When I Needed a Neighbour

This song about social justice was written by English historian, folk-singer and poet / song-writer Sydney Bertram Carter (1915-2004), who is best known as the author of Lord of the Dance.

It was written in 1965 as the theme song of Christian Aid's Beat and Folk Festival (ref) and recorded on a single by Carter and the Notting Hill Folk Group. Although the song was not intended as a hymn, it has been used in this way by a number of churches.  Many schools also sing it as an assembly song because it incorporates their ethos without explicitly being Christian.

With meter 7 6 7 3, it is set to a tune that Carter wrote for the text:  This is sometimes called NEIGHBOUR:  So far, it does not appear to have been set to any other tunes.   NEIGHBOUR has a 4/4 time signature, and in the key of Em, the first few notes are B,B, E EF GF EG B Bd B with accompanying chords Em / G / B7.
    Hymn-books which it has been published in include:
    As well as these (and other) hymn books, sheet music can also be purchased from the Stainer & Bell website.

    Song title superimposed over a picture of a poor village with houses featuring thatched roofs and many people


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    Duet with guitar, home recording:

    Singer with guitar accompaniment:

    Large choir with orchestra accompaniment - recorded for a TV programme:

    Lead singer and band, rock-style accompaniment, professional recording:


    The lyrics are copyright so cannot be reproduced here. But they are currently available on the publisher's website. A rough outline is:
    When I needed a neighbour were you there, were you there?
    When I needed a neighbour were you there?
    And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter
    Were you there?

    2. I was hungry and thirsty …

    3. I was cold, I was naked …

    4. When I needed a shelter …

    5. When I needed a healer …

    6. When they put me in prison…

    7. Wherever you travel, I’ll be there, I’ll be there.

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    When I needed a neighbour were you there, were you there? When I needed a neighbour were you there? And the creed and the colour And the name won’t matter Were you there? 2. I was hungry and thirsty, Were you there, were you there? 3. I was cold, I was naked, Were you there, were you there 4. When I needed a shelter Were you there, were you there? 5. When I needed a healer, Were you there, were you there? 6. When they put me in prison Were you there, were you there? 7. Wherever you travel I’ll be there, I’ll be there. Wherever you travel, I’ll be there. And the creed and the colour And the name won’t matter I’ll be there.

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