What to write about? I am a singer-songwriter. I play solo, with an acoustic trio or a five-piece electric band called The Key Collective. My compositions cover everything from political, thought-provoking folk (the Bob Dylan’s of the 2000s) to what has been coined “LA Grunge,” an electric alternative sound. In the last few years, I have been working at getting “back to the garden,” to creativity. I am a writer, an artist, and musician; my Expressive Therapy side.
Listen to the album while reading the text.
Always enough, seldom more than needed
I was raised in a middle-income family. I always had enough but seldom more than I needed. Growing up with two brothers I learned to share. I was taught the importance of acceptance, not to make fun of people and to appreciate what you have. I remember at a young age seeing a man with no legs. He pushed himself along the sidewalk on what looked like a longboard, with muscular arms and gloved hands. When I think of this image it reminds me of a quote,
“I complained that I had no shoes until I saw someone with no feet”.
(An Arabic and Irish Proverb).
I believe this was when I began to understand acceptance, empathy and was drawn to work with people in need.
I was employed within the social service and education world for the better part of 35 + years working in different locations and age groups; predominately as a Child and Youth practitioner. Many years ago, I was employed at two shelters, on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Canada. Over the span of close to six years, I was exposed to those folks who just needed a little help and nurturing. The experience opened my eyes and enabled me to become an advocate and singer-songwriter today, writing political, thought-provoking folk tunes.
The Times They Are a-Changin’
I started singing folk songs in the ’70s with a choir. We sang songs from Peter Paul and Mary, Dylan, Donovan and others. I believe a true folk singer, like Bob Dylan, writes about the society that they live in. Dylan wrote about the times that are changing, but have they really? When I see society clearly exhibiting an “Ostrich like” behavior, ignoring situations that need to be addressed, I am driven to write about it. Songs about Canadian’s as peacekeepers, “Changes” The Syrian refugees, “Marching,” Children of the street, “Angels of the street,” acceptance, antiwar songs, and other issues.
A friend of mine told me “you can’t mix politics and beer.” Ok then, I will write about injustices in a rock and roll song. Ozzie Osborn had the right idea with “War Pigs.” I call it political rock and roll. Another great example, in my opinion, is Bono, (U2) as a brilliant lyricist. I guess as a musician you don’t want to, ” shoot yourself in the foot” because writing political songs can undermine a musician’s career. I’m not concerned about what people think of my politics because I think it’s important to be an advocate and to have a passion for humanity.
Working on the downtown Eastside introduced me to an appreciation for humanity. The moments where I witnessed profoundness inspired me to write, and I believe lyrics can be very powerful. The street is a whole different community, and I observed a comradery that I have not witnessed anywhere else. For example, if a man has $5.00 in his pocket, but his friend has none he will share what he has. If you care to walk ten blocks west of Main and Hastings, where you can smell money in the air, another man wouldn’t give you anything, let alone talk to you.
I use lyrics to talk about understanding, tolerance, and generosity. I also believe that everyone has the right to have dignity and to be nurtured, regardless if your 4 or 84.
The lyrics from the song ‘Slow Down’ tell us,
“Let the poor man wear rich clothes,
his pockets are empty,
but nobody knows.”
The song, ‘Angels of the street,’ talks about homeless children. Lyrics like,
“they are somebody’s daughter,
their somebody’s son,
have we neglected our children,
what have we done.”
Although there is a positive comradery in downtown neighborhoods, like most communities, there is an element of negativity too. There are those that take advantage of the young, the naïve and vulnerable. “Hell Bent” is a song that talks about what I observed.
One of the most profound things I have seen involved a young woman walking down Hastings. When I saw her, I thought,
“There she was, a beautiful young woman, a girl really. She could have been fourteen or twenty. It was hard to tell, people on the street age differently than those of a different circumstance. Who knows where she came from, or where she’s been? She was dressed well and sported a shirt, a nice blouse, and black steeleto heels. She walked with a skip in her step. She looked happy, almost gleeful. The woman nodded to the people along the way, shaking hands, hugged some and others ‘high fived’. It was like there was an imaginary red carpet under her heels. She was in her element, with her people.”
I felt a pang of pity and sadness to see such a beautiful young precious soul to be in the “combat zone,” on the streets of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. But then… was it the combat zone to her or was she at home? Who knows if she was high, or does it matter? I saw her whole face light up when she smiled, not just with her eyes, but with her entire being. The song “Hell Bent” represents the vulnerable, the manipulated, the exploited.
Yesterday’s News is Tomorrow’s Lyrics
The song has also inspired me to create a music video and to bring attention to exploited young women on the street. Presently the project is in the planning stages, and it is my hope to collaborate with a non-profit group that could benefit from the video. In the future, I will also be creating several Ep’s. A Folk CD with a focus on today’s issues, a children’s EP and a live Electric Rock and Roll EP.
I will continue to write lyrics about the injustices and profoundness of life. I will write on the beach, in the park, in stairwells; where ever I am inspired. Not all my tunes are about political stuff; some are just a melody and poetry. Still, others are just good old Rock & Roll.
Yesterday’s news is the stuff of tomorrow’s lyrics.
Patricia Dunphy is a singer/songwriter,performing at various venues around greater Vancouver. Her music includes alternative, folk, Indie, children’s songs, rock, blues, country blues, covers; electric or acoustic sound. Tricia’s first album, Urban Folk was released in 2014 (independent label). She currently plays Solo or with ‘The Key Collective” or Tricia & the Rooster tails”.