Music in Prisons on ‘The Rock’

Throughout May and June 2017, music written by the Music in Prisons team will be on display at ‘Art Escape at Alcatraz‘, a pictorial and historical tribute to ‘The Rock’ through original works of art by incarcerated artists from around the U.S.A.

The music was composed by the prison group as a whole, and three men contributed lyrics, each of them differing in their response to the task. The first two vocalists opted to use Alcatraz as a metaphor for loneliness and isolation. ‘D’, the first MC opens the account with the lyric Prison can be lonely, dreamin’ of the nights you used to hold me, now I’m prayin’ for the day when they parole me“. ‘D’ sings of uncertainty (he’s on an indeterminate sentence and was turned down for release by probation on the day we recorded this song), loneliness, how his child was born while he was in prison and the hope that his partner will be there for him on release.

‘C’ then assumes up the vocal and his take on the isolation and loneliness of “The Rock”-the metaphor is that no matter how much outside forces try to break him with solitude, he is in fact not alone, and with family support and his faith in a higher power, he will prevail. His chorus: Oh, wi’ de chains an ting, Alcatraz is where dey want me fae live my story, tol’, wid me fait’ I sing, I’m no island, my strengt’ is within.

The final vocalist ‘DD’ gives an up-tempo 16 bars summarising the story of Alcatraz as a prison, a history lesson personalised by such statements as Alcatraz is in America but I’m a Cockney”.

Listen to the track here:


“Oh, with the chains and things

Alcatraz is where they want me to live my story told

With my faith I sing

I’m no island, my strength is within

Never been robbed but then a rocket could have robbed me

Alcatraz is in America but I’m a cockney

I would have planned to escape but done it properly

Al Capone and Bumpy Johnson had to ride it ** me

They had to deal with times of prohibition

Criminals rich, now to break a mission

Put them on a rock in the ocean and call it prison

Try to break spirit of violence but no-one listens

Nineteen thirty four to nineteen sixty three

It took them twenty nine years before they realised its peak

Government were live baby, sucking on a teat

We’re now a tourist attraction for everyone to see

They should have known from day one it wouldn’t work

Spending all that money man the government got jerked,

Hiring officers, muscles bulging out their shirts,

I’m sure they learned from their mistakes but I doubt it’ll be the first.

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