovering the living room.  Some activities seem to require so little concentration that there's room for your mind to do all sorts of thinking about something that's occupying your thoughts more.  (The downside of that is that the activity you're supposed to be doing, suffers from lackof concentration, as my faithful partner, Pauline would confirm.

Well, friends, I'm stopping there, before this really does become a songwriting workshop!  The main thing for you aspiring songwriters is- don't fret - don't worry about it!  Good luck!