Wednesday 18 September 2019

I'll vote No and my song shows why

Songwriter Johnny Duhan, who penned well-known tune 'The Voyage', has written a song that celebrates the miracle of life

Johnny Duhan
Johnny Duhan

Johnny Duhan

What started me writing my new song, Could Have Been Me, was a moving account in a LoveBoth leaflet by a French student. Victoria expressed gratitude that her mother, who was a just a teenager at the time, had withstood pressure to abort her. A single line from her survival story haunted me for days: "I've come to view each baby as unique and irreplaceable."

The more I thought on this obvious but neglected fact, the more I was driven to pick up my instruments of composition and start straining for musical and poetic inspiration to put form to my feelings on a subject that had me in its grip.

To start, I watched a YouTube video of a recent abortion operation (something I wouldn't recommend to the fainthearted) and formulated an opening verse based on the clinical procedure of fetal termination that pertains today, followed by a chorus based on general abortion survival stories that I read up on.

While I was working on it, an incontrovertible axiom came to me as my rationale: the Eighth Amendment has resulted in a number of accidental fatalities. Its removal will usher in the deliberate termination of countless innocent lives.

My heart went out to an infant pumped from its mother's womb,

through a cannula where its tiny life was consumed,

and as it seeped away molten tears came to my eyes,

and burned me up for the countless souls like this who die.

That innocent life could have been me but for my mother's sensibility,

in thinking things out with me in mind, her living child.

For a second verse I called on Victoria's assessment of the sanctity of individual life and also drew on a point that Kathy Sinnott brought to my attention: that the unborn have no voice.

Now I've come to view each newborn baby as unique,

irreplaceable as the love we give and the love we take,

and as I make my way through life I often kneel and pray,

for the silent ones whose voiceless tongues have no say.

That innocent life could have been me but for my mother's bravery,

in thinking things through with me in mind, her grateful child.

A dissonant bridge section came out of the blue - a complex melodic structure beyond my usual musical scope and skill - and words formulated around the discordant descending scale of brittle notes with iron weight.

It could have been me, it could have been you;

It could be anyone of a few, lining up in a voting queue.

For a final verse I reflected on the numerous girls who make the sad journey to the UK for abortions, from the perspective of a survivor (John) whose mother was sent as a 16-year-old to a London clinic for an abortion that was halted by a last-minute call by John's grandmother, who had a change of heart just in the nick of time.

For the lonely girls who cannot cope and give in,

to the pressure of their own fear or another will,

my heart goes out to you in deepest empathy,

for in you I see my mother before she had me.

That innocent life could have been me but for my mother's sensitivity,

In thinking with her heart pounding to find her loving child.

Could Have Been Me is a depiction of near-death experiences and not just a piece of propaganda. It's a real song, with true artistic values. If some find the potency and poignancy of the lyric disturbing, then that's regrettable - but not a valid reason to suppress the song.

My main aim in writing the work was to celebrate the lives of survivors who, against the odds, came through the hazard of near-extinction to experience the miraculous wonder of being alive in our world through the pure power of love.

© johnnyduhan.com

Sunday Independent

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