Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

‘Crippled with nerves’: popular music and polio, with particular reference to Ian Dury

McKay, GA


GA McKay


This article looks at a remarkable cluster of popular musicians who contracted and survived poliomyelitis (‘infantile paralysis’) epidemics through the twentieth century, and ways in which they managed and, to varying extents, explored their polio-related impairments and experiences in their music. Drawing on medical history and disability studies, it focuses largely on the pop
and rock generation of polio survivors – the children and young people from the 1940s and 1950s who were among the last to contract the disease prior to the successful introduction of mass vaccination programmes (in the West). These include Neil Young, Steve Harley, Joni
Mitchell, and Israel Vibration. The article then looks in detail at the work of Ian Dury, who was for a while the highest profile visibly physically disabled pop artist in Britain, and who produced a compelling body of works exploring the experiences of disability.


McKay, G. (2009). ‘Crippled with nerves’: popular music and polio, with particular reference to Ian Dury. Popular Music, 28(3), 341-365.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Oct 1, 2009
Deposit Date Nov 6, 2009
Publicly Available Date Nov 6, 2009
Journal Popular Music
Print ISSN 0261-1430
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 3
Pages 341-365
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations