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 his writing partner, Ronnie Wilkins,[1] eventually released in 1970 on John Hurley's album John Hurley Sings about People,[2] but first sung in January 1967 by The Four Preps.[3] It had been covered [3] 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, reggae legend Eric Donaldson and the Gosdin Brothers in 1968, Elton John and also soul group The Winstons, both in 1969, John Denver on his 1969 album Rhymes & Reasons, 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.[4][5] It was Thomas's largest selling single, and, according to Steve Leggett of Allmusic, "practically defines the term 'pop reggae.'[6]

Paul Young version[edit]

"Love of the Common People"
Artwork for European releases, including the 1983 UK re-release
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
7 November 1983 (Re-release)
Format 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl
Genre Soft rock, Synthpop
Length 3:33 (7")
5:50 (12")
4:56 (Original Album)
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 that they were not, 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]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1983/1984) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[7] 8
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[8] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[9] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[10] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[11] 1
France (IFOP)[12] 24
Germany (Official German Charts)[13] 5
Ireland (IRMA)[14] 1
Italy (FIMI)[15] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[16] 10
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[17] 8
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[18] 3
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[19] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[20] 45
US Cash Box[21] 50

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1983/1984) Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[22] 13
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[23] 8
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[24] 10
Germany (Official German Charts)[25] 34
Italy (FIMI)[26] 5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[27] 25

See also[edit]

Preceded by
"Thriller" by Michael Jackson
Belgian (Flemish) Top 30 number one single
4 February 1984 (1984-02-04) – 3 March 1984 (1984-03-03)
Succeeded by
"Radio Ga Ga" by Queen
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
Preceded by
"Ci sarà" by Al Bano and Romina Power
Italian number one hits
7 April 1984 (1984-04-07) – 2 June 1984 (1984-06-02)
Succeeded by
"Jump" by Van Halen


  1. ^
  2. ^ John Hurley Sings about People, John Hurley, with Ronnie Wilkins. RCA Records LSP-4355, 1970
  3. ^ a b Finnis, Rob; Rounce, Tony (2010). You Heard It Here First! Volume 2 (CD booklet). London: Ace Records Ltd. p. 3. CDCHD 1250. 
  4. ^ "Love of the Common People - Nicky Thomas". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 1 June 2016. 
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ Leggett, Steve "Love of the Common People: The Best of Nicky Thomas Review, Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation, retrieved 6 December 2009
  7. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989 , part 2". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  8. ^ " – Paul Young – Love of the Common People" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  9. ^ " – Paul Young – Love of the Common People" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 4, 1984" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  11. ^ " – Paul Young – Love of the Common People" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  12. ^ "Le Détail par Artiste". InfoDisc (in French). Select "Paul Young" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  13. ^ " – Paul Young – Love of the Common People". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  14. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Love of the Common People". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  15. ^ "HitParadeItalia Top10 on 07 April 1984". HitParadeItalia (in Italian). Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  16. ^ " – Paul Young – Love of the Common People". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  17. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (Y)". The South African Rock Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  18. ^ " – Paul Young – Love of the Common People". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  19. ^ "Archive Chart: 1983-12-03" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  20. ^ "Paul Young - Chart History". Billboard Hot 100. Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  21. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending JUNE 30, 1984 at the Wayback Machine (archived 11 September 2012). Cash Box magazine.
  22. ^ "Jahreshitparade Singles 1984". Ö3 Austria Top 40 (in German). Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  23. ^ "Ultratop Jaaroverzichten 1984". Ultratop 50 (in Dutch). Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  24. ^ "Dutch Jaaroverzichten Single 1984". Single Top 100 (in Dutch). Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  25. ^ "Top 100 Single-Jahrescharts 1984". GfK Entertainment Charts (in German). Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  26. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - I singoli più venduti del 1984". FIMI (in Italian). Retrieved 2 June 2016. 
  27. ^ "Top 100 1983". Retrieved 2 June 2016. 

External links[edit]