Creating music starts with an idea.
On June 18th, 2015 a day after I returned home from a vacation in the South of France, I attended the AIC (Arts in Corrections) Conference at SFU. And, was most fortunate to meet and speak with Sara Lee, Artistic Director of the London based Irene Taylor Trust “Music in Prisons”
I asked Sara if her group of musicians would be willing to compose original fare (lyrics and music) for the “Art Escape at Alcatraz” exhibit/event (yet to take place). So, that same month her prison music group was set a challenging task - to write a song about Alcatraz, a place none of them knew much about, or had ever really given much thought. Few of them had even seen the Clint Eastwood film.
The music was composed by the group as a whole, and three men contributed lyrics, each of them differing in their response to the task. The first two vocalists opted to use Alcatraz as a metaphor for loneliness and isolation. ‘D’, the first MC opens the account with the lyric "Prison can be lonely, dreamin' of the nights you used to hold me, now I'm prayin' for the day when they parole me". ‘D’ sings of uncertainty (he's on an indeterminate sentence and was turned down for release by probation on the day we recorded this song), loneliness, how his child was born while he was in prison and the hope that his partner will be there for him on release.
‘C’ then assumes up the vocal and his take on the isolation and loneliness of "The Rock"-the metaphor is that no matter how much outside forces try to break him with solitude, he is in fact not alone, and with family support and his faith in a higher power, he will prevail. His chorus: "Oh, wi' de chains an ting, Alcatraz is where dey want me fae live my story, tol', wid me fait' I sing, I'm no island, my strengt' is within."
The final vocalist ‘DD’ gives an up-tempo 16 bars summarising the story of Alcatraz as a prison, a history lesson personalised by such statements as "Alcatraz is in America but I'm a Cockney".
So, for the first time in history, may I proudly present music and lyrics to:
“Oh, with the chains and things
Alcatraz is where they want me to live my story told
With my faith I sing
I’m no island, my strength is within
Never been robbed but then a rocket could have robbed me
Alcatraz is in America but I’m a cockney
I would have planned to escape but done it properly
Al Capone and Bumpy Johnson had to ride it ** me
They had to deal with times of prohibition
Criminals rich, now to break a mission
Put them on a rock in the ocean and call it prison
Try to break spirit of violence but no-one listens
Nineteen thirty four to nineteen sixty three
It took them twenty nine years before they realised its peak
Government were live baby, sucking on a teat
We’re now a tourist attraction for everyone to see
They should have known from day one it wouldn’t work
Spending all that money man the government got jerked,
Hiring officers, muscles bulging out their shirts,
I’m sure they learned from their mistakes but I doubt it’ll be the first.
The Irene Taylor Trust Co.