Helen Lane

There was a very popular book in the early 1970s called Supernature, by Lyall Watson. It documented uncanny natural phenomena and, among other things, told the story of Helen Lane, whose real name was Henrietta Lacks, an American woman who died in 1951 of cancer. Some of her cells were isolated and cultured in the laboratory after her death, and to everyone’s surprise proved far more vigorous than normal, surviving even to this day, and, according to Watson, blithely overriding most anticontamination procedures in order to take over other cultures and even turn up in laboratories in different continents.

In 1981 we wrote a song about all this and called it Helen Lane. Looking on wiki, I see that a couple of other songs have come along since, plus a lot more recognition of the HeLa cell line, as it’s called, and of course recognition of Henrietta herself for providing the cells that have gone on to be used in all sorts of medical research. I hope no-one thinks we’re jumping on a bandwagon, but at the same time, if anyone’s about to put together a compilation of great HeLa songs, perhaps they’ll give this one a listen.

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