Stiff Little Fingers/Bob Marley – Johnny Was

I love this Stiff Little Fingers version of a great Bob Marley song.

Bob set it in Jamaica – an innocent victim of the gangster rude boys. Stiff Little Fingers transferred it to Ireland in the midst of the bloody troubles.

Both highlighted the supercharged emotion of a mother who has just lost her son to a senseless killing. It could be about any city, any gang-related murder. So tragic. So stupid. So unnecessary.

Bob Marley’s version was more mellow and laid back. He poured his emotion into the song. It was full of sorrow. Stiff Little Fingers added anger.

For me the strident duelling guitars and military drumbeat heighten the emotional impact. When are people going to grow up and get above this madness?

JOHNNY WAS(Marley)

Woman hold her head and cry
Cause her son had been shot down in the street and died
From a stray bullet

Woman hold her head and cry
Accompanying her was a passerby
Who saw the woman cry

Wondering can she work it out
Now she knows that the wages of sin is death
The gift of God is life

Oh, oh, oh, oh
Johnny was a good man
oh yeah

Woman hold her head and cry
Cause her son had been shot down in the street and died
Just because of the system

Woman hold her head and cry
Comforting her I was passing by
And I saw the woman cry

She cried, oh, oh, oh, oh
Johnny was a good man
Never did a thing wrong

Take it down

Johnny went out on a Saturday night
Never hurt anybody never started no bar room fight
Johnny never did nobody no wrong
Never hurt anybody never hurt anybody
Johnny was a good man
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny…

Johnny was a good man
(Repeat)

In a top floor flat in the middle of the night
There’s a man with rifle and Johnny in his sight,
I said oh no, we can’t let that kind of thing happen here no more
Oh no
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny…

A single shot rings out in a Belfast night and I said oh
Johnny was a good man

Can a woman’s tender care
Cease towards the child she bears

Johnny (Repeat)

 

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