Talking Wheelchair Blues, Fred Smith,(1983)

Fred Smith, Talking Wheelchair Blues (1983)

Frederick Emerson Small, known publicly as Fred Small, is an American singer-songwriter. He began his career as a lawyer and later became a Unitarian Universalist minister. His songs often make a political or ethical statement. Wikipedia

Om his album Heart of Appolosa wrote and performed Talking Wheelchair Blues

This was a recognition of the burgeoning Disability  Rights Movement in the USA


I went for a jog in the city air
I met a woman in a wheelchair
I said “I’m sorry to see you’re handicapped.”
She says “What makes you think a thing like that?”

And she looks at me real steady
And she says, “You want to drag?”

So she starts to roll and I start to run
And she beat the pants off my aching buns
You know going uphill I’d hit my stride
But coming down she’d sail on by!

When I finally caught up with her
She says “Not bad for somebody able-bodied.
You know, with adequate care and supervision
You could be taught simple tasks.
So how about something to eat?”

I said that’d suit me fine
“We’re near a favorite place of mine.”
So we mosied on over there
But the only way in was up a flight of stairs.

“Gee, I never noticed that, ” says I.
“No problem the maitre di replies

There’s a service elevator around the back.

So we made it up the stairs with the elevator

With the garbage flying last week’s potatoes

I said I’d like a table for my friend and me

He said I’ll try and find one out of the way.

He whispers is she going to be sick or pee on the floor

Or throw some kind of a fit.

I says no, I don’t think so.

I think she once had polio,

That was twenty year ago.

See the fact of the matter is,

If the truth be told….

She can’t walk!

So he points at the table. She wheels her chair.

Some people look down. Some people stare.

A mother grabs her little girl and,

‘Says keep away honey, that woman’s ill’

We felt right welcome.

Then a fellow walks up and starts to babble

About the devil and the Holly Bible

‘Woman is marked and flesh as sin,

Prey to Jesus you will walk again’

Then the waiter says, ‘What can I get for you’.

I says Ill have your best imported brew

And he says, ‘What about her’.

I says ‘Who, He says ‘Her’.

‘Oh you mean my friend here.’

He says ‘Yeaah’. I says, ‘What about her’

‘What does she want’.

‘Why don’t you ask her’

Then he apologises and says,

‘He never waited on a cripple before’.

She talks to the manager when we are through.

She says there are things you could do

To make it easier for folks in wheelchairs.

He says ‘Oh it’s not necessary,

Handicapped never come here anyway’.

Well I said good night to my new found friend.

I said ‘I’m beginning to understand

A little bit, about how it feels to rove

Through live on a set of wheels.’

She says, ‘Don’t feel sad. Don’t feel sad.

I take the good along with the bad.

I was arrested once at a protest demo

And the police had to let me go.

See we were protesting the fact that public buildings

Weren’t wheelchair accessible.

Turned out the jail was the same way.

Anyway, I look at it this way

In fifty years you’ll be in worse shape than I am now.

See we’re all the same this Human Race

Some of us are called disabled.

And the rest.

Well the rest of you

Are just temporarily able-bodied.



How many barriers and stereotypes can you spot in the words?

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