Martyn Joseph is a performer like no other: Shades of Springsteen, John Mayer, Bruce Cockburn and Dave Matthews there may be - but he stands in his own right, built on a reputation for giving what thousands have described as the best live music experience of their lives delivering his "songs of lyrical intelligence" according to BBC Radio 2's Bob Harris.

October 12, 2007 9:01 am

The Streets Of San Francisco

His name was Bob. Though it took me a long time to find that out, way past the time that I first spotted him. Our bus pulled in to its parking space outside the infamous Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, and I thought I would go walkabout. It all looks a little run down though I’m sure residents of the area would take me to task. Seemed like a lot of folk with needs were on the street, which for some was their home.

A long way removed from the beautiful homes that make up this wonderful city by the water. So the Starbucks tea revives me and I wander. Outside the senior citizens refuge centre a gentleman sits in a wheel chair just staring into nothing. He has a blanket but is only half dressed with half of his body exposed to a rather cool wind. I observe for a while. Some guy is talking to him about conspiracy theories, how the world is going to end or something. Bob doesn’t seem to acknowledge the conversation. I wander by and on up the road. Half-hour later I’m coming back up the other way and he is still there though alone this time. I walk past but a bunch of messages fill my mind, go talk to him, just say something. Then I counter them by thinking I’m just trying to ease my conscious and that it’s not a genuine act. The mind is a complex place sometimes. I walk down, cross the road and turn towards him. Somehow our faces find each other and I smile. He looks away. So I walk up and say hello and he responds. We talk. He is from Philadelphia; he came here a while ago as the climate is better for his health. He talks in a whisper and I have to bend close to listen. I tell him where I’m from but he never got to the UK. He served in the US Navy for 25 years. His breathe his faint. I ask him if they look after him hear and he says they do, the ladies knitted him the blanket and it keeps him warm. I ask him if he needs a little money but he says, and without anger, that he is not begging but thanks me. I say that I didn’t mean to offend and he says that none is taken. We then exchange names and shake hands. His are small and frail. I wish him well and he says ‘God bless you’.

I walk away but a short while later turn back. Bob is staring into the road again. I walk on and a black gentleman shuffles at my side. ‘How you doin boss?” he says. ‘I’m fine thank you sir’ I reply. He shuffles on and, maybe it’s because I’m six thousand miles from home or that I’m just a little tired, but I well up. I think it’s probably because once again my soul is shaken and saddened by a world that is simply not fair.

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