Robb Johnson's Official Web Site

Ordinary Giants - Background and Introduction


CD cover ORDINARY GIANTS (IRR223) is a triple CD released in November 2018, distribution by Discovery.

Ordinary Giants is a song suite by acclaimed songwriter Robb Johnson based on the life and times of his father, Ron Johnson. It’s a family history of the 1930s, the Second World War and the Welfare State, performed by over 30 people, from well-known names like Tom Robinson, Claire Martin, Boff Whalley, Roy Bailey, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady, MP Dennis Skinner, FBU activist Steve White, Joe Solo, Tracey Curtis, Alan Clayson, Matthew Crampton, to children from the school where Robb taught. Robb’s parents are sung by Phil Odgers (from The Men They Couldn't Hang) and Miranda Sykes (currently playing bass with Show of Hands). Musicians include Rory McLeod, Bobby Valentino, Jenny Carr, and Robb’s longstanding rhythm section, John Forrester on bass and son Arvin Johnson on drums.

There are songs and spoken word pieces about the social realities of the 30s, the growth of fascism, the experience of the second world war, the NHS, comprehensive schools, anti-racism and the attacks on the welfare state by the Right.  Some of the songs are funny, some are sad, some are love songs and some are political satires (UKIP phones in to demand their song "All You Need is Tweed" is included on the album). The album is dedicated to the generation that built the welfare state, and a celebration of the idea that we can make a better world through collective action. 

This section of the web site will contain a lot of information about the project: the bulk of it will be pages of text, backgrounding each song with a historical context and/or family significance. Then there are Robb's father's poems; then maybe a couple of galleries of photos - obviously there are old family photos, but also quite a few from the recording sessions; and who knows how it will grow...

A recent addition is this Youtube video (6:29 mts long) which is an interview with Rex Arnett, the last surviving member of  the crew of J Johnnie. In the crew photograph, he is the young, smiling man in the front row, second from the left (Ron is standing, smoking a pipe, on the far right). Rex wasn't flying with J Johnnie the night they were shot down because he had been signed off ill with bronchitis. His replacement, Des Bryant, did not survive the attack. It is a most moving testimony.

Buy Ordinary Giants from the distributors, Discovery; or, to buy with Paypal, e-mail for details.

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