The Workhouse Child

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THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG

This is one of my best songs and probably my biggest disappointment. It was 1991 and I had just landed my first record deal with a small label. The record company took this song to the head of the major music publisher “Acuff Rose” and he loved it describing it as “a future classic”. I was on my way. A few days later I received a phone call asking me to travel to London to sign over the publishing rights to The Workhouse Child with the urgency being that Cliff Richards was going to record it as his Christmas song that year.  A few days later Cliff decided not to release this meaningful and social aware song in place of the usual trite love song which bombed.

No problem. The record company would release the song as a single and Acuff Rose had been touting it around the BBC so now four of the top producers including Terry Wogan’s producer loved the song and would play it on their shows. There was even talk of it being “record of the week” on Radio 2.  But as luck would have it, there was a big change at the BBC at that time and it was decided producers were no longer allowed to choose their own songs to play. There would be a central database of songs and producers could only pick from that list. When the meeting came to agree what songs went on that list The Workhouse Child was rejected by the one man in charge on the grounds that being about a workhouse “it was not relevant to today’s world”. In other words, the 200 million child slaves that still exist are no longer relevant. Take a look at the video I made and decide for yourself.

Behind the cold and tear stained door
sitting on the cold stone floor
a workhouse child lives alone
where he comes from no one’s sure
he commits the crime of being poor
and dreams of parents he’s never known
he’s just a child, six years old
just a child, scared and cold
punished for the sins of others
forgotten by a distant mother
who turns away the workhouse child

here’s fifty pounds of bones to crush
it seems that there’s a sudden rush
when work is done you will be fed
you shall not talk you shall not laugh
you shall not rest a minute’s half
your spirit’s ours till you are dead
you’re just a child, of little use
just a child, that’s no excuse
and should you disobey the rules
created by the minds of fools
you’ll suffer more, you workhouse child

I’ve heard it said that one day soon
men will fly and touch the moon
and machines will live yet shed no tears
but will you never understand
all we ask is to touch the hand
that reaches out from one who cares
he’s just a child, his needs are small
just a child, too weak to crawl
and you who for the stars compete
while crushing those beneath your feet
don’t forget the workhouse child

in the big house on the hill
where riches seldom ever spill
the workhouse mother lives alone
she looks for lines upon her face
the idle rich lives in disgrace
with heart that long has turned to stone
life’s such a bore, she cries aloud
then sews some more, the tiny shroud
this land of plenty, wild and free
is cursed by those too blind to see
the horrors of the workhouse child

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