Editor’s note: Following publication of this article it became apparent that some of the videos included in this video are not available to view in all regions. All of the songs mentioned in this article can be listened to on Spotify, or readers can purchase the original CDs from Vin Garbutt’s official website.
(LifeSiteNews) – Despite being regarded by millions of people around the world as the preeminent moral issue of our time, it is perhaps surprising that the global tragedy of the slaughter of unborn children in the womb has received relatively little attention from creative artists.
But one little-known musician from the North-East of England has produced a number of highly powerful songs which seek to tell the world about the horror of abortion. His work deserves to be better known.
While little known by the general public, Vin Garbutt is a legend of the English folk music scene. He enjoyed a highly successful career from the 1970s until his death in 2017, traveling the world to perform to a large and loyal fanbase on some of the biggest stages that the folk music world can boast. Garbutt was a practicing Catholic, but he did not make Catholic music. He was the archetypal maverick folk musician, who in one moment would make his audience cry with laughter and the next moment stop in poignant silence. The theme of most of his music is fairly typical of most folk singers – Garbutt wrote songs about history, local identity, the beauty of the natural world, as well as protest songs on issues such as war, workers’ rights and racial discrimination.
But whereas he might easily have “played it safe” and limited his protest songs to politically correct subjects, Garbutt wrote a number of exceptionally powerful and profound songs about abortion. This came at a significant cost to his career, but has left pro-life activists with a musician whose life and music can continue to inspire our efforts to build a culture which cherishes all human life.
Vincent Garbutt was born in Middlesbrough, England in 1947. His mother was an Irish Catholic and his father an English Protestant. He was raised in a faith-filled and musical home, two gifts which he carried with him throughout his entire life.
From 1972-2014, Garbutt was actively engaged in the writing, performance, and pure enjoyment of his musical career. During that time, he continuously lived his Catholic faith in the role of a husband and father. His music, however, played a unique role in the way that Garbutt lived his faith and spread the pro-life message.
The Fear of Imperfection/Lynda
In 1964, a young mother had no idea that her son had spina bifida until he was born. Although leaving the baby in the hospital and returning home to recover was common at the time, Joan Hall refused to leave her sick child alone.
After the hospital staff neglected her son by putting him “in what amounted to little more than a storage cupboard,” Hall insisted that baby Raymond receive all possible care for his condition. One doctor agreed to do so, if she could keep him alive until a designated age at which it would be safe to operate. The operation was successful, and Raymond lived until 16-years-old, until he “died of an unexplained illness” in 1980.
Three years later, Vin Garbutt released an album which included a song titled The Fear of Imperfection, also known as Lynda, based on the story of Joan and Raymond which he read in a local newspaper. For privacy reasons, Garbutt used the names “Lynda” and “Kevin” in place of their real-life counterparts.
The first verse describes the unknown disability before birth, ending with a phrase where a friend tells the new mother, “If the choice were mine, I’d see you were relieved,” indicating abandonment of her baby. The refrain follows:
“Lynda, your kin can’t know the torture they put you through
Or else they’d go head in hands in shame
Our hearts are true, but in the wrong place
You know we’d never say to your face
Anything we thought would cause your pain
Your life is one long giving
And we’ve the nerve to say it’s not worth living
And you say you’d go through it all again”
Despite the pressure to turn away from the challenging motherhood ahead, the song continues to say that “Lynda smiled on her child newborn as she had sworn she would.” Garbutt then jumps forward in time to the end of Kevin’s life, saying that Lynda is “made of the stuff that saints are made of” and concluding the song with a nod of respect to the miracle baby, singing, “at least young Kevin’s grown to be less handicapped than me.”
“Her story was one of courage and determination,” Garbutt wrote. “And although I’ve never met her, when she said, ‘I’d go through it all again’ it made such an impact on me that I was inspired to write this song.”
In 1983, the pro-life musician released another album titled “Little Innocents”. According to the biography on the Vin Garbutt website, this album was a unique turning point in the folk singer’s career. Out of the nine tracks in the collection, six were written by Garbutt himself, making it the first album to feature this many original songs. Two were “focusing on the sensitive issue of abortion,” including the “the title track and Lynda.”
As Garbutt was known for his good humor and light-hearted songs, Little Innocents introduced a vastly different yet still utterly genuine side of the musician that many of his fans had not heard before.
The ten-minute song begins with a reference to the Holocaust, saying how those behind it claimed, “we’ve the might to prove that we’ve the right to choose who’s human and who’s not.”
Garbutt goes on to sing that even though “we may feel we’re so liberal and enlightened,” there is still a need to “scrutinize the package deals we’re offered,” such as “abortion on demand.”
“There’s lots of little innocents whose own lives can’t defend
If you’d the right to choose, would you do it to Jesus again?”
The next verse references abortion in a similarly blunt manner: “Only love and care can ease a troubled mother’s strife in a world that bids the doctors use a backstreet butcher’s knife,” he sings.
Garbutt continues with the possibility that if he were to die of cancer in the future, society would not “kill me now to ease my fears” because “they’ve met me and society says no, but the unborn child we’ve never met, his friendships never grow.”
“Oh, destroy the unmet friend, my friends, and we destroy ourselves.” The singer then states that he will “defend the baby boy or baby girl whose death they’d choose.”
The critical message carries through to the end of the song, the writer never relenting on his stark comparisons to the evil of abortion.
“And they say a fetus isn’t quite a baby
But a baby isn’t quite a 10-year-old, it’s my belief
And adolescent isn’t quite a grown man
But you just can’t choose to kill a man no matter what relief
When Hitler changed the words from kill to exterminate the Jews,
The word changed but they meant the same: another’s right to choose”
In his own album notes, Garbutt reflects upon abortion as a husband and father, writing that “if Pat and I were forced, by whatever desperation, into even contemplating the terminating of our child’s life, then it is our human right to be helped out of that desperation and not ‘helped’ along with it. It is our child’s human right to be protected from the consequences of our desperation!”
He condemned the “Master Race ideology” and apologized to all “who have been through the trauma of abortion and may be upset” by his pro-life messages.
“My intention is not to offend but to inform those unaware of what is, to my mind, the grossest excess of our materialistic ‘throw-away’ society.”
Although the powerful songs defending life speak right to the heart of the pro-life mission and serve as an inspiration to those who shared Garbutt’s views, many of his audience and supporters, including the record label that was sponsoring him at the time, took it as an opportunity to distance themselves from the Catholic musician.
“The album was well received by many of his fans, although some consider that the strong anti-abortion sentiment led to a cooling of his relationship with Topic Records and alienation from some sections of the folk and wider media,” the Vin Garbutt website states. “But while always ready to listen to opposing views, Vin was also prepared to make sacrifices and stand up for his conviction that, like the other oppressed minorities he championed, unborn babies also had rights and deserved protection.”
Dish of Glass
Despite the loss of support from Topic Records and some other members of the media and public, Garbutt continued making pro-life music, including a unique release in 1991. Dish of Glass is a song written from the perspective of an embryo in a lab. Amid the upbeat rhythms is the harsh truth, where the recurring line from the tiny life is “I’m dyin.”
“There’s a doctor hovering over me, educated
But morally blind, can’t he see
That my size and shape he himself used to be
The song continues to argue that the underdeveloped baby’s “humanity [is] questioned” and his “unique genetic code” is about to be destroyed. “There’s no one like me,” the embryo says.
“What is morally wrong can’t be socially right
You can’t change the wisdom of years overnight.
It’s an unjust war, won’t you help me to fight
‘Cos I’m dyin’.”
A Lifetime of Music
Ever since the beginning of his career, Garbutt simply loved the music. He started by forming a local pop group with some friends, where he sang and played rhythm guitar. But his path shifted after discovering the world of folk music, which was more relatable than his original genre.
“I fell for it, hook, line and sinker,” he said. “I began to realise they weren’t just stories made up to fit a tune, as most pop songs were. Folk music was a totally different kettle of fish.”
Once an active member of the folk scene, the 22-year-old quickly captivated locals with his entertaining introductions to his acts and the relatable content he performed. Garbutt met his wife, Pat, when she was sent to pick him up from the train station on the night of his opening act at a club in Kent. He later wrote The November Wedding, a tribute to his own wedding and happy marriage.
Inspired by the world around him, Garbutt wrote many of his own songs, his favorite “self-penned” work being When the Tide Turns.
Although major folk labels did not sponsor him, especially after the release of his most pro-life songs, Garbutt was nominated for several BBC Folk Awards, winning Best Live Act in 2001. He was also awarded an Honorary Master of Arts from Teesside University for his music and contribution to the arts and culture of Northeast England.
A Legacy of Life
Beyond the impact of his work in the musical world, Garbutt’s greatest legacy can be seen in his faith and his family. He died a few weeks after heart surgery, on June 6, 2017. Garbutt’s four children wrote a eulogy to honor their father’s work, but most importantly, his compassion for others and his joy and love of life. The final words in their address were from their mother.
“He was trying to give that message of love to all of you through his music and laughter,” Pat wrote. “Did Vin make the world a better place? I think we all know the answer to that. Now it is our responsibility to carry that love away with us and hand it on.”
The funeral was held in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Middlesbrough. Over 800 people were in attendance.
Garbutt’s recent death is a strong testimony to the pro-life work being accomplished in a world that is increasingly pro-abortion and anti-family. Living in accordance with his faith and in defense of life cost him some of his career, but Vin Garbutt never fell out of love with his faith, wife, family, or music. He spent his life making and performing music which helped others experience the beauty of life, including that of all unborn children.