Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Who – "Eyesight to the Blind" (1969)

Just a word from her lips
And the deaf begin to hear

Since the protagonist of the Who's brilliant Tommy is a deaf, dumb, and blind boy, I always assumed that "Eyesight to the Blind" – which is about a woman whose mojo is working so well that just encountering her can restore hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and eyesight to the blind – was written especially for Tommy.

But as we learned in a previous 2 or 3 lines, "Eyesight to the Blind" was written by Sonny Boy Williamson II in 1951, almost two decades before Tommy was released.  It is the only song on Tommy not written by the Who.

Tommy's father was an RAF pilot in World War II who was presumed dead after his plane was shot down over Germany.  His pregnant wife gave birth to Tommy, then met a man who became her lover.  When Tommy's father returned home after years in a Nazi POW camp, he found his wife in bed with her new lover and murdered him.

At least, that's what happened in the original recording of Tommy and in the 1993 Broadway musical based on the album.  In the 1975 movie version of Tommy, the lover killed Tommy's father.

From the 1975 movie: Ann-Margret (as Tommy's
mother) and Roger Daltrey (as Tommy)
Either way, Tommy witnessed the murder.  But his mother commanded him to ignore what he had seen and heard, and to KEEP HIS MOUTH SHUT: 

You didn't hear it
You didn't see it
You never heard it, not a word of it
You won't say nothing to no one!

Tommy eventually overcomes his deafness, dumbness, and blindness, which are psychosomatic rather than physical in nature. 

Here's the Who's version of "Eyesight to the Blind," which is very different from the Sonny Boy Williamson II original and the covers that other blues musicians (like Mose Allison) recorded.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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