Show Music February 15, 2011
Songs For The Imprisoned

Two amazing guests on the TV show this week: Angela Davis and Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter.

Davis is a former Black Panther tried and acquitted of murder in 1972. While she was in prison, both the Rolling Stones and John Lennon/Yoko Ono wrote songs to campaign for her release. Carter, wrongfully convicted of murder in 1967, was made famous by Bob Dylan's 1975 single 'Hurricane'.

This got us talking in the office about some of the most interesting tunes written for those behind bars...

Peter Gabriel - Biko

Gabriel was one of the first to target South Africa with this haunting song about Steve Biko, a black anti-Apartheid activist who died in prison, after sustaining serious head injuries while in custody. Like Billie Holiday's 'Strange Fruit' and Neil Young's 'Ohio' it brought attention to a matter that could no longer be ignored.

The Tragically Hip - Wheat Kings

Gord Downie wrote this song for David Milgaard, sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a young nursing assistant in 1969. Downie says he spent more than 18 months writing the song; Milgaard spent 23 years in prison before DNA evidence acquitted him in 1997.

The Pogues - Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six

Shane McGowan lashes out at British justice on this furious track, released while political prisoners the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four were still in jail for, as McGowan puts it, 'being Irish at the wrong place and at the wrong time.' Convictions for all 10 were eventually quashed and one of the Guildford Four, Gerry Conlon, would be played by Daniel Day Lewis in 'In The Name of the Father'.

The Special AKA - Nelson Mandela

Incredibly catchy plea for the release of Robben Island's most famous prisoner did the trick. Six years after its release, Mandela walked free. And, as Ricky Gervais points out 'he hasn't re-offended, which shows you prison does work.'

Steve Earle - John Walker's Blues

Steve got himself into hot water with this wrenching ballad, written from the point of view of John Walker Lindh, an 'American boy' who fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan before his capture in 2001. Steve doesn't condone Lindh, currently serving 20 years, but did want to make clear that 'wherever he got to, he didn't arrive there in a vacuum.'


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