A new play about Joe Hill by Giles Hayworth

At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, a great International Exposition of Arts and Industry is held in Gävle, Sweden, to celebrate the prosperity which progress will bring in the years ahead. The play provides scope to facsimilate this as a pre-show, drawing on the talents of local schools or arts groups, Joe Hill taking the opportunity to involve himself in a variety of the musical contributions.
Gävle is, however, an impoverished area of Sweden, so, like hundreds of thousands from all over Europe, Joe and his brother leave, believing that they will find a more prosperous life in America. They find terrible pay and working conditions, even while a few employers are making themselves multi-millionaires.
Joe comes to believe in the power of unions to transform this situation but, after supporting a long-drawn-out and inconclusive strike by machinists in Chicago, he is converted to the ideals of One Big Union, being initiated by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which seeks to use the power of solidarity not only to improve workers’ conditions but to completely overthrow the capitalist order which oppresses them.
As he travels round the country seeking work, Joe finds that the great contribution he can make is to compose songs that will unite the workers. However, after the IWW has had various major successes, it comes to be seen as such a danger by employers that they seek to use any means to crush it. When Joe’s membership is discovered, after he has been arrested in a round-up following a shooting in Salt Lake City, the police cease any search for more likely suspects, a case is constructed against him, and he is executed, despite nation-wide protest. The outrage this causes leads a massive crowd, singing his songs, to accompany his body to the crematorium, whence his ashes will be distributed throughout the world, making him a symbol to inspire workers’ solidarity ever since.
Although most sequences are scripted, there is also scope in the play for a company to devise full scenes.
This play is conceived as for performance by a Youth/Community Theatre, with professional support. Therefore, although there is scope for multiple doubling and more, no attempt has been made to limit the number of characters; – if anything, the reverse. For info:]

Joe Hill songs

Should I Ever Be A Soldier (1913)

Tune: “Colleen Bawn” (by J. Fred Helf)
First published in the 1913 edition of the IWW’s Little Red Songbook.

We’re spending billions every year
For guns and ammunition.
“Our Army” and “our Navy” dear,
To keep in good condition;
While millions live in misery
And millions died before us,
Don’t sing “My Country ’tis of thee,”
But sing this little chorus.

Should I ever be a soldier,
‘Neath the Red Flag I would fight;
Should the gun I ever shoulder,
It’s to crush the tyrant’s might.
Join the army of the toilers,
Men and women fall in line,
Wage slave of the world! Arouse!
Do your duty for the cause,
For Land and Liberty.

And many a maiden, pure and fair,
Her love and pride must offer
On Mammon’s altar in despair,
To fill the master’s coffer.
The gold that pays the mighty fleet,
From tender youth he squeezes,
While brawny men must walk the street
And face the wintry breezes.

Why do they mount their gatling gun
A thousand miles from ocean,
Where hostile fleet could never run —
Ain’t that a funny notion?
If you don’t know the reason why,
Just strike for better wages,
And then, my friends — if you don’t die —
You’ll sing this song for ages.

Sung by: Mats Paulson; for sheet music and karaoke file click here.

Joe Hill songs

Picket line Songs from the Fraser River Strike

Martin Welch and Stuart (1912)

Tune: “Wearing of the Green” (trad.)
Written for the picket lines on the Fraser River strike

Martin Welch is mad as hell and don’t know what to do.
And all his gunnysack contractors are feeling mighty blue.
For we have tied their railroad line and scabs refuse to come,
And we will keep on striking till we put them on the bum.
Till we put them on the bum, till we put them on the bum,
And we will keep on striking till we put them on the bum.

(Excerpt, as recalled by camp delegate Louis Moreau)

We Won’t Build No More Railroads for Overalls and Snuff

Tune: “Wearing of the Green” (trad.)

We have got to stick together, boys,
And fight with all our might.
It’s a case of no surrender
We have got to win this fight.
From these gunnysack contractors,
We will take no more bluff;
And we won’t build no more railroads
For our overalls and snuff.
For our overalls and snuff, for our overalls and snuff,
We won’t build no more railroads
For our overalls and snuff.

Skookum Ryan the Walking Boss

Skookum Ryan the Walking Boss
Came tearing down the line,
Says he, “You dirty loafers take your coats off
Or go and get your time.”

Louis Moreau recalls that this “very popular” song had five or six stanzas; this is the only one to survive.

To purchase John McCutcheon’s recording of Overalls and Snuff click here.

Joe Hill songs

Mr. Block (1913)

Tune: “It Looks Like A Big Night Tonight” (Egbert Van Alstyne)
First published in the 1913 edition of the IWW’s Little Red Songbook.

Please give me your attention, I’ll introduce to you
A man that is a credit to “Our Red White and Blue,”
His head is made of lumber, and solid as a rock;
He is a common worker and his name is Mr. Block.
And Block he thinks he may
Be president some day.

Oh Mr. Block, you were born by mistake,
You take the cake, you make me ache.
Tie a rock on your block and then jump in the lake,
Kindly do that for Liberty’s sake.

Yes, Mr. Block is lucky; he found a job, by gee!
The sharks got seven dollars, for job and fare and fee.
They shipped him to a desert and dumped him with his truck,
But when he tried to find his job, he sure was out of luck,
He shouted, “That’s too raw,
I’ll fix them with the law.”

Block hiked back to the city, but wasn’t doing well.
He said “I’ll join the union — the great A. F. of L.”
He got a job next morning, got fired in the night,
He said, “I’ll see Sam Gompers and he’ll fix that foreman right.”
Sam Gompers said, “You see,
You’ve got our sympathy.”

Election day he shouted, “A Socialist for Mayor!”
The “comrade” got elected, he happy was for fair,
But after the election he got an awful shock,
A great big socialistic Bull did rap him on the block.
And Comrade Block did sob,
“I helped him to his job.”

The money kings in Cuba blew up the gunboat Maine,
But Block got awful angry and blamed it all on Spain.
He went right in the battle and there he lost his leg.
And now he’s peddling shoestrings and is walking on a peg.
He shouts, “Remember Maine,
Hurrah! To hell with Spain!”

Poor Block he died one evening, I’m very glad to state,
He climbed the golden ladder up to the pearly gate.
He said, “Oh Mister Peter, one word I’d like to tell,
I’d like to meet the Astorbilts and John D Rockefell.”
Old Pete said, “Is that so?
You’ll meet them down below.”

Listen to performances by: U. Utah Phillips, Mats PaulsonFor sheet music and karaoke file click here.

Joe Hill songs

Everybody’s Joining It (1912)

Tune: “Everybody’s Doin’ It” (Irving Berlin)
First published in the July 1912 edition of the IWW’s Little Red Songbook. 

Fellow workers, can’t you hear,
There is something in the air.
Everywhere you walk everybody talks
‘Bout the I. W. W.
They have got a way to strike
That the master doesn’t like —
Everybody sticks,
That’s the only trick,
All are joining now.

Everybody’s joining it, joining what? Joining it!
Everybody’s joining it, joining what? Joining it!
One Big Union, that’s the workers’ choice,
One Big Union, that’s the only choice,
One Big Union, that’s the only noise,
One Big Union, shout with all your voice;
Make a noise, make a noise, make a noise, boys,
Everybody’s joining it, joining what? Joining it!
Everybody’s joining it, joining what? Joining it!
Joining in this union grand,
Boys and girls in every land;
All the workers hand in hand —
Everybody’s joining it now.

The Boss is feeling mighty blue,
He don’t know just what to do.
We have got his goat, got him by the throat,
Soon he’ll work or go starving.
Join I. W. W.
Don’t let bosses trouble you,
Come and join with us —
Everybody does —
You’ve got nothing to lose.

Will the One Big Union Grow?
Mister Bonehead wants to know.
Well! What do you think, of that funny gink,
Asking such foolish questions?
Will it grow? Well! Look a here,
Brand new locals everywhere,
Better take a hunch,
Join the fighting bunch,
Fight for Freedom and Right.

For sheet music and karaoke file click here.

Joe Hill songs

Workers of the World Awaken! (1915)

Words and music written by Joe Hill in the Salt Lake City prison.
First published in the March 1916 Joe Hill Memorial Edition of the IWW’s Little Red Songbook.

Workers of the world, awaken!
Break your chains. demand your rights.
AII the wealth you make is taken
By exploiting parasites.
Shall you kneel in deep submission
From your cradles to your graves?
ls the height of your ambition
To be good and willing slaves?

Arise, ye prisoners of starvation!
Fight for your own emancipation;
Arise, ye slaves of every nation.
In One Union grand.
Our little ones for bread are crying,
And millions are from hunger dying;
The end the means is justifying,
‘Tis the final stand.

If the workers take a notion,
They can stop all speeding trains;
Every ship upon the ocean
They can tie with mighty chains.
Every wheel in the creation,
Every mine and every mill,
Fleets and armies of the nation,
Will at their command stand still.

Join the union, fellow workers,
Men and women, side by side;
We will crush the greedy shirkers
Like a sweeping, surging tide;
For united we are standing,
But divided we will fall;
Let this be our understanding —
“All for one and one for all.”

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might;
Take the wealth that you are making,
It belongs to you by right.
No one will for bread be crying,
We’ll have freedom, love and health.
When the grand red flag is flying
In the Workers’ Commonwealth.

For sheet music and karaoke file click here. A reggae-inspired remix by an unidentified artist can be found here.

Joe Hill songs

There Is Power In A Union

Tune: “There Is Power in the Blood”
First published in the March 1913 edition of the IWW’s Little Red Songbook.

Would you have freedom from wage slavery,
Then join in the grand Industrial band;
Would you from mis’ry and hunger be free,
Then come! Do your share, like a man.

There is pow’r, there is pow’r
In a band of workingmen.
When they stand hand in hand,
That’s a pow’r, that’s a pow’r
That must rule in every land —
One Industrial Union Grand.

Would you have mansions of gold in the sky,
And live in a shack, way in the back?
Would you have wings up in heaven to fly,
And starve here with rags on your back?

If you’ve had “nuff” of “the blood of the lamb,”
Then join in the grand Industrial band;
If, for a change, you would have eggs and ham.
Then come! Do your share, like a man.

If you like sluggers to beat off your head,
Then don’t organize, all unions despise,
If you want nothing before you are dead,
Shake hands with your boss and look wise.

Come, all ye workers, from every land,
Come join in the grand Industrial band.
Then we our share of this earth shall demand.
Come on! Do your share, like a man.

Listen to performances by: U. Utah Phillips, Joe Glaser. Billy Bragg reworked the song as Power in a UnionFor sheet music and karaoke file click here.

Joe Hill songs

Casey Jones — The Union Scab

Tune: “Casey Jones”
First published in the 1912 edition of the IWW’s Little Red Songbook.

The Workers on the S. P. line to strike sent out a call;
But Casey Jones, the engineer, he wouldn’t strike at all;
His boiler it was leaking, and its drivers on the bum,
And his engine and its bearings, they were all out of plumb.

Casey Jones kept his junk pile running;
Casey Jones was working double time;
Casey Jones got a wooden medal,
For being good and faithful on the S. P. line.

The workers said to Casey: “Won’t you help us win this strike?”
But Casey said: “Let me alone, you’d better take a hike.”
Then some one put a bunch of railroad ties across the track,
And Casey hit the river bottom with an awful crack.

Casey Jones hit the river bottom;
Casey Jones broke his blessed spine;
Casey Jones was an Angelino,
He took a trip to heaven on the S. P. line.

When Casey Jones got up to heaven, to the Pearly Gate, He said: “I’m Casey Jones, the guy that pulled the S. P. freight.”
“You’re just the man,” said Peter, “our musicians went on strike;
You can get a job a’scabbing any time you like.”

Casey Jones got up to heaven;
Casey Jones was doing mighty fine;
Casey Jones went scabbing on the angels,
Just like he did to workers of the S. P. line.

They got together, and they said it wasn’t fair,
For Casey Jones to go around a’scabbing everywhere.
The Angels’ Union No. 23, they sure were there,
And they promptly fired Casey down the Golden Stairs.

Casey Jones went to Hell a’flying;
“Casey Jones,” the Devil said, “Oh fine:
Casey Jones, get busy shovelling sulphur;
That’s what you get for scabbing on the S. P. Line.”

See performances by: Mark RossBucky Halker, Haywire Mac McClintock;  in Swedish by Anders Wesslen. J.P. Wright remade the song to reflect continued union scabbing on the railroads. For sheet music and karaoke file click here.