“The children are always ours, every single one of them, all over the globe; and I am beginning to suspect that whoever is incapable of recognising this may be incapable of morality”– James Baldwin
During the 2014 Israeli military operations in Gaza, Leon wrote The Ballad of Rivka and Mohammad. How horrifying that, over a decade later, it is still relevant. Find the lyrics here.
Leon Rosselson is an acclaimed singer and songwriter with more than 50 years of performing under his belt and the author of 17 children’s books. Here you can find more information, a complete bibliography and musicography of Leon’s works as well as an up to date list of upcoming gigs.
You can also get in touch if you’d like more information or to purchase a book or record.
Leon Rosselson has spent a lifetime chronicling the times in song and envisioning the birth of a world after capitalism.
His book is an absorbing account of his journey from a childhood during the 2nd World War to lockdown during the pandemic, with lyrics from his songs to light up the way.
Also available, a compilation of all the songs mentioned in the text on CD or on a double LP. Both include all the song lyrics. The double LP has liner notes by Robb Johnson.
‘Like many of his more complex songs, Leon Rosselson’s eminently readable memoir consists of discrete – and sometimes seemingly disparate – sections yet coheres as a fascinating deeply thoughtful whole.’– read the full review on Morning Star
‘This is a gem of a book… Leon’s writing is often laugh-out-loud hilarious. At other times it is moving and reflective…’– read the full review on Jewish Voice for Labour
‘One of the joys of this book is the writing. Rosselson has written for children but he is a good adult writer. Orwell would have approved of his uncluttered, clear style.’– MQB Magazine
Number 1 beach read for the summer: ‘Leon Rosselson weaves his own musical and political journey into an extraordinarily powerful account of how with acoustic guitar and a good tune, while we may not be able to dance to it, the spectacle of how and why we must change the world is more than enough to have us humming along.’– Philosophy Football
‘I am reading with immense pleasure, Rosselson’s memoirs, a slim but absorbing volume combining essays and those clever witty lyrics.’– Salut Live
‘It would not be hyperbolic to describe Leon Rosselson as a living legend…. The book is an engaging read’– read the full review on Labour Hub
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I remember, I remember when my world was hardly grown
And the daughter of a dead dull king ascended to the throne
And though I was just a lad at school, I saw it all with scorn
The solemn, sacred emptiness, the monumental yawn
And the slime exuding daily from the sycophantic slugs
And the Coronation ash trays and the Coronation mugs
And the rows of ermined mummies with their maggot-eaten brains
All the swarms of bloated blowflies the majestic turd sustains.
Droves of decorated duchesses like newly painted slums
Kneeling flunkeys, praying monkeys, loyal holes for royal crumbs
And the well-heeled sharks discreetly selling tickets for the show
Park Lane balconies with champagne at a thousand quid a throw.
Come and cheer the golden fairy Queen, forget your daily cares
For she radiates a glory that a grateful nation shares
And the pageantry, the panoply, the sanctified decay –
But I knew the hour was coming that would sweep it all away.
Now time has me in a corner and I’m moth-eared from the fray
But Her Majesty is reigning still today.
With a glass cage around her and an absence in her eyes
And though regiments surround her, they can’t take her by surprise
She’s as poised as a picture, she’s a sight for all to see
With a glass cage around her on her Silver Jubilee
with a glass cage around her she feels free.
I remember 1956, division East and West
British paratroops in Suez, Russian tanks in Budapest
And the peaceful marchers singing for the dream that must come true
Of a world freed from the nightmare we’ve since grown accustomed to
And the Cuban missile crisis with the rumours flying round
That the Queen was in her secret bomb-proof palace underground
And the violence exploding when anger made a stand
For a peasant people burning in a torn and tortured land.
And the Monarch walked her corgis behind the palace wall
Never once betraying what she felt or if she felt at all.
While her husband shot his mouth off like a walking blunderbuss
She gave birth to royal children with the minimum of fuss
Maintained her waxwork dignity as she trod the royal dance
Fulfilled her royal functions in a kind of royal trance
Balmoral, Ascot, Sandringham, the ship launching routine,
Palace banquets, garden parties ever smiling and serene
Unique symbol, model woman, never seeing, always seen
so we watched her as she played at being Queen.
With a glass cage around her etc.
She seems so commonplace a woman in her fuddy-duddy hats
But she doesn’t stand in bus queues or live in high-rise flats
And she doesn’t ride the rush hour or cycle down the Strand
And she doesn’t play maraccas in the Ivy Benson band.
And she doesn’t shop for bargains, she’s never on the dole
And if she does the football pools she doesn’t tell a soul.
And she never used to bother with the Inland Revenue
Though she’s royally rewarded for the things she doesn’t do
With palaces and properties and to keep her in good cheer
A working wage of 36.7 million pounds a year
A royal train, a royal plane, a costly royal yacht
And lucrative investments in only God knows what.
Oh the magic of the monarchy, the mystery sublime
Growing gracefully and effortlessly richer all the time.
She’s the rock of hope and glory in the quicksand of despair
For although the pound may tumble, although panic fills the air
Although governments may crumble and the cupboard’s nearly bare
Though the stairs begin to rattle and the rats begin to stare
She enfolds in mystic unity her subjects everywhere
And we know we’re safe from harm while Nanny’s there.
With a glass cage etc.
“Turning Silence Into Song” – Leon Rosselson has been doing that for six decades, creating a sound track for unsung heroes and unspeakable scoundrels. Revisit his classics or be introduced to one you never heard before. Invite someone who never heard of Leon – it’s about time!
This live Zoom concert, sponsored by The People’s Music Network, featured an international lineup of musical luminaries celebrating the life and work of Leon Rosselson.
- Frankie Armstrong, www.frankiearmstrong.uk (UK)
- Billy Bragg, www.billybragg.co.uk (UK)
- Rick Burkhardt, www.rickburkhardt.com (US)
- Martin Carthy, www.mainlynorfolk.info/martin.carthy (UK)
- Russ Chandler, www.russchandlermusic.com (UK)
- Barbara Dane, www.barbaradane.net (US)
- Chris Foster, www.chrisfoster-iceland.com (Iceland)
- Robb Johnson, www.robbjohnson.co.uk (UK)
- Reem Kelani, www.reemkelani.com (UK)
- Nancy Kerr, www.nancykerr.co.uk (UK)
- Sandra Kerr, www.sandrakerr.net (UK)
- Charlie King, www.charlieking.org (US)
- Leon Rosselson, www.leonrosselson.co.uk (UK)
- Martin Simpson, www.martinsimpson.com (UK)
- Dean Stevens, www.facebook.com/Dean-Stevens-Musician-158769790827759 (US)
- Elijah Wald, www.elijahwald.com (US)
There’s lots to comment on in these turbulent times so Leon has launched a new blog on Medium.com. There you’ll find provocative musings on songwriting, politics and life’s little ironies. Leon’s first musing asks if Zionism is inherently antisemitic and comes after the suspension of Ken Livingstone and the furore over supposed antisemitism in the Labour Party.
My local Labour controlled council has just voted, like other councils, as well as universities and the UK government, to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. This consists of a rather loose basic definition, followed by a rambling discourse around the subject that twice mentions Israel and then 11 examples, 7 of which refer to the state of Israel. Anyone with a functioning brain might suspect that this definition has less to do with protecting Jews from antisemitism than with shielding Israel from criticism.
When the European Parliament were due to vote on whether to adopt this definition, I wrote to my MEPs urging them to reject it. Two replied in identical terms, pointing out that the definition makes it clear that ‘criticism of Israel cannot be regarded as antisemitic’. Except that it doesn’t. They lied. Why would they do that? What it actually says is that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’.
The italicised phrase changes everything. Why is it there? Obviously to muddy the waters. Who is to decide whether criticism of Israel goes beyond that levelled against any other country? In any case, Israel is not like any other country. It is a settler colonial state, founded on massacres and ethnic cleansing. It is, by any definition, a criminal state. Transferring Israeli settlers into the occupied territory is illegal, as is transferring Palestinian prisoners into Israeli jails. The Wall, built largely on Palestinian land was judged illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. The collective punishment inflicted on the people of Gaza is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel itself is a racist state where ‘Arabs’ are viewed as a demographic threat. Unlike other countries (Myanmar is an exception), it is not a state for all its citizens but for all the Jews in the world, who are given the ‘Right of Return’, a right denied to the indigenous people.
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Leon Rosselson has been at the forefront of songwriting in Britain for over 5 decades. His latest collection (and final recording) features some of his finest songs, ranging from the humorous to the poignant and from the lyrical to the satirical. Stories for our times, musically varied and not a word out of place
Track List: 1. FULL MARKS FOR CHARLIE 2. WHERE ARE THE BARRICADES? 3. LOOTERS 4. BENEFITS 5. SIXTY QUID A WEEK 6. I’M GOING WHERE THE SUITS WILL SHINE MY SHOES 7. LET’S GIVE THANKS 9. REJOICE 8. MARITAL DIARIES 10. FAIR’S FAIR 11. ACTIVE AGEING 12. PARIS IN THE RAIN 13. THE BALLAD OF RIVKA & MOHAMMED 14. FOUR DEGREES CELSIUS 15. AT DAWN
With Roy Bailey, Robb Johnson, John Kirkpatrick, Liz Mansfield, Janet Russell and Fiz Shapur.
Send a cheque as per Mail Order instructions here or click the Buy Now button below.
On 22nd June 2014, Leon turned 80!
Friends and family joined him for a day of singing and merry-making
Leon’s life in records was served up for dessert, in flavours of ginger, date and lemon. Yum!
One day before his 80th birthday, Leon joined forces with Owen Jones, Russell Brand and fifty thousand people to protest against austerity at a rally organised by the People’s Assembly
We spotted this video of Leon in action on the web.
Credit: Garlic Toothpaste on YouTube
live (on tour in Berkeley, CA), presenting two nights of their original songs,
words, and inimitable performance.
Leon’s first gig of the new year will be on Sunday 5th January at 7.30pm at Walthamstow Folk Club.
Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Pub,
53 Hoe St., London E17.
Call 07740 612607 for more details or visit www.walthamstowfolk.co.uk
On the 10th November, Leon will join forces with the London Lucumi Choir, which counts his daughter Daniela Rosselson amongst its singers, for a performance at Jamboree.
Click here for more information.
Lullaby for Naila is a collection of lullabies & children’s songs put together for Naila, Leon’s granddaughter, by his daughter Daniela Rosselson. The collection is made up of songs from countries with which Naila has a connection and features the London Lucumi Choir, Juwon Ogungbe & Reem Kelani.
The CD is not yet available but songs can be downloaded here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/
The Irish Left Review listens to The World Turned Upside Down and compares Leon to “an anarchist Noel Coward”