There is one song missing from the smow blog playlist: missing for the simple, regrettable, and thoroughly avoidable, reason that it isn’t on spotify.
For din skyld by the Danish singer Birgit Brüel. Denmark’s entry for the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest. And featuring lyrics by Poul Henningsen.
Yes, that Poul Henningsen.
Although popularly remembered as a lighting designer Poul Henningsen was, as previously noted, so much more. Indeed, in many respects his lighting design work was a by-product of his principle profession of cultural critic and social commentator: the motivation for developing the first PH lamps being what Henningsen saw as the need for hygienic, aesthetic and economic lamp shades which would allow electric light bulbs to genuinely benefit the masses.
Something he more than elegantly achieved.
Following the success of his initial lamp designs Poul Henningsen increasingly focused his energies on other creative, and critical, enterprises, for all writing, including co-founding the magazine Kritisk Revy – Critical Review – publishing the book Hvad med Kulturen? – What about culture? – and song writing, including in 1965 For din skyld – For your sake – Henningsen’s lyrics accompanying music by Professor Jørgen Jersild from the Royal Danish Academy of Music.
Reflecting Henningsen’s views on gender equality, or perhaps better put, lack off, in 1960s Denmark, For din skyld is a poetic criticism of a society which understands women as subordinate, subservient even, and an urgent, pointed, very audible, appeal for change,
But my dream is to love in friendship
I’m tired of my femininity
For it makes you so broad-shouldered
I don’t care for men, who are men
But for men, who are human
And that at the Eurovision Song Contest, not an event normally known for its subtle social criticism and attacks on accepted norms.
But then the likes of Poul Henningsen rarely write Eurovision songs. More’s the pity given the current state of Europe.
Critical then, today For din skyld stands diametrically opposed to contemporary concepts of liberal Scandinavia, reminds us of a more conservative past, and by extrapolation, that those freedoms and rights we enjoy are rarely natural, but often hard won, and thus worth defending. And also that good design isn’t just about the end result per se, but rather is also about honesty in response to a stimulus, honesty in analysis of a problem and honesty in the process which leads to the end result. Be that a song or a lamp.
And thus much as we adore, and are thankful for, Poul Henningsen’s lamp designs, for us For din skyld remains one of his most important, and enduring, works.
The smow blog playlist can be found at the smowonline spotify page