Sometimes the scale of tragedy and injustice in this world is just so enormous that words seem to have no power — to persuade or to comfort.

Arum lily. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

Arum lily. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

Such has been this week as we are finally waking up to the growing disaster that is the world’s refugee crisis.

So it may seem frivolous, in the midst of so much suffering, to mourn a single death. But today I do.

Today Graham Brazier died.

Unless you’re a New Zealander, you probably haven’t heard that name. But for Kiwis of my generation, the singer-song writer and frontman of Hello Sailor, has been a huge part of the soundtrack of our lives.

Troubled, argumentative, frequently drunk; he personified Rock ‘n Roll’s bad-boy image.That didn’t stop his music being powerful, beautiful, thought-provoking and sometimes utterly breath-taking.

And that is the point of music; of all art. To take our breath away. To make us feel.

And I can’t help believing that right now, we need the capacity to feel. Compassion, empathy, anger: whatever it takes to ease the suffering of our refugee sisters and brothers.

My favourite Graham Brazier song is Billy Bold; written about the 1981 riots in Toxteth, Liverpool. The lyrics are sadly appropriate to today.

Born in the sight of a Liverpool dock
It weren’t the call of the sea
Was the sound of poverty
So they write you down on their social list
Songs of war and girls that don’t exist
And how you can’t be free
Yesterday we were ten years old
Yesterday we were freezing cold
Yesterday you had us bought and sold but now
We are Billy Bold
Must we immigrate or stand and fight?
Troubled times we must unite
Let the chains that bind us be
There’s no need to shout, everybody knows
It’s wilted now, our English rose
Let’s storm the last Bastille
For baton’s hard and the dungeon’s cold
You are black and white, young and old
Yesterday we did what we were told but now
We are Billy Bold
Yesterday we were ten years old
Yesterday we were freezing cold
Yesterday you had us bought and sold but now
We are Billy Bold
And you hear the drums they roll
Street war must take it’s toll
But now we are Billy Bold

— Billy Bold, Graham Brazier

Graham Brazier (6 May 1952 – 4 September 2015)


We are Billy Bold

13 thoughts on “We are Billy Bold

  1. Great tribute,the accompanying photo in mono is so symbolic dear Su!Migrant chaos is escalating day by day and the Mighty of the world let it go.I can see thousands of them in the Greek islands,the scenes are heartbreaking 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Doda. I am heartened that people here are beginning to demand our government increase the number of refugees resettled in NZ. But it is a drop so small in an ocean so large, I fear it is little more than a symbolic salve to a comfortable collective conscience. And meantime, the real issues that lead to such mass exodus go unaddressed. But for the tiny few who benefit from quota increases, these small steps are life-saving. Nga mihi nui (all my best wishes) my friend. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m a bit heartened too to see that some more counties have decided to respond to refugee crisis.But the cause remains,it’s all a well-orchestrated strategy to serve the interests of the Mighty.History will speak in the future.Kia pai tō rā dear Su 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

          • Why not,there must be long history and culture behind Maori.I didn’t know it was an official language.It’s really sad when they try to “drown”each sign of any language for reasons we all understand.I was shocked when a friend of mine from Wales told me that Welsh was prohibited at schools and if the Sts used it they were punished …

            Liked by 1 person

          • It is the same here with Maori. It is usual for colonial powers to suppress the culture — including the language — of indigenous people. It is only in the last 20 or so years that Maori culture/language has had any sort of revival. There is a tendency to appropriate cultural symbols (the haka being a prime example) and try to claim them as defining “New Zealand” while at the same time Maori suffer greater poverty, lower life expectancy, higher child mortality, over-representation in prison, etc. We like to think we are a multi-cultural society, but it is very much on white, middle-class terms.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Im afraid it will come to full burst. And its chilling to read the words refugee camps.. It just reminds you of a time in Europe that saw the most depraved horror against human beings. With my international economics teacher we discussed this and the idea of an impending war in europe. Greece, spain, italy.. The poverty there at times is no less than the countries where the refugees come from. I love the song. Its sad but hopefull at the same time.


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