JACK LAW singer/songwriter
HOLD ONTO YOUR DREAMS
Young people dream of a better life, perhaps of a wonderful peaceful or adventurous life. But within the stifling structures of contemporary capitalism which has distorted democracy and culture, too many people suffer. The dismantling of the welfare state, the sell-off of our water, rails, coal, gas, oil, and public buildings and the closure of schools, youth centres, libraries and many programmes all occurred to supposedly pay the bankers back for their gambling our wealth away.* They have deeply injured all of us, but especially our young who have also exceptionally suffered though the two years of covid.
There are moments in history when a new generation arises from the mass of people and finds they can cultivate their talents and eventually take centre stage whilst addressing their peers. Leonard Cohen referred to this as the hole where the light gets in. Jack Law was one of those beams of light in the late ‘60s who rose from a solid Clydebank industrial working-class background to fame through his song writing and his voice.
Jack Law, singer, songwriter eventually became a community worker, policy-maker, and a carer of many people across his long career in some of the most underserved areas of Glasgow and the shipyards. He grew up in a ship worker’s house, son of a Communist Party father and a radical mother, with a Trotskyist grandfather. They would have clanging arguments over Sunday lunches. Jack, the child, would look from one to the other as they made their points, argued their corner about the purges, the battle for Prague, and the hearts and minds of the remnants of the Communist parties in Italy, France and the UK.
He told me that his father, like other men who worked in the John Brown Shipyards, day-by-day waiting to see if they had an assignment, hated the insecurity of ‘working for the man’. Many of them escaped by setting up small businesses. His father created a cooperative bird cage building factory. At the end of the first year, he equally divided all the profits they had made between the workers, including himself. Unused to business, he hadn’t realised he needed to pay various taxes at the end of the year. He went bankrupt, but not to be deterred, he opened a pet shop specialising in rare fish and birds. Then, industrial workers had a passion for raising parrots, parakeets and pigeons, as well as angel fish and other fish with exotic qualities. Jack helped his father after school and remembers watching muscular hairy men, smelling of machine oil and sweat, coming into the shop and so gently asking about the qualities of the various fish or birds. Like all of us, they were searching for beauty, fineness and perhaps something delicate that they could be responsible for. In front of ‘the man’ they were numbers, suffering the unbearable lightness of being, but in front of their pets, they were gods, providing them all their conditions for life.
As a young man Jack became seduced by the lure of the guitar. He said it was because as a shy young man he noticed that his friends who had the pretty girls on their arms, all played the guitar. His father, seeing his son’s interest, studied books, cut the balsa wood, took thin metal strings he used to enclose bird cages, and crafted a guitar for his son. “I was young”, said Jack, “I didn’t recognise what he had done for me”.
He touched some fame, first in the local bars and clubs, and then, as his music blended into the burgeoning folk movement, he and his two partners, began to travel the country singing to ever growing audiences. On his website is this:
“Writing since his teens, played alongside Donovan, Billy Connolly, Gallaher & Lyle and countless others, Jack's influences range from the 60's until today. His songs are influenced by experience & observations, the personal & the political. He's not afraid to stand up for what he believes in or to explore his feeling of love and loss. His beliefs are of hope and love, his songs reflect this.”
But as many groups, first Ian Campbell left and later he separated with Billy Campbell. Jack returned to college, influenced by the rent and other strikes and sit-ins, he took a degree in community work, revealing the caring, community-oriented nature of his family and his class.
This alone speaks of the great loss of working-class culture to the solidity of British society. Today we are left with a dissembled far-flung remnant of what was once a strong, proud class of people capable of nurturing not only a vital contribution to the overall culture of the nation but also to caring for their own and maintaining a strong class and personal identity. Because of Thatcher and her circus of neoliberals with their mendacious greed, this is now all but gone, leaving vast numbers of confused and disillusioned young people and their elders.
In relation to this, Jack’s wistful song of longing, HOLD ON TO YOUR DREAMS, is a fitting tribute to a vision of peace as it is a paean to the lost souls of his forlorn class, remembering and reminding who they were and how they might find solace in living up to the best of what they could be by holding on to their dreams.
This video came about by Jack meeting the painter Ricky Romain, whose work is devoted to human rights and the human condition. Jack asked if he could use Ricky’s paintings in some way to represent the song’s meanings. When Ricky agreed, being a friend of mine, he asked if I would be interested in helping make the film. Once I recognised Jack’s worldview and mine were similar, I volunteered to help. Together we freely collaborated to make this film, dedicated to the heroic work of the men and women who are MSF, Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders.
SEE THE FILM HERE and please give a donation…
*the 2008 banking crisis was a consequence of many complex financial scandals but chief amongst them was that from Regan and Thatcher on, many of the constraints put in place to oversee the financial institutions were removed in the name of an unconstrained free market. The rich and their rightist politicians insist that CEOs and institutions will always do the right thing to balance the market, thus do not need government constraints as oversight, laws, taxes, leverage rates, etc. They preferred to ignore the ignoble, greedy lusts for wealth and power that overtakes those who would be kings. The result of the crisis was to introduce
Jack Law: www.jacklawsongs.com
Romain website: www.rickyromain.com
Robert Golden website: robertgoldenpictures.com
Jack Law Band-camp: jacklaw76.bandcamp.com