Many of Ewan MacColl's political songs have an inherent nastiness about them, but this one is pure charm, being as much personal biography as anti-capitalist polemic. MacColl was born James Miller in Lancashire, 1915. His father was a Scottish foundry worker who had been blacklisted because of his union activity.
In the song, as in real life, William Miller ends up a broken man
, discarded during the Great Depression, though it is not clear if this was due to the rampant unemployment, his union activity, advances in technology, or some permutation thereof. This intricately crafted acoustic song is a fine blend of love, admiration and bitterness. It is a song that will strike a chord with every son or daughter who has been influenced by a strong minded parent, and with everyone who has ever been thrown on the scrapheap for whatever reason.
The one mistake MacColl makes is that like his father he saw the capitalist system as the enemy, the proverbial "bosses," rather than the bankers, the people who in the words of Steve Knightley a decade after MacColl's death, have dealt themselves a winning hand and loaded every dice
. Times were indeed hard during the Great Depression, but every employer, every "capitalist," is subjected to the same inelectable forces as the rest of us further down the food chain.
Alexander Baron - London, England