Category Archives: Commemorations

Magpie’s “When We Stand Together” a noble effort in the Wobbly song tradition

 By FW Greg Giorgio, Industrial Worker Fall 2017 

Magpie, the folk duo Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino, wear their working class roots and union memberships proudly. The native Ohioans met at Kent State, where Terry dodged National Guard bullets in the infamous murders of four students in 1970. The social justice and environmental activists began performing together soon after and have never wavered from their strong messages for freedom. 

When We Stand Together, subtitled Songs of Joe Hill, the IWW, and Fellow Workers, is a noble effort in the history of Wobbly songs. Its broad vision that includes songs penned by Ronnie Gilbert, Tish Hinojosa, and Si Kahn, Phil Ochs, and others closes a circle to incorporate the vision of a world where there is room for the justice around which we organize. Greg and Terry have added an important new take on the singing union tradition of the IWW. 

Two years ago Magpie signed on to tour with FWs Charlie King and George Mann for the “Joe Hill Road Show,” during the centenary of the Wobbly bard’s execution in Utah. They had already fallen in love with many of Joe’s songs. They were so thrilled, in fact, they took out red cards on the tour, adding to their credentials as stalwarts in AFM Local 1000, the traveling musicians’ local. It’s exciting to hear them lead off this CD with Hill’s “Workers of the World Awaken.” Joe’s reboot to the “Internationale” riffs some of its lines but adapts it to a higher plane. One verse (“If the workers take a notion they can stop all speeding trains,” etc.) outlines the mechanics of stopping exploitation in the workplace and ending war. Magpie’s revelatory attempt here illustrates how their musicianship and sense of history are second to none in modern folk music. 

Hill’s best efforts expropriated the boss-class popular culture and accentuated themes of “building a new society within the shell of the old,” as stated in the IWW Preamble. Hear Greg and Terry’s spirited offerings on Hill’s “It’s a Long Way Down to the Soup Line” or the anti-war anthem “Don’t Take My Papa Away from Me.” Terry’s vocal on the latter is rich, emotional, and evokes the era in which it was penned. While many have recorded Joe’s “The Rebel Girl,” Magpie treats it with a reverence they share about Hill’s compositional prowess. 

Magpie’s originals show their strengths as songwriters. “Poor Old Dobbin” is a tribute to the IWW that could have been written a century ago. And “Canton 1918” chronicles the famous speech by Gene Debs that resulted in his lockup in the federal pen for “sedition.” You can hear the emotion coming through your speakers with Greg’s lead vocal as he sings so reverently about the time and the town as it was then. 

The 19 cuts that grace the recording include songs by many non-IWW authors, but their inclusion enriches the mix. Like Flo Reece’s “Which Side Are You On?” where Terry embodies Flo’s unique vocal style, working-class imperatives in “Build High the Bridge,” environmental justice in “Something in the Rain,” solidarity in “Links on the Chain,” and immigrants and labor in “Borderlines” are all powerful reminders of the work that still needs to be organized. Do you know “Paper Heart”? Si Khan and Charlotte Brody wrote this about Joe Hill, and Magpie’s heart-tugging harmony is sad and beautiful. And now the circle is complete.

Please see www.magpiemusic.com for information on this and other recordings by Magpie. 

Joe Hill concert with the U-Liners

We continue to add new Joe Hill events to our calendar as we learn of them.  The latest:

Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. 4:00 pm. Joe Hill commemoration concert with the U-Liners. Fundraiser for Marc Elrich, candidate for Montgomery County Executive. Flanagan’s Harp & Fiddle, 4844 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, Maryland.

We’ve also added the 2018 Solidarity Forever Labor History calendar to our web store. This year’s calendar commemorates workers’ struggles against fascism and bigotry around the world, and the power of workers’ solidarity.

Joe Hill exhibit in Bishop Hill, IL

Workers of the World, Awaken!: The Life and Legacy of Joe Hill exhibit opened on Saturday, June 3, at the Steeple Building Museum in Bishop Hill, Illinois. The exhibit will close on September 30, 2017.

This traveling display, consisting of 5 text panels and over 25 stand-alone images with music, was created by the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia. After a year in Philadelphia, the exhibit has also appeared at Nordic Northwest, in Portland, OR.

For more details about the exhibit or the concert, please call 309-927-3899 or email bhha@mymctc.net.

Joe Hill musical history show set for Louisville on April 7

By John Paul Wright 

Nashville-based Shelby Bottom Duo (Michael August and Nell Levin) will perform their entertaining, multimedia educational show, A Musical History of Joe Hill and the Early Labor Movement in Louisville April 7. The show is set for 7 to 10 p.m. at Lettersong, 1501 Story Ave.

Tickets are $10 advance, $12 at the door. Space is limited so advance tickets are recommended. Click here for tickets.

Their companion CD Joe Hill Roadshow will be available at the show. Special guest will be Louisville’s John Paul Wright, Railroad Engineer, Songwriter, Drummer, Poet, Activist. www.railroadmusic.org

Songwriter Joe Hill is the precursor of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. He was immortalized when Joan Baez sang “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. A Swedish immigrant, Hill was a member of the international labor group, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies), active in the decade leading up to World War I. In 1914, Joe Hill was framed for two murders he did not commit. He was executed by a firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 19,1915. He subsequently became a labor icon.

Our Musical History includes live performances of Joe Hill songs along with a talk and images about Hill’s life, early labor struggles and the influence of the IWW’s innovative organizing strategies on movements today. Our goal is to share this vital slice of labor history with a wide range people so that we can all better understand why the revolutionary creativity exemplified by Joe Hill and the Wobblies is still relevant. In 2015, 100 years after Joe Hill’s execution, 40 concerts were held around the country celebrating his legacy. Shelby Bottom Duo organized and performed at the Nashville concert and performed at the Knoxville concert.

A Musical History has received funding for our performances from Metro Nashville Arts Commission THRIVE and Humanities Tennessee.

“Shelby Bottom Duo: Entertaining, irreverent social commentary, humanity and humor.” Bill Friskics-Warren, correspondent for the New York Times

Utah Phillips’ rail car to be restored

by Ron Kaminkow, Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture

Last Fall, I spoke with Duncan Phillips – the eldest son of the late folk musician and fellow Wobbly Bruce “Utah” Phillips – who I have known since April 2008, when his Dad’s health was in an irreversible state of decline. Duncan had some interesting news. It turns out that the old caboose-like rail car known as a flanger,” once owned and rehabilitated by Utah nearly 50 years ago in Vermont, had been put up for sale. We both agreed that we must do whatever it takes to acquire the car, that it should serve as the Bruce “Utah” Phillips Library, and that it should be trucked across the country to the place where Utah would have wished it –  the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture in Weed, CA.
So, the great news since then is that Duncan has set up a tax-exempt non-profit 501c3 called The Long Memory, and he was able to obtain the rail car! Now we need to raise roughly $25,000 to prepare the car for the move, build a track pad and other onsite infrastructure, rent the cranes to lift/drop it and the semi-trailers to haul it, and then restore it upon arrival to its condition in the early 1970s when Utah first lived in it.  Check out the comprehensive website that Duncan has put together, a virtual treasure trove of information, not just about the caboose/flanger and its history, but about Utah Phillips –  his life, music, ideas, recordings, wisdom, poetry, writings, radio shows, and more. Take your time, there is a lot to see, listen to and think about.
I hope you are as inspired as I am about this project. If you are, please consider the following:
1 — Make a donation – no matter how small – to help us bring this project to fruition. You can do that HERE.
2 — Post a Blog entry on the Long Memory website, and share any stories, thoughts, and/or reminiscences that you may have about Utah Phillips. You can do that HERE.
3 — (Musicians) Give a verbal plug from the stage for the project (and possibly pass out flyers) at your upcoming shows throughout this year.
4 — (Musicians) Play a benefit concert in the coming months to help us raise the necessary funds for the transport and rehab of the rail car and to raise awareness of the project.
5 — Join us at the ceremony and celebration this summer at the Bruce “Utah” Phillips Library on the grounds of the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture in Weed, California at the foot of Mount Shasta (tentatively planned for late summer 2017).
6 — (Musicians) Perform on-stage on the grounds of the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture at the ceremony/celebration.
7 — Forward this email to fellow musicians, union activists, Wobblies, historians, and supporters of the arts who might be interested in this endeavor.
For further information see the website and/or fundraiser. Your support, advice and encouragement is much appreciated!

Support Joe Hill CD/Tour

Nashville-based Shelby Bottom Duo (Michael August and Nell Levin)  have launched a fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $5,000 to fund their Musical History of Joe Hill and the Early Labor Movement Tour and a companion CD of Joe Hill songs.

The project includes live performances of Joe Hill songs recorded on the CD along with a talk about Hill’s life, early labor struggles and the influence of the IWW’s innovative organizing strategies on movements today. Their goal is to share this vital slice of labor history with a wide range people so that we can all better understand why the revolutionary creativity exemplified by Joe Hill and the Wobblies is still relevant.

To support the project, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/shelbybottomduo

Centenary of the Easter Rising

jamesconnollycoverIt is good to see this graphic account of the life of James Connolly, the socialist and fighter for Irish freedom who also defended the rights of women to revolt. He was one of the inspirations in the late 1960s when early womens liberation groups started to form. His ideas are as needful today as they were in the twentieth century.

  Sheila Rowbotham

May 1916 marks the centenary of the execution of IWW/labor organizer James Connolly by British authorities for his part in leading the Easter Rebellion. The IWW Hungarian Literature Fund is commemorating the occasion by publishing, in collaboration with PM Press, a graphic history of his life by veteran comic artist Tom Keough, followed by a modest selection of Connollys writings and an afterword by labor historian (and editor of the graphic history The Wobblies) Paul Buhle.

Copies of the 42-page pamphlet A Full Life: James Connolly the Irish Rebel are available for $4.95, or three for $10.00, post-paid to U.S. addresses. (Inquire for international postage)

To order, click here or visit our Shop page.

“Tom Keough and Paul Buhle have put together a terrific graphic remembrance of a giant among working class heroes: James Connolly.  I hope that it will serve as an introduction to many, and foster a greater understanding of the depth and intensity of Connolly’s contributions to the labor movement and socialism.”  — Anne Feeney

There are a number of online collections of Connolly’s writings, including:


James Connolly, “Facets of American Liberty”
Workers’ Republic, December 1908 (excerpts)

“Where Liberty is, there is my country.”

So said the enthusiastic 18th century revolutionist. But if he lived nowadays he would have a long search for his country – where Liberty is. The only liberty we know of now, outside the liberty to go hungry, stands in New York Bay, where it has been placed, I am told, in order that immigrants from Europe may get their first and last look at it before setting foot on American soil.

You see, it would be decidedly awkward for our Fourth of July orators to be orating to the newcomers about the blessings of American liberty and then to be asked by some ignorant European to tell where that liberty is to be found.

Some ignorant, discontented unit of the hordes of Europe, for instance, might feel tempted to go nosing around in this great country in search of liberty, and his search might take him into the most awkward places.

He might go down South and see little white American children of seven, eight and nine years of age working in our cotton mills enjoying their liberty to work for a boss at an age when other children are still compelled by tyrannical laws to stay on wrestling with the dreadful problems of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.

He might have visited Alabama and seen American citizens out on strike, driven out of their homes by the power of the capitalist mine-owner, and when they erected tents upon private land granted by a charitable farmer for that purpose, he might have seen a Democratic governor order in the state militia to cut down the tents and drive the American workers back to the mine at the point of the bayonet.

He might, being an ignorant European, visit Florida and see men lured from the big cities to the railroad construction camps and kept there on a hunger diet, compelled to endure blows and foulest insults, and when they attempted to escape he might see the power of the state detective force employed to arrest them as if they were criminals and take them back handcuffed to their slavery.

This ignorant representative of the scum of Europe might have visited Colorado in 1904 and seen armed militia invade newspaper offices and imprison printers and journalists alike without legal warrant or pretense at trial, trade union meetings suppressed, duly elected public officials compelled to resign under threat of lynching, respectable men taken out of their beds in the middle of the night and without [being] given a chance to even put their shoes on marched under armed guards across the state lines, hundreds of men thrown into cattle enclosures and kept there for months without trial, and Pinkerton detectives employed to manufacture outrages in order to hang innocent men.

This pilgrim in search of liberty might have learned from the coal miners of Pennsylvania that their state is dotted over east and west with localities where union miners were shot down like dogs whilst peacefully parading the streets or roads in time of strikes, he might have learned that practically every industrial center in the country from Albany, N.Y., to San Francisco, Calif., from New Orleans to Minnesota, has the same tale to tell of the spilling of workmen’s blood by the hirelings of the master class, and he might have attended the unemployed demonstration in Union Square, New York, and have seen the free American citizens rapped on the head for daring to ask a job collectively, instead of begging for it individually. …

The Liberty we have in Bartholdi’s statue is truly typical of liberty in this age and country.

It is placed upon a pedestal out of the reach of the multitudes; it can only be approached by those who have money enough to pay the expense; it has a lamp to enlighten the world, but the lamp is never lit, and it smiles upon us as we approach America, but when we are once in the country we never see anything but its back.

‘Tis a great world we live in. …

 

 

 

Podcasts, coloring Joe Hill, etc.

The full video of the New School event on The Letters of Joe Hill is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VowR8RpYjoA

The Graphic History Collective held a Joe Hill coloring contest (the deadline for which passed before we learned of it). However, there is a free commemorative coloring poster available for download.

Paul Buhle reviews The Letters of Joe Hill and the reissue of Franklin Rosemont’s Joe Hill (a wide-ranging exploration of his legacy and influence).

Dissent magazine’s podcast features an interview with Letters of Joe Hill co-editor Alexis Buss, and some Joe Hill songs (at the 10 minute mark)

A collection of articles on the trial (1914) from the Salt Lake Tribune is available as part of a rather hostile website.

Joe Hill presentation in Chicago

An event will be held in Chicago Dec. 12 in conjunction with the release of the book of Joe Hill’s writings, The Letters of Joe Hill. (Copies are available from us) And an Exhibition on the life and legacy of Joe Hill continues at the American Swedish Historical Museum, Philadelphia.

12/12/2015 Presentation: “Don’t Mourn, Organize!” commemorating the life of Joe Hill and raising funds for Haymarket Books, publisher of the expanded edition of The Letters of Joe Hill. Bill Ayers, Rick Kogan, Maya Schenwar, Jesse Sharkey, Sharon Smith, James Thindwa, and other special guests will read from Joe Hill’s writings and perform his songs. Saturday, Dec. 12, 7:00 p.m., Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago. Tickets $10 – $45, includes a copy of the new edition of The Letters of Joe Hill, compiled by Alexis Buss, with a new foreword by Tom Morello.

Several media outlets ran articles on Joe Hill in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of his judicial murder, including:

  • Green Left Weekly, Rod Owens, “Joe Hill — remembering a ‘troubadour of discontent’ 100 years on from his execution.”
  • Huffington Post, Julie Gutman Dickinson, “What Labor Icon Joe Hill Can Still Teach the World 100 Years After His Death.”
  • Jacobin, “Don’t Mourn, Organize! Two Letters by Joe Hill.”
  • In These Times, David Cochran, “Remembering the Life and Music of Labor Agitator Joe Hill, Who Was Executed 100 Years Ago Today.” (Reprinted in Duluth News-Tribune)
  • Ireland’s Own, “100th Anniversary of the Execution of Joe Hill.” (draws on Jim Larkin connection)
  • Labor Notes, Jon Bekken, “‘Striking on the Job’: Joe Hill’s Living Message.”
  • New York Daily News, Mara Bovsun, “Joe Hill, who was executed by firing squad in Utah 100 years ago, inspired generations of musicians from Woody Guthrie to Bruce Springsteen.”
  • The Progressive, Jonathan Rosenblum, “Joe Hill’s Ghost Still Sings: ‘Pie in the Sky, That’s a Lie!'”
  • The Real News, Interview with Alexis Buss, “Remembering Joe Hill.”
  • Salt Lake Tribune, Jeremy Harmon, “A Family Finds Piece.” (One of several pieces published during the centenary week to their Joe Hill website)
  • San Francisco IndyMedia, Bob English, “Joe Hill’s Last Will, 100 Years Later.”
  • Waging Nonviolence, Nadine Bloch, “100 years later: 5 timeless lessons from Joe Hill.”

IWW members marked the centenary of the execution with a vigil in Salt Lake City and soapboxing across the United States.  Here are two photos from Albany, New York:

IMG_1525IMG_1512

Joe Hill Centenary Commemoration Live Streams Friday

Friday night in New York City, Amy Goodman will host a reading/presentation on Joe Hill’s life, writings and songs. For those unable to attend in person, it will livestream at: http://livestream.com/TheNewSchool/dont-mourn-organize The event begins at 7:00 pm EST, and is scheduled to wrap up at 8:25.

On Friday, November 20, 2015, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! will lead a group of musicians and actors in a rousing evening of performance at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium at the University Center, to honor the great labor troubadour Joe Hill.

Participants include musicians Allison Moorer, Deva Mahal, Stephan Said, Eli Smith, Son of Nun, and Jamie Kilstein; actors Susan Parfour and Brian Jones; comedian Hari Kondabolu; writer Walter Mosley and Letters of Joe Hill editor Alexis Buss.