Friday, April 6, 2007

Labi Siffre

Old poets, what's to become of them? While digging around on YouTube for Madness' "It Must Be Love", I found an alternate version of the song from some British TV variety show. The performance was by the song's composer, Labi Siffre, and everything from the clothes to the multi-ethnic cast to presentation of the song in a medley with Siffre other hit "There's Nothing in the World like Love" reflected the glow of optimism and hope that so much of the earlier 1970 seemed to espouse.

After a quick Wikipedia search on Siffre I learned that he was one of Britain first openly gay public figures, and that he was a poet of note and had concerned himself with matter of social justice over the intervening years.

A link at the bottom of the page took me to Siffre own site, and I have to say I was quite saddened by what I saw. Not the smiling, exuberant face of years gone by greets you at the top of his web page, but an older, sullen face of a man who had fought many battles in his life, possibly robbing him of the will to write such perfect pieces of pop.

He did produce other songs that were hits in England, such as the protest song, "Something Inside So Strong", but I began to wonder the sacrifice was too much for people like Siffre, while we benefited from his activism and strength, did it also rob them of some of the simple, light pleasures of being human. Is it too hard to look away, once your eyes have been open to the tyranny of the world, or is there guilt in having fun when you know others are suffering? I'd love to know what Siffre has to say on these matters, and I'd like to know if the weight of these things might also extinguish the light of my own eyes as the years progress.

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