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A song for ME: Blowin’ in the Wind

 

 

The following arrangement of Blowin’ in the Wind, with alternative lyrics about the struggles faced by people with ME, is performed by patients and their carers from around the world:

If you would like to play and/or sing this song at a #MillionsMissing protest on 12 May, or at any other event, please use the following resources:

Printable lyrics sheet
Printable chords sheet

To request a free MP3 file of the song and/or video MP4 file to play at an event, please email asongforMEcfs@gmail.com

Please share the YouTube video as widely as possible on social media and beyond.

About the song:

In one of the last letters he managed to tap out on his antiquated typewriter before he died in 2014, my late grandfather, Pop, offered the following advice to his youngest granddaughter, Emily (see: A Sketch of my Grandfather):

“Perhaps it may be of some help if I tell you that, the older I get, the more I still learn what joy and comfort come from joining with people, of any age, in playing, making, singing or listening to good music. (And being good at music never gets in way of doing other things. Indeed it very often HELPS in learning and doing many things, like medicine, surgery, managing money etc. etc.)”

Sadly, many people with ME are not well enough to play or listen to music, but that does not detract from the wisdom of Pop’s words. In recent years, some modest improvements in my state of health have enabled me to learn to play guitar – albeit quietly and unenergetically – which has become a source of rare comfort and joy for me. And this opportunity, to record a song with other ME patients from around the world, has served to emphasise how right my grandfather was about the pleasure of making and sharing music with others.

Originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan for his breakthrough 1963 Freewheelin’ album, Blowin’ in the Wind is one of the great songs of all time. Having worked out my own fingerstyle guitar arrangement of the song, I started working on my own alternative lyrics in 2016, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that I stumbled upon the idea of recording it with other people with ME from around the world.

Having posted messages on forums and social media, I was encouraged by the number of replies I received from people who were interested to take part. Sadly, several volunteers had to drop out because they were not well enough to record themselves singing.  However, the final recording includes the voices of 18 people from 7 different countries – most of whom have never met or communicated with each other.

Originally, I was only going to use the extra voices for the choruses, but Kaeley’s harmony was just so beautiful and perfect that I felt compelled to use it throughout the song.

I had no experience of doing anything like this before. I have never sung in a choir or been well enough to play my guitar in public, and I’d never tried mixing more than one person’s voice, so I had no idea if it would work or not. But I am very pleased with the final result.

It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work with so many talented and motivated people from the international ME community. As well as all the singers, I am indebted to Anna and Jonas for providing me with the images for the video from their ME Perspective website, and for their help and enthusiasm throughout the project.

I very much hope that our combined efforts will help to raise awareness of our struggle, the ignorance and injustices we face, and the desperate need for a huge increase in investment in biomedical ME research.

The song is dedicated to Anne Örtegren. I never knew Anne, or had any contact with her before she died, but I had just read her beautifully written and deeply moving Farewell Letter when I recorded the song, and she has been very much in my mind throughout the process of production.

 

Lyrics:

How many years can a man live in painBefore he will wither and die?

And how many lives must an illness destroy,

Before you will see through the lies?

Yes and how many voices must scream from the dark

Before you take heed of our cry?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,The answer is blowing in the wind.

 

How many times must an idea fail

Before it is seen to be flawed?

And how many flaws can a trial embrace

Before it is seen as a fraud?

Yes and how many wounds must its victims expose

Before they’re no longer ignored?

 

The answer my friend is blowin in the wind

The answer is blowin in the wind.

 

How many times must a story be told

Before you will see what is true?

And how many people must live in this way

Before it will dawn upon you?

Yes and when will the burden of loss and despair

Reflect in the things that you do?

 

The answer my friend is blowin in the wind

The answer is blowin in the wind.

 

How many lives must a “theory” destroy

Before you will see through the lies?

And how many years can a man live in pain

Before he will wither and die?

Yes and how many voices must scream from the dark

Before you take heed of our cry?

 

The answer my friend is blowin in the wind

The answer is blowin in the wind.

NB: It has been suggested that it might have been better to use gender-neutral lyrics rather than referring to a man. This is a valid point, not least because ME affects at least three times as many women as men, but when I tried using gender-neutral and female alternatives I didn’t feel they worked so well lyrically. I also wanted to echo Dylan’s original lyrics (“How many roads must a man walk down”) and I decided that it was acceptable to use the masculine form as I was writing about my own situation.

Credits:

Guitar and vocals: Robert Saunders (aka Robert McMullen; West Sussex, UK)

Harmony: Kaeley Pruit-Hamm (Seattle, WA, USA)

Chorus: Christina Kalinen (London, UK); Nikki Franklin (West Sussex, UK); Leela (USA); Maya Leutwiler (Zürich, Switzerland); Darla Nagel (Flushing, Michigan, USA); Lorna Robinson (West Sussex, UK); Olivia Rowe (North Cornwall, UK); Noa Henrietta Ruscheweyh-Sternberg (Hamburg, Germany); Barbara Saunders (West Sussex, UK); Emma Shorter (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK); Richard Shorter (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK); Simas (Lithuania); Becky Taurog (St Paul, MN, USA); Jen “Gemma” Taylor (Hagerstown, Maryland, USA); James Wallace (Hokkaido, Japan); Zoë Williams (Oxfordshire, UK)

Video images: Anna and Jonas, ME Perspective (Switzerland)

Arrangement, production and alternative lyrics: Robert Saunders

Original music & lyrics: Bob Dylan

I am hoping to produce some more collaborative songs with people from the international ME community in future. If you would like to be involved, either as a singer or as an instrumentalist, please email asongforMEcfs@gmail.com

Links:

Printable lyrics sheet
Printable chords sheet
#MillionsMissing protests
Anne Örtegren’s Farewell Letter
ME Perspective website
A sketch of my grandfather

Article in the Independent newspaper (UK) about the struggles faced by people with ME:
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/why-patients-me-demanding-justice-millions-missing-chronic-fatigue-illness-disease-a8133616.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: #MillionsMissing, All News, Arts & Letters, Awareness, Featured news, Great ideas

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One comment on “A song for ME: Blowin’ in the Wind
  1. Sue says:

    This is a wonderful song with brilliant new lyrics. Pity I didn’t see it until I arrived home from this year’s Millions Missing event. Never mind, there’s next year – and it gives us a year to rehearse 🙂

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