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Andrew Francis' 'Talkin' Chicago Blues' Protest Songs Get New Life

 Folk singer Andrew Francis updated his Chicago protest songs to include his troubles with the CTA and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Folk singer Andrew Francis updated his Chicago protest songs to include his troubles with the CTA and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
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DNAinfo/ Mark Konkol

LOGAN SQUARE — Folk singer Andrew Francis has been writing and singing his "Talkin' Headline Blues" for quite a while now.

"Think there's about 120-something of 'em," Francis said.

I met the Logan Square songwriter around the time former Mayor Richard Daley leased the Skyway and sold off the city parking meters.

Back then, Francis had recorded a couple protest songs outlining his frustrations with riding the CTA, and, well, Daley being Daley.

In his ditty, "Mr. Mayor Says," the modern-day folkie skewered Daley for being "guided by the love of gold."

"'Cause the parking meters fetched a heavy sum. I sold 'em on a walk. I sold 'em on a run. Mr. Mayor says, 'I'm guided by the love of gold,'" the song goes.

And his song, "Talkin' CTA Blues," jabs at Daley and the transit agency for how poorly they responded to a 2006 derailment that left Blue Line riders stuck in a smoky underground tunnel for about an hour, among other things.

"Recently, I was thinking about how I don't get to sing those songs anymore," Francis said.

"I really wanted to sing them again, so I updated them to include Rahm Emanuel."

The thing is, Francis says, the new Rahm version didn't need to much tinkering to express the same lingering sentiments many Chicagoans still have toward the CTA today.

His updated transit protest song starts with a more recent Blue Line catastrophe — the one involving a sleeping train engineer and a train that climbed an escalator at O'Hare Airport two months ago — and goes on to rip Emanuel for having misplaced priorities.

"Well, I'm willing to cut him some slack, as he's got a whole lot of great city improvements on track/like a billion dollars to build a basketball arena by 2016," Francis' song goes.

"And making sure the Downtown area of Chicago is always sparkling clean. Gotta keep the tourists happy and feeling good. They ain't never coming out to the neighborhoods."

Francis keeps on singing, "Riding the trains. Going to the schools. Getting shot. Oh, living in the city that works … for about 1 percent of the people" before his whining harmonica brings the song to a screeching halt.

"It's funny how the same things seem to be going on even though different people are running the city now."

"More things change the more they stay the same," he said. "Can't really get away from any of it."

And Francis said it doesn't look like he'll be running out of inspiration to make his point anytime soon.

"Just last week when the news reported Mayor Emanuel's security detail gets lots of tickets for running red lights and speeding in school zones I couldn't believe it," Francis said. "I wrote a song about almost the same thing years ago when it was in the news that CTA buses ran more red lights and got more red-light tickets than anyone else."

So he dug up that song, too, and recorded a new version of "Talkin' Red Light Blues" inspired by Emanuel and his speeding, red-light blowing security detail.

"Now I'm sure our mayor, who says, 'Safety First!' will put a stop to this getting worse. It's not like he's ever been caught speeding through lights, breaking the law," Francis sings while strumming his guitar. "So if you ever see his car go whizzing by, please keep in mind he's a very busy guy."

Francis didn't bother changing the last few lines of that song, a fact that makes his point about how some things never change in Chicago.

And it goes like this, "So, I've sung you my song and it ain't very long. ... It wasn't meant to make you mad, just to point out that we're all being had.

"And it's gonna last until everybody starts to ask, 'Why do I gotta put up with that?'"

Click these links to listen to Francis' updated Rahm protest songs: "Mr. Mayor Says," "Talking CTA Blues" and "Talkin' Red Light Blues."

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