A performer who’s struck a chord for 50 years
Leon Rosselson writes music about the hungry, homeless and downtrodden
If you didn’t hear about the Leon Rosselson concert here in late July, you’re not alone. Fewer than 100 people crammed West Seattle’s Kenyon Hall to hear English singers Rosselson and Robb Johnson perform an acoustic set of mostly political songs.
Acoustic they may be, but neither is strictly a “folk” singer—Rosselson in particular insists that he only accepts the label “folk” because there’s no place else to put his albums in the record stores. And Rosselson consistently rejects the label of a “political” songwriter.
Although Rosselson has had moments of “fame”—from writing songs for a seminal English TV show in the 1960s to a Billy Bragg cover that made the indie charts—he’s better known in the music community for his accomplished and complex guitar arrangements and his complicated, literate and often satirical lyrics. He has a consistent and unpatronizing sympathy for the excluded of society, the “hungry and the homeless, downtrodden and distressed” in “Harry’s Gone Fishing” or, as he also put it in “The Ugly Ones”:
What shall we do with the ugly ones
The ones who have nothing to sell
The failures, the fumbling muddly ones
Who never do anything well
Who never remember their name or number
And lose their place in the queue?
And what can you do for the ugly ones
When they can’t do a thing for you?
At 77, Rosselson has just issued a four-CD retrospective of 72 songs, “World Turned Upside Down: Rosselsongs 1960
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