Love of the Common People

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For the album by Waylon Jennings, see Love of the Common People (album).
One of first versions released in 1967, sung by The Four Preps

"Love of the Common People" is a folk ballad written and composed by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins, eventually released in 1970 on Hurley's album John Hurley Sings about People,[1] but first sung in January 1967 by The Four Preps.[2] It had been covered [2] by The Everly Brothers, country singers Waylon Jennings and Lynn Anderson, Pennsylvania Sixpence and also Wayne Newton, all in 1967, The Simple Image, Leonard Nimoy and the Gosdin Brothers in 1968, Elton John as well as soul group The Winstons in 1969, John Denver in his 1969 Rhymes & Reason album and Sandy Posey in 1970, the same year that reggae singer Nicky Thomas had a big hit in Europe with the song . It was also a hit in Ireland for showband star Joe Dolan. Wanda Jackson covered the song in 1971, as did Stiff Little Fingers and English pop singer Paul Young, both in 1982. In 2007 Bruce Springsteen covered it as part of his Seeger Sessions tour, releasing a live version of it as a bonus track on his Live in Dublin album.


The lyrics tell a bleak story of poverty and joblessness. There is a mention of "free food tickets," a reference to government food stamp and welfare programs, and the lyrics also describe the subject family as having holes in their clothes. Though Wilkins and Hurley did not expressly say so in the lyrics, the song is also a protest of what they saw as the failure of the American government to do more for the poor and unemployed than it already had.[citation needed]

Nicky Thomas version[edit]

Nicky Thomas recorded a Joe Gibbs-produced reggae version of the song in 1970, which sold over 175,000 copies in the United Kingdom and reached number 9 in the UK Singles Chart.[3][4] It was Thomas's largest selling single, and, according to Steve Leggett of Allmusic, "practically defines the term 'pop reggae.'[5]

Paul Young version[edit]

"Love of the Common People"
Single by Paul Young
from the album No Parlez
B-side "Behind Your Smile"
"Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)"
"It's Better to Have (And Don't Need)"
Released 1982 (Rerelease) 7 November 1983
Format 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl
Genre Soft rock, Synthpop
Length 3:33
5:50 (Extended Club Mix)
Label CBS
Writer(s) John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins
Producer(s) Laurie Latham
Paul Young singles chronology
"Iron Out the Rough Spots"
"Love of the Common People"
"Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)"
Paul Young singles chronology
"Come Back and Stay"
"Love of the Common People"
"Everytime You Go Away"

In 1982 Paul Young released his interpretation of "Love of the Common People" as a single, but it, initially, failed to chart. It was only when Young had his first hit in 1983 with "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)" and the single was re-released that it became a big hit. The single peaked at #2 in the UK, and reached the number one spot in Ireland and the Netherlands. This version also contained a solo by influential ska and reggae trombonist Rico Rodriguez.

On Stiff Little Fingers's re-mastered Now Then... album, there is an interview with Jake Burns where he re-calls Paul Young met Stiff Little Fingers at one of their concerts in Dunstable in support of the album in which Young asked Burns whether Stiff Little Fingers were planning to release the song as a single. When Burns told them they weren't, Young asked if they minded him releasing it as a single. They said he could, not thinking the single would do well. Burns then says jokingly in the interview, "Pfft! Go ahead. You'll never get anywhere with that, mate. Yeah, number 2, that'll teach me!"[citation needed]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1983) Peak
UK Singles Chart[6] 2
Irish Singles Chart[7] 1
Chart (1984) Peak
Austrian Singles Chart [8] 3
Dutch GfK chart[9] 1
Dutch Top 40[10] 1
Swiss Singles Chart[11] 3
US Billboard Hot 100[12] 45
Preceded by
"Love Me Just a Little Bit More (Totally Hooked on You)" by Dolly Dots
Dutch Top 40 number one single
28 January 1984 (1984-01-28) – 18 February 1984 (1984-02-18)
Succeeded by
"Radio Ga Ga" by Queen
Preceded by
"Uptown Girl" by Billy Joel
Irish Top 40 number one single
3 December 1983 (1983-12-03) – 10 December 1983 (1983-12-10)
Succeeded by
"Only You" by The Flying Pickets


  1. ^ John Hurley Sings about People, John Hurley, with Ronnie Wilkins. RCA Records LSP-4355, 1970
  2. ^ a b Finnis, Rob; Rounce, Tony (2010). You Heard It Here First! Volume 2 (CD booklet). London: Ace Records Ltd. p. 3. CDCHD 1250. 
  3. ^ Nicky Thomas at ChartStats, retrieved 6 December 2009
  4. ^ Moskowitz, David V. (2006) Caribbean Popular Music: an Encyclopedia of Reggae, Mento, Ska, Rock Steady, and Dancehall, Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-33158-8, p. 292
  5. ^ Leggett, Steve "Love of the Common People: The Best of Nicky Thomas Review, Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation, retrieved 6 December 2009
  6. ^ "Chart Stats - Paul Young - Love Of The Common People". Retrieved 7 March 2009. 
  7. ^ " search results". Retrieved 7 March 2009. 
  8. ^ "Paul Young - Love Of The Common People -". Retrieved 7 March 2009. 
  9. ^ " - Paul Young - Love Of The Common People". Retrieved 7 March 2009. 
  10. ^ "De Nederlandse Top 40, week 4, 1984". Retrieved 7 March 2009. 
  11. ^ "Paul Young - Love Of The Common People -". Retrieved 7 March 2009. 
  12. ^ "allmusic - Paul Young > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Retrieved 7 March 2009 (2009-03-07).  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)

External links[edit]