Before continuing with this post (written by Steve) as a contribution to the next Disability Blog Carnival, Steve and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Penny L. Richards for her all her continuing hard work and dedication to the Disability Blog Carnival, which she launched one year ago. Bravo, Penny. Bravo! We've made many new friends thanks to you!
~ Steve and Connie
Susan Swartz writes for The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif. I received her article about disability and disabled musicians this morning by means of the Society for Disability Studies Listserv. As it happens, I'd been thinking about music and how, at the age of 11, I started playing guitar. Like a lot of kids with disabilities I was too much of a loner and when I discovered the guitar I also found myself in the company of secret friends. In my case these were "folkie friends"--Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Woody and Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, and Bob Gibson ("the king of the 12 string guitar").
Forty one years ago this week, my mother bought me a used and very beat up Martin guitar from a mom and pop music shop in Troy, New York. And while I haven't pursued a career as a performing guitarist and folk singer I can say without hesitation that I've played folk songs through good times and bad ever since. It's safe to say that by playing the guitar I kept myself in the game. Later I took up poetry and something like a literary life, but even during my years at the Iowa Writers Workshop studying poetry I would sit up all night with friends and sing the good folk anthems of Elizabeth Cotton.
Music and poetry are daily milestones. They tell us about our individual and collective journey. For my money, one of the best disability songs I know is on Pete Seeger's American Industrial Ballads album and its called "The Blind Fiddler"--the song tells of the sad fortunes of a man who went blind while working in a blacksmith's shop. Here's the line that always gets me:
"I have a wife and two little ones, depending now on me.
Awaiting on my fortune, whatever it may be.
I hope that they'll be safe and well,
As I'm compelled to roam.
I am a blind fiddler, and far from my home..."
Here is Susan Swartz's article in full:
SUSAN SWARTZ: Songs speak to those with disabilities
Description of graphic above: blue and yellow "confetti" with word "Congratulations" spelled in red.