Throwing a Wrench into the Machine ” There But for the Grace of God Go I “

Posted on Posted in Alex Gutierrez, Miami Disco Project

I’ve played this track thousands of times since it was released in 1979. The song tells the tale of Carlos and Carmen Vidal who decide to move their daughter away from the city to isolate her from certain groups which they believe will be detrimental to her upbringing . The line reads ” Let’s find a place they say,somewhere far away with No Blacks,No Jews and No Gays” ( later rumored to have been changed to “Where only upper class people stay” for commercial release). In context it is their opinion and not the theme of the song. Yet the prominent placement and emphasis of this phrase can be deceptive to listeners hearing the song for the first time. Originally the band Machine ,a studio group formed by August Darnell, previously of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band and, later in the 80s, Kid Creole And The Coconuts intended to utilize the popular musical style of the time to deliver a social commentary unusual in the Disco genre. To the DJ of course it was just another great track to be played close to or at the peak of the evening since it was such a big hit. Playing to Disco crowds for the last 40 years , most who “mouthed” the lyrics of this track as they dance, and every time in the company of people from all walks of life ,I never thought twice about the lyrics. Played the record ,mixed out of it and that was that. Recently during a performance at a Disco themed night at a club ( ages 45 to about 55 ) I was approached by a customer who asked me ” Did that song just say what I thought it said” Now ,imagine for a second, music blaring , lights ,crowd noise. I wasn’t about to try to explain the context in which the phrase was intended,instead I said ” If you are still here later I will explain” Nodding her head ,she simply walked away. I don’t think I have ever run into a situation like this before in all my years. ” There but for the Grace of God” continues to be a highly requested track at all of these events, it’s representative of the era and won’t disappear from my playlist anytime soon ,insinuating that it is racist ,ant-semetic or homophobic is to do so without actually studying the lyrics, yet to a person not exposed to this song when it was first released it’s message could be distorted and misunderstood. How would you handle it?
By the way, she turned out to be ” A Natural Freak”
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THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I”
MACHINE

Carlos and Carmen Vidal just had a child
A lovely girl with a crooked smile
Now they gotta split ’cause the Bronx ain’t fit
For a kid to grow up in
Let’s find a place they say, somewhere far away
With no blacks, no Jews and no gays

There but for the grace of God, there go I
There but for the grace of God, there go I, I, I, I, I, I, I

Poppy and the family left the dirty streets
To find a quiet place overseas
And year after year the kid has to hear
The do’s and don’ts and the dears
And when she’s ten years old she digs that rock’n’roll
But Poppy bans it from the home

There but for the grace of God, there go I
There but for the grace of God, oh go I (could be me, could be you)
There but for the grace of God, oh go I, I, I, I, I, I, I

Baby, she turns out to be a natural freak
Gaining weight and losing sleep
And when she’s sweet sixteen, she packs her things and leaves
With a man she met on the street
Carmen starts to bawl, bangs her head to the wall
Too much love is worse than none at all

There but for the grace of God, there go I
There but for the grace of God, there go I
There but for the grace of God, oh go I
There but for the grace of God, oh go I, I, I, I, I, I, I

(Solo)

Carlos and Carmen Vidal just had a child
A lovely girl with a crooked smile
Now they gotta split ’cause the Bronx ain’t fit
For a kid to grow up in
Let’s find a place they say, somewhere far away
With no blacks, no Jews and no gays

There but for the grace of God, there go I
There but for the grace of God, oh go I, I, I, I, I, I, I.