Ian Dury inspires Salford Uni research

A UNIVERSITY of Salford researcher is studying the way in which musicians affected by polio such as Ian Dury, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young have made sense of their bodies through their music.

Prof George McKay’s ‘Spasticus: Popular Music and Disability’ takes its name from the Ian Dury single Spasticus Autisticus which was released in 1981 to mark the UN International Year of Disabled Persons.

During his research into jazz and pop music, Prof McKay has uncovered a large number of musicians who, like Dury, were affected by polio.

These include well known jazz and pop performers like

ART: Musicians learnt to use their disabilities to express themselves

and Israel Vibration.

This can be partly explained by the prevalence of polio epidemics during the early years of pop and rock, but the research will also focus on how the musicians incorporated their disabilities within their writing and performances.

“Spasticus Autisticus remains the highest profile and most controversially direct intervention from a major pop artist to disability culture, and Dury produced a whole range of songs about his experience of disability,” Prof McKay said. “Yet as disability cultural studies have taught us more generally, the moment we begin to look for disability in popular music, we find it everywhere.

“My research will examine just how these artists made sense of their disabled bodies through their music and lyrics.”

Professor McKay aims to release the results of his research as a book in 2011 – to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Spasticus Autisticus’ release.

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