Grace Petrie is an indie folk singer. Her songs often take a political slant and as such saw her play Glastonbury with Billy Bragg in 2010. She has since toured as musical support with the likes of Josie Long and Robin Ince and is a fixture of their live Shambles shows as well as the Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless people gigs in London. Her latest album, Love is My Rebellion, was released in 2013.
Charles Darwin, this icon of history and nature and science, but to someone he was just Charlie.
The story behind how I wrote the song is, ah, that I’m unlucky enough to be friends with Robin Ince and, ah, in May he was putting together this night celebrating the life of Charles Darwin and he asked me, I think as a way of shoehorning me in to play, he asked me if I could write a song about Charles Darwin. And I went away and I looked up all this stuff about him and there were all these scientists and historians and interesting people speaking on the night and I was panicking about it. I was thinking, ‘God, well if I just sing something that’s like ‘The Life and Discoveries of Charles Darwin’ set to music it’s just going to sound like I’ve just gone on Wikipedia’, which is what I’d done, and, um, looked up Charles Darwin.
So I was kind of thinking about what I do, and I write quite a lot of love songs, and I was trying to find a way to sort of make it a little bit more within my comfort zone, and I found…I was looking at his relationship with his wife and what he was actually, kind of personally, as a man. And I found this really interesting letter that she wrote, that his wife Emma wrote to him, while he was kind of in the process of discovering, well, evolution and kind of losing all faith in a creator and the kind of accepted religious ideals of the time. And she was a very religious person and she wrote this beautiful letter to him all about how it was her biggest fear that they would be parted in the afterlife, basically, because he’d stopped believing.
And it was quite, sort of, thick and olde worldy written, and I was kind of reading it and it was interesting but I was thinking it’d be really hard to work this into a song and then at the bottom of the letter there’s just like a couple of lines that he wrote as a postscript onto it that say, ‘When I’ve died please know that many times I’ve kissed and cried over this’ and I thought, oh, there’s a guy that I can write a song about in there!
So I wrote that song, basically. One of my favourite things about researching him was, in this one letter that she wrote to him, she called him ‘Charlie’ and I just think that’s amazing! Like, you know, Charles Darwin, this icon of history and nature and science, but to someone he was just Charlie. He was just her love. So, ah, this is the song that I wrote about that.
Performance of ‘Our One Life’ follows.