Joe Hill songs

Bronco Buster Flynn (1915)

To the tune of “Yankee Doodle”

I got your picture Buster dear,
A-riding on a pony.
Your pony is a real one too,
You wouldn’t have a “honey.”

Buster Flynn he sure is game,
His eyes are full of luster.
I think we’d better change his name,
And call him “Bronco Buster.”

When you grow up to be a man,
Be always “rough and ready.”
But never brag about it though,
Like windy “Bull Moose Teddy.”

And by and by, you’ll ride out West
Like cowboys that you’re read of,
But don’t fall off your pony dear,
And break your little head off.

See lyrics in Joe Hill’s handwriting.

Joe Hill songs

The Preacher and the Slave (1911)

Tune: “Sweet Bye and Bye” (S. Fillmore Bennett/J. P. Webster)
First published in the 1911 edition of the IWW’s Little Red Songbook

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
But when asked how ’bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

The starvation army they play,
They sing and they clap and they pray
‘Till they get all your coin on the drum
Then they’ll tell you when you’re on the bum:

Holy Rollers and jumpers come out,
They holler, they jump and they shout.
Give your money to Jesus they say,
He will cure all diseases today.

If you fight hard for children and wife —
Try to get something good in this life —
You’re a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.

Workingmen of all countries, unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight;
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we’ll sing this refrain:

You will eat, bye and bye,
When you’ve learned how to cook and to fry.
Chop some wood, ’twill do you good,
And you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye.

Sung by: Bucky Halker, Mischief Brew, Utah Phillips, Norcsalordie, Ani DiFranco & Utah Phillips, Chris Buhalis. in Spanish: Malhaya Damian. For sheet music and karaoke file click here.

Joe Hill songs

The Rebel’s Toast

first published in 1914 edition of IWW Little Red Songbook

If Freedom’s road seems rough and hard,
And strewn with rocks and thorns,
Then put your wooden shoes on, pard,
And you won’t hurt your corns.
To organize and teach, no doubt,
Is very good — that’s true,
But still we can’t succeed without
The Good Old Wooden Shoe.

Joe Hill songs

Scissor Bill (1913)

Tune: “Steamboat Bill” (Leighton Brothers) (1910)
First published in the 1913 edition of the IWW Little Red Songbook.

You may ramble ’round the country anywhere you will,
You’ll always run across that same old Scissor Bill.
He’s found upon the desert, he is on the hill,
He’s found in every mining camp and lumber mill.
He looks just like a human, he can eat and walk,
But you will find he isn’t, when he starts to talk.
He’ll say, “This is my country,” with an honest face,
While all the cops they chase him out of every place.

Scissor Bill, he’s a little dippy,
Scissor Bill, he has a funny face.
Scissor Bill, should drown in Mississippi,
He is the missing link that Darwin tried to trace.

And Scissor Bill he couldn’t live without the booze,
He sits around all day and spits tobacco juice.
He takes a deck of cards and tries to beat the Chink!
Yes, Bill would be a smart guy if he only could think.
And Scissor Bill he says: “This country must be freed
From Niggers, Japs and Dutchmen and the gol durn Swede.”
He says that every cop would be a native son
If it wasn’t for the Irishman, the sonna fur gun.

Scissor Bill, the “foreigners” is cussin’,
Scissor Bill, he says: “I hate a Coon”;
Scissor Bill, is down on everybody,
The Hottentots, the bushmen and the man in the moon.

Don’t try to talk your union dope to Scissor Bill,
He says he never organized and never will.
He always will be satisfied until he’s dead,
With coffee and a doughnut and a lousy old bed.
And Bill, he says he gets rewarded thousand fold,
When he gets up to Heaven on the streets of gold.
But I don’t care who knows it, and right here I’ll tell,
If Scissor Bill is goin’ to Heaven, I’ll go to Hell.

Scissor Bill, he wouldn’t join the union,
Scissor Bill, he says, “Not me, by Heck!”
Scissor Bill, gets his reward in Heaven,
Oh! sure. He’ll get it, but he’ll get it in the neck.

Sung by Bucky Halker and Mats Paulson. For sheet music and karaoke file click here.

Joe Hill songs

Ta-Ra-Ra Boom De-Ay (1914)

Tune: “Ta-Ra-Ra Boom De-Ay” (attributed to Henry Sayers) (1891)
First published in the March 1916 Joe Hill Memorial Edition of the IWW Little Red Songbook.

I had a job once threshing wheat, worked sixteen hours with hands and feet.
And when the moon was shining bright, they kept me working all the night.
One moonlight night, I hate to tell, I “accidentally” slipped and fell.
My pitchfork went right in between some cog wheels of that thresh-machine.

It made a noise that way.
And wheels and bolts and hay,
Went flying every way.
That stingy rube said, “Well!
A thousand gone to hell.”
But I did sleep that night,
I needed it all right.

Next day that stingy rube did say, “I’ll bring my eggs to town today;
You grease my wagon up, you mutt, and don’t forget to screw the nut.”
I greased his wagon all right, but I plumb forgot to screw the nut,
And when he started on that trip, the wheel slipped off and broke his hip.

It made a noise that way,
That rube was sure a sight,
And mad enough to fight;
His whiskers and his legs
Were full of scrambled eggs;
I told him, “That’s too bad —
I’m feeling very sad.”

And then that farmer said, “You turk! I bet you are an I-Won’t Work.”
He paid me off right there, By Gum! So I went home and told my chum.
Next day when threshing did commence, my chum was Johnny on the fence;
And ‘pon my word, that awkward kid, he dropped his pitchfork, like I did.

It made a noise that way,
And part of that machine
Hit Reuben on the bean.
He cried, “Oh me, oh my;
I nearly lost my eye.”
My partner said, “You’re right —
It’s bedtime now, good night.”

But still that rube was pretty wise, these things did open up his eyes.
He said, “There must be something wrong; I think I work my men too long.”
He cut the hours and raised the pay, gave ham and eggs for every day,
Now gets his men from union hall, and has no “accidents” at all.

That rube is feeling gay;
He learned his lesson quick,
Just through a simple trick.
For fixing rotten jobs
And fixing greedy slobs,
This is the only way,

Performed by John McCutcheon. For sheet music and karaoke file click here.

Commemorations Joe Hill songs

Joe Hill’s Last Will (1915)

First published in the March 1916 edition (9th edition; “Joe Hill Memorial Edition”) of the IWW Little Red Songbook.

(Written in his cell, November 18, 1915, on the eve of his execution)

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kind don’t need to fuss and moan —
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”

My body? Ah, If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.

Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will.
Good luck to all of you.

— Joe Hill

Introduced and read by Utah PhillipsSteve Earle,  discussed by Tom Paxton; introduced and sung (to new tunes) by Fred Alpi and Chico Schwall.