This, with minor variations, is a common saying meaning that another person's misfortune is not (entirely) their fault. If conditions had been a bit different, it might have been you, and not them.

This most likely comes from John Bradford (1510(?)-1555), an English protestant martyr, who is quoted as saying "But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford." whenever he saw criminals being led off to their execution.

There But For The Grace Of God I Go is also a song by Dorothy Wallace

The most well-known song by Machine, an r&b/soul/funk band from the mid-1970's. It was released in 1979 on the RCA label, at the peak of disco's popularity. It is a fast-tempo song with a very groovy hook, but unlike most contemporary songs at the time. Disatisfied with the vapid direction other r&b groups' lyrics were taking, Machine was influenced by early 70's social commentary style. The song focuses on a set of overprotective Hispanic parents in the Bronx.

There was a controversy when the song was released, due to a line from the song that was thought to be racist. The radio edit omitted it. In the first verse, the parents of the girl want to "find a place far away... with no blacks, no Jews, and no gays."

The hook was sampled by Love Tribe in their 1996 dance song Stand Up. Fire Island (Farley & Heller) did a cover in 1994.

Carlos and Carmen Vidal just had a child
a lovely girl with a crooked smile
Now they gotta split 'cause the Bronx ain't fit
for a kid to grow up in
"Let's find a place," they say, "somewhere far away
with no blacks, no Jews and no gays"

There but for the grace of God, there go I
I, I
There but for the grace of God go I
I, I, I, I, I

Poppy and the family left the dirty streets
to find a quiet place overseas
and year after year the kid has to hear
the do's, the don'ts and the dears
and when she's ten years old she digs that rock 'n' roll
but Poppy bans it from home


Baby, she turns out to be a natural freak
popping pills and smoking weed
note: the above line is replaced in some versions with:
gaining weight and losing sleep

and when she's sweet sixteen she packs her things and leaves
with a man she met on the street
Carmen starts to bawl, bangs her head to the wall
Too much love is worse than none at all


The man sits, his head hanging,
With bruised knuckles and burning eyes.
He trembles.

The whys and hows hang in the silence
Together with apologies unspoken
And praise withheld.

He lifts and twists his right hand,
The hand that made the fist,
That shattered bone.

His child's shrill shouting hushed,
Her laughter crushed with the same wild blow.
He wanted peace and quiet. He got quiet.

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