There but for Fortune

by Phil Ochs

Intro: G Cm G Cm G Cm

G.........Cm......G.........Cm...
Show me a prison, show me a jail,

G.........Em.............Am............D...
Show me a prisoner whose face has gone pale

Em....................................C............Am.
And I'll show you a young man with so many reasons why

....Bm............G...............Am.....D
And there but for fortune, may go you or I

Show me the alley, show me the train,
Show me a hobo who sleeps out in the rain,
And I'll show you a young man with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, may go you or go I -- you and I.

Show me the whiskey stains on the floor,
Show me the dunken man as he stumbles out the door,
And I'll show you a young man with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, may go you or go I -- you and I.

[Extra verse... written by Noel Paul Stookey]
Show me the famine, show me the frail
Eyes with no future that show how we failed
And I'll show you the children with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I.

Show me the country where bombs had to fall,
Show me the ruins of buildings once so tall,
And I'll show you a young land with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or go I -- you and I.
You and I,
There but for fortune, go you or go I -- you and I.

Here is a French version:

Je vois le prison
Je vois la nuit
Je vois le prisonnier qui pleure sa vie

Et je me dis souvent
Quand je m'endors dans tes bras
Ou va la chance, a toi ? a moi ?

Je vois des blessures
Jamais gueries
Je vois le vagabond
Quit dort sous la pluie

Je vois cet homme
Au coeur perdu
Qui boit pour ne plus voir
Ce qu'il est devenu

Je vois des villes
Dont les maisons
Un jour sous la guerre
Ont croule sans raison


Notes:

Phil's comments about this song from Sing Out :

"Based on the saying, 'There but for the grace of God,' the song was written while driving to Lincoln, Nebraska. This is one of the few cases in which I had the melody written first and was able to write the words in less than ten minutes.

"Living on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, I am constantly reminded of the meaning of the song. The original lyrics were improved through the comments of Jean Ray of the singing group, Jim and Jean."


Learn more about Phil Ochs.

There are some live records of Phil introducing this song as being written by Joan Baez... this is a joke; Phil did write it.

Chords supplied by James Barnett and corrected by Jan Hauenstein who notes that "Ochs played the song in F# (and not in G) on the Phil Ochs in Concert recording, so it may be easiest to transpose it down to F and put a capo on the first fret."


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