THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs

THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE

“There But For Fortune” is a song by American folk musician Phil Ochs. Ochs wrote the song in 1963 and recorded it twice, for New Folks Volume 2 (Vanguard, 1964) and Phil Ochs in Concert (Elektra, 1966). Joan Baez also recorded “There but for Fortune” in 1964, and her version of the song became a chart hit.
“There but for Fortune” consists of four verses, each one of which ends with the line “there but for fortune may go you or I”. The first verse is about a prisoner. The second verse describes a hobo. The third verse is about a drunk who stumbles out of a bar. The final verse describes a country that has been bombed.
One of Ochs’ biographers wrote that, “of all the songs that Phil would ever write, none would show his humanity as brilliantly as the four brief verses of ‘There but for Fortune'”.
The song’s title was used as the name of the 1989 compilation album There but for Fortune, which featured material taken from three albums Ochs recorded for Elektra Records between 1964 and 1966. Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune was also used as the title of Michael Schumacher’s 1996 biography, as well as Kenneth Bowser’s 2011 documentary on the singer’s life.

Show me a prison, show me a jail,
Show me a prisoner whose face has gone pale
And I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why
And there but for fortune, may go you or I
Show me the alley, show me the train,
Show me a hobo who sleeps out in the rain,
And I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, may go you or go I you and I.
Show me the whiskey stains on the floor,
Show me the dunkin’ man as he stumbles out the door,
And I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, may go you or go I you and I.
Show me the country where bombs had to fall,
Show me the ruins of buildings once so tall,
And I’ll show you a young land with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or go I you and I.
You and I,
There but for fortune, go you or go I you and I.