There But For Fortune Lyrics and Music

“There But For Fortune” Song Lyrics

Enjoy the song “there but for fortune” lyrics below

Show me a prison, show me a jail
Show me a prisoner, whose face is growing 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 an alley, show me a train
Show me a hobo, who sleeps out in the rain
And I’ll show you a young man
With many reasons why
And there but for fortune, may go you or I.

Show me the whiskey, stains on the floor
Show me a drunken man, as he stumbles out the door
And I’ll show you a young man
With many reasons why
And there but for fortune may go you or I.

Show me the country, where the bombs had to fall
Show me the ruins of the buildings, once so tall
And I’ll show you a young land
With so many reasons why
And there but for fortune may go you and I … or I.

 

Facts About the Song “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.

Ochs recorded “There but for Fortune” twice. In 1964 he recorded it for the Vanguard compilation New Folks Volume 2. The 1964 recording was reissued on the 2000 compact disc The Early Years.

In 1966, tapes were made of Ochs’s concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Boston’s Jordan Hall. They were released as Phil Ochs in Concert. One of the songs on In Concert was “There but for Fortune”. Ochs introduces the song by saying it was written for him by Joan Baez, an ironic reference to her hit single.

Joan Baez cover

In October 1964, Baez recorded “There but for Fortune” for Joan Baez/5. It was released in the U.S. as a single[4] in June, 1965, with “Daddy, You Been on My Mind”, a Bob Dylan song, as the B-side. In July, it was released as a single in the U.K., where its B-side was “Plaisir D’Amour”.

The single became a Top Ten hit in the U.K., reaching #8. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Folk Recording”. In the U.S. it peaked at #50 on the Billboard chart — a good showing, but not a hit.

By coincidence, Joan Baez in Concert, Part 2 became a #8 hit in the U.K. at the same time “There but for Fortune” did.

Baez-Ochs duet

The Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975, and a “War Is Over” rally was held in New York’s Central Park on May 11. At the rally, Ochs and Baez sang a duet of “There but for Fortune”.

 

 

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