Song of the Day, November 26: Lal Waterson’s Reply to Joe Haines

NormaReplyToday’s song is Reply to Joe Haines. When Queen singer Freddie Mercury died, journalist Joe Haines wrote a scathing article about him in the Daily Mirror. Filled with faulty assumptions, rabid homophobia, and smarmy self-congratulation, the piece was a vitriolic misery. Lal Waterson was so enraged that she took to her craft and wrote an open letter to Haines which she later set to music. Shortly after Lal’s untimely death in 1998, her sister Norma included a cover of the song on her second solo album, The Very Thought of You. She describes the song in the liner notes.

the white knuckle fury of my sister Lal’s Reply to Joe Haines (originally called An Open Letter to Joe Haines) which is just that. A reply to the iniquitous article written by that man on the subject of Freddie Mercury’s disclosure that he was HIV positive (indeed that he had full blown AIDS) and which the Daily Mirror saw fit to print.

It’s a perfect description, and Norma sings it with a cold anger that does the lyrics proud. As with most of the album, it is half of a song pair, with Mercury’s Love of My Life from the band’s brilliant A Night At the Opera providing a beautiful counterpoint.

Read your letter, tore the page
Wondered whether to write in rage
Then I thought it better to use your trade
No-one should ever die of AIDS

Enjoy this powerful song today.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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