… and here, with much thanks to UEA Studio Technology team of Sean Thompson and Matt North for filming and editing, is my inaugural lecture at UEA on 8 March. Artists discussed in film, music videos, tv shows and documentary footage of live performances from the 1940s on include Ian Dury, Robert Wyatt, Connie Boswell Teddy Pendergrass, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Cyd Charisse, Gene Vincent, & Graeae/Stephen Hawking/Orbital. Oh, and Kenny Rogers singing that line from First Edition’s 1969 hit version of ‘Ruby, don’t take your love to town’ appears twice. The line? ‘It’s hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralysed’.
‘Crippled with nerves’: the curious case of polio and popular music
Ian Dury, Steve Harley, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Donovan, Israel Vibration, Staff Benda Bilili: all marked by polio. How has that childhood experience influenced their music, (how) have they sung about it, what does the disabled pop body look like on stage, have they been activists or advocates in disability rights movements, what might there be specific to polio and popular music?… Drawing on work from his acclaimed book Shakin’ All Over: Popular Music & Disability, Professor George McKay delves further into this musical-medical narrative.
- Thursday 19 March, 12.30-1.30 pm
- Free admission (reservations essential)
- Barber Institute of Fine Art lecture theatre
- Further information (including directions, accessibility and reservations) available here.
In this ten-minute video, I read from the final section of my new book, Shakin’ all Over: Popular Music and Disability. It’s a brief conclusion, of sorts, section entitled ‘Shaking’s all over’.
… Well, I have volunteered myself to disability studies to contribute to this important task, from my existing research field in cultural and popular music studies. The fresh dialogue here and elsewhere between disability studies and popular music can only enrich both.
In A History of Disability, Henri-Jacques Stiker writes in passing of the idea of ‘social contagion’, that the love of difference (let us not even stretch love, but talk more modestly of simply the tolerance by the currently non-disabled of those with disabilities) could be socially contagious. What about cultural contagion? Stiker continues: ‘there is only one recourse beyond the ethical imperative, and that is to make it part of our culture’. Sheila Riddell and Nick Watson put it more straightforwardly: ‘[t]he struggle for social justice, then, involves a quest for cultural recognition as well as economic redistribution’.
One of the aims of Shakin’ All Over has been to map the sonic history and tracks of that quest for cultural recognition, to discover that cultural expressions and explorations of disability have been the already heard of pop since its foundations were both established and shaken on day and night one, whenever they were….