BHM Spotlight: “I Can’t Write Left-Handed”


Today’s featured BHM protest/political song is “I Can’t Write Left-Handed”

Bill Withers

Who wrote/performed it: Bill Withers in 1973

What it means: Bill Withers wrote this song to protest the Vietnam War. On a recording/live performance of the song he says, “if you’re like me, and you remember like anyone ever remembers any war: one big drag.” The title refers to Wither’s imagining a young man, like himself at the time, coming back from the war who lost his right arm in combat. The young man wants to communicate with his mother and a minister in order to get his younger brother a deferment from war. He can’t write the letter himself, because he can’t write left handed.

Some of the lyrics:


Boot camp we had classes
You know we talked about fighting, fighting everyday
And looking through rosy, rosy colored glasses
I must admit it seemed exciting anyway
Oh, but something that day overlooked to tell me, Lord
Bullets look better, I must say
Brother when they ain’t coming at you
But going out the other way


Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never seen
Bless his heart ain’t never done nothing to,
he done shot me in my shoulder

Full lyrics…

Interesting Fact: Singer John Legend and hip hop band, The Roots recently covered the song on their collaborative, Grammy Award winning album, Wake Up! in 2010.

Bill Withers performing “I Can’t Write Left Handed” live


2 responses »

  1. While reading these lyrics and listening to the song that was also remade by John Legend, I find myself considering the many times in history and presently, where the powerless or disenfranchised find themselves pushing an agenda that they are unaware of the purpose behind. I consider the many systems that permeate society, both within the US and other countries, that are perpetuated by the “foot soldiers” who may believe they are transforming something or possibly making a difference, but in reality or pushing an agenda that further perpetuates a system that disenfranchises them….


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