They were the dispossessed, reclaiming what was theirs

I've long loved John McCutcheon's 1991 rendition of Leon Rosselson's 1975 song “The World Turned Upside Down” (not to be confused with the Hamilton song by that name, nor with the other song by that name that Hamilton mentions). The song is about the Diggers, a sort of proto-anarchist commune in 17th-century England.

If people know this song at all, they're usually familiar with the 1985 Billy Bragg version, which I like, but I like McCutcheon's version a little more.

You can hear McCutcheon's version on YouTube. His version of the lyrics transposes the final two verses, ending on a hopeful note. You can purchase the song from iTunes; it's part of what's probably still my favorite album of McCutcheon's, What It's Like.

I've been listening to McCutcheon's version for 25 years, but it wasn't until last night that it occurred to me that the song's author, Leon Rosselson, might also have recorded the song. I had never heard of him in any other context, but now I was curious. So I searched, and found out that Rosselson is still alive, and he has a website, and he's been recording songs for fifty years.

And he did indeed record “The World Turned Upside Down,” and you can listen to his version on YouTube. It's very different from the Bragg and McCutcheon versions; slower and gentler, which I don't normally like for this song, but having more than one voice singing works really well for me. Especially on the line “You poor take courage.”

There's a four-volume set of 72 of Rosselson's songs from 1960 through 2010, including songs like “Stand up for Judas” and “Song of the Old Communist.” His version of “World Turned Upside Down” that's on YouTube (linked above) is the second half of the track “The World Turned Upside Down Parts 1 & 2.”

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