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The Joy of Living

[ Roud - ; DT JOYLIVE ; Mudcat 42500 ; new words and trad. arr. Ewan MacColl, tune trad. Sicilian]

Ewan MacColl wrote The Joy of Living in 1986. He and Peggy Seeger sang it in the same year on their Blackthorne album Items of News. He alsio sang it in 1990 on his Cooking Vinyl album Black and White. This track was also included in 1993 on the Cooking Vinyl Sampler Vol. 1. A performace from the EFDSS Gold Badge Award Concert recorded on 27 October 1987 at Cecil Sharp House was first broadcast by the BBC on 11 November 1987. It was included in 1995 on his and Peggy Seeger’s Cooking Vinyl album Folk on 2. And he noted in The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook:

The last time I climbed Suilven, or to be more precise, failed to climb it, was in my seventy-second year. I was with Peggy and our fourteen-year-old daughter, Kitty. “You go ahead,” I told them. “I’ll meet you at the top.” But the flesh is bruckle and the fiend is slee and I hadn’t gone more than half the distance when my legs refused to carry me further. I sat down on a rock, knowing that my mountain days were over. For the first time I was conscious of the full weight of my years. My desolation lasted for several days and then my grief and sense of loss gave way to nostalgia and I wrote The Joy of Living. In an odd way it helped me to come to terms with my old age.

Alison McMorland and Geordie McIntyre sang Joy of Living in 2001 on their Tradition Bearers album Rowan in the Rock.

Roy Bailey sang The Joy of Living in 2000 on his album Coda.

Dave Webber sang The Joy of Living in 2002 on his and Anni Fentiman’s album Away From It All.

Mick Groves sang Joy of Living in 2004 on his album of songs of Ewan MacColl, Fellow Journeyman.

Damien Barber and Mike Wilson sang The Joy of Living in 2009 on their album of cover versions, Under the Influence, and Ken Wilson sang int in 2016 on his album Portraits.

David Grey sang The Joy of Living in 2015 as the title track of Cooking Vinyl’s Ewan MacColl centenary tribute album, Joy of Living.

Jackie Oates sang The Joy of Living in 2018 as the title track of her ECC album The Joy of Living.


Ewan MacColl sings The Joy of Living

Farewell, you northern hills, you mountains all, goodbye.
Moorland and stony ridges, crags and peaks, goodbye.
Glyder Fach, farewell, Cui Beig, Scafell, cloud-bearing Suilven.
Sun-warmed rock and the cold of Bleaklow’s frozen sea,
The snow and the wind and the rain of hills and mountains.
Days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine—
And you drink and you drink till you’re drunk on the joy of living.

Farewell to you, my love, my time is almost done.
Lie in my arms once more until the darkness comes.
You filled all my days, held the night at bay, dearest companion.
Years pass by and are gone with the speed of birds in flight,
Our life like the verse of a song heard in the mountains.
Give me your hand then, love, and join your voice with mine—
We’ll sing of the hurt and the pain and the joy of living.

Farewell to you, my chicks, soon you must fly alone.
Flesh of my flesh, my future life, bone of my bone.
May your wings be strong, may your days be long, safe be your journey.
Each of you bears inside of you the gift of love—
May it bring you light and warmth and the pleasure of giving.
Eagerly savour each new day and the taste of its mouth—
Never lose sight of the thrill and the joy of living.

Take me to some high place of heather, rock and ling.
Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind.
So that I will be part of all you see, the air you are breathing.
I’ll be part of the curlew’s cry and the soaring hawk,
The blue milkwort and the sundew hung with diamonds.
I’ll be riding the gentle wind that blows through your hair.
Reminding you how we shared in the joy of living.