The Strawbs – 'Part of the union' and Bob Crowe

It is strange, but one of the most moving and effective pieces of radio which I have heard recently was this. The morning after the death of union leader Bob Crowe, Chris Evans, on BBC Radio Two, played The Strawbs’ ‘Part of the Union’ as a “tribute” to Mr Crowe.

I found the whole thing quite moving. As I listened to the words of the song, it seemed a perfect tribute to the man.

This was made all the more surprising because I had always thought of the song as a bit satirical.

But, in fact, the song was intended as a serious ode to the union movement, according to Christopher Jones, assistant producer of Radio Two’s ‘The People’s songs”.

Stimulated by Evans’ playing of the record, I reminded myself of the Strawbs’ history via Wikipedia. Founded in 1964, they are still going strong and have given us a rich and remarkably varied musical output.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it, ‘Part of the Union’ has been going round in my head since March 10th. Almost a month.

I have embedded below both the Strawbs’ singing the song, and Pete Seeger singing ‘Union Maid’, from which the song appears to draw some inspiration.

This is a penitential post, after I was picked up (quite rightly) by his Lordship Lord Bonkers. I awoke from my slumbers this morning, shell shocked from the 24th day of having ‘Part of the union’ going round in my head, and very absent-mindedly, stupidly and wrongly classified ‘Part of the union’ as a one hit wonder. Many apologies for doing that. In fact, the better side of my brain knew that was wrong, but was unfortunately not fully engaged at that time of the morning.

Part of the union‘ is a superb song. The bass playing by John Ford is particularly good, as is the piano playing by Blue Weaver. I love the harmonica. The song was written by John Ford and Richard Hudson, who later formed one of my favourite bands, Hudson Ford.


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