Sussex musician celebrates former Labour MP Dennis Skinner in song

Hove-based singer/songwriter Robb Johnson has taken his song about former Labour MP Dennis Skinner to the top of the Amazon download chart.
Robb JohnsonRobb Johnson
Robb Johnson

Robb is delighted that – without the “big machine of publicity” behind him which the big names enjoy – he is currently sitting above Kylie Minogue and Bruce Springsteen with a song about an 88-year-old ex-politician.

The song has been pushed by Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Richard Burgon on their social media. All proceeds are going to Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign. The song can be downloaded from said: “I have always admired Dennis as a politician. There are not many politicians you can say that about. I have always admired his principles, his integrity and his razor-sharp wit. He put in half a century of dedicated public service and treated being an MP as a job, always putting in his shift, always doing his very best for everyone, never going on jolly trips.”

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Robb has contributed in recent years to Stand Up For Labour gigs which with lockdown became Stay In For Labour gigs.

“And it is a bit like That Was The Week That Was. That Was The Week That Was was a landmark moment for satire, and they always had somebody on to do a song at the end of it. Jake Thackray would write a song. I was doing Stay In For Labour and I was doing the song at the end. They decided to do a tribute programme to Dennis Skinner, and I was asked if I would write a song.

“I wanted to sing – in three and a half minutes – about his life and like a brief biography of the significant parts and also to give a flavour of Dennis as a politician. I had read his autobiography which is where a lot of the good lines come from, and I had also had contact with him.

“He sings. He has always sung. When his mum had Alzheimer’s, the only way he could make contact with her was by singing, and she would respond. Dennis always thought this remarkable, and he would go around care homes that had people with Alzheimer’s and he would sing to them as part of his duties as an MP.”

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Robb even featured Dennis singing on one of his albums a couple of years ago.

And so Robb wrote the song.

“The programme for Stay In For Labour was broadcast, and I heard that Dennis and his family approved of the programme and that they approved of the song. They gave it a family thumbs-up. I thought wouldn’t it be great to release the song as a single and get it into the charts. I thought it would be great to have a song about a decent, hard-working, principled politician in the charts – a song about a man who gave so many years of service.”

Dennis’ time as an MP ended in defeat at the general election last December. He had been Member of Parliament for Bolsover from 1970 to 2019.

“He had wanted to support Corbyn and Labour at the last election absolutely. He always put his work before himself.”

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Robb entitles his song Tony Skinner’s Lad, a reference to Dennis’ father: “When he became an MP, his father said to him he had to treat it like another job, put it your shift and do your absolute best for everyone.”

Robb is delighted with the chart success he has enjoyed with it – “especially when you think of the big machines behind the big names in the music business.”