Song Lyric Sunday – 30 May 2021 – The Streets of London

Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday gives us the chance to share familiar, and sometimes not so familiar, songs. This week the prompt is to find a song that includes a City, Country, County, State, or Town.

If you fancy sharing one of your favourite songs you can find out how to participate, and also listen to all the great entries, here.

If I tell you that you are going to listen to the greatest song written by Ralph May you may well be a little confused. It is an enduring song that has been covered by over 200 artists all around the world and, sadly, is as relevant today as it was when it was written in 1969.

The song was inspired by Ralph McTell’s experiences busking and hitchhiking throughout Europe, especially in Paris. He was originally going to call the song “Streets of Paris, but eventually London was chosen, because he realised he was singing about London and, also, there was another song called “The Poor People of Paris.”

McTell’s song contrasts the common problems of everyday people with those of the homeless, lonely, elderly, ignored, and forgotten members of society. They are still there!

This video tracks The Streets of London, and Ralph Mc Tell, through the years, and has a great interview with the singer telling the background to the song. He tells it far better than I could.

This one shows some great views of London streets, the people inhabiting them, and great street art, including a Banksie!

and this one is Ralph Mc Tell’s 70th birthday performance accompanied by John Williams. Still fantastic after all those years!

There are so many covers of this song, all with their various merits. The very sad fact that the problems that caused this song to be written 52 years ago still exist show how inept mankind is at fixing inequality! 

Streets of London

Have you seen the old man in the closed down market
Kicking up the papers with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride, hand held loosely by his side
Yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news

So how can you tell me you’re lonely
And say for you that the sun doesn’t shine?
Oh, let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind

Have you seen the old girl who walks the streets of London?
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talkin’, she keeps right on walkin’
Carrying her home in two carrier bags

So how can you tell me you’re lonely
And say for you that the sun doesn’t shine?
Oh, let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind

In the all night café at a quarter past eleven
Same old man sitting there on his own
Looking at the world over the rim of his teacup
Each tea lasts an hour then he wanders home alone
So how can you tell me you’re lonely
And say for you that the sun doesn’t shine?
Oh, let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind

Have you seen the old man outside the seaman’s mission?
Memory fading with the medal ribbons that he wears?
In our winter city the rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero and a world that doesn’t care

Oh, how can you tell me you’re lonely
And say for you that the sun doesn’t shine?
Oh, let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Ralph Mc Tell

Streets of London lyrics © Kmr Music Royalties Ii Scsp, Westminster Music Ltd