Category Archives: Media

Joe hill still stirring up rebellion

A recent article in the Chicago Reader ends:

“The melodies in The Little Red Songbook continue to ring out in the streets. And Chicago’s ingrained activist streak creates new forms of resistance to old ills. No matter how much the world changes, some things—the power of music, the power of the people—never will.”

Despite its headline the article is more about the Little Red Songbook than about Joe Hill, but it gives many examples of labor and other movement songs continuing to inspire workers to this day.

We have secured several discounted copies of Franklin Rosemont’s magisterial volume on Joe Hill’s legacy, available while supplies last (along with Wm. Adler’s more biographical work). We also have the expanded edition of The Letters of Joe Hill, edited by Philip Foner and Alexis Buss, which was expanded to include the text of all Hill’s surviving songs, letters and articles.

Also available, while supplies last, is the 2019 Solidarity Forever Labor History Calendar. This year’s edition focuses on great strikes, from the 1919 general strikes in Buenos Aires, Seattle and Winnipeg to the strikes that brought down apartheid, demanded an end to discrimination in Iceland, and mobilized millions of workers against austerity.

Joe Hill’s legacy: a fighting labor movement, rebel culture

The Chicago Reader (a shadow of its former self) features an article on Joe Hill and his legacy, “The protest songs that drove the Wobblies a century ago are still lighting fires,” that’s worth a read despite getting the IWW’s name wrong on the second reference (oddly, it’s right at the beginning of the piece). It notes that Joe Hill’s songs continue to inspire workers around the world, and quotes Tom Morello:

These songs look an unjust world square in the eye, slice it apart with satire, dismantle it with rage, and then drop a mighty sing-along chorus fit to raise the roof of a union hall or a holding cell…

https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/little-red-songbook-iww-wobblies-joe-hill-may-day/Content?oid=46456670#.WuPo0RVsi3k.facebook

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. 

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’s Living Legacy (review)

Bucky Halker, Anywhere But Utah: Songs of Joe Hill. Revolting Records, 2015, $15. (available at https://joehill100.com) Alexis Buss and Philip Foner, eds., The Letters of Joe Hill. Haymarket Books, 2015. John McCutcheon, Joe Hill’s Last Will. Appalsongs, 2015.

November marked the 100th anniversary of the execution of IWW organizer and songwriter Joe Hill, an occasion that has been marked by the release of a new edition of his writings, an international labor conference in Sweden, a trilingual compilation of art and music he inspired, museum exhibits, and countless performances. Most readers will know Joe Hill’s music through folk performances by Utah Phillips and Joe Glaser, or perhaps Hazel Dickens’ rendition of “Rebel Girl.” Everyone has heard “The Ballad of Joe Hill,” transforming Joe into a dreamy Popular Front icon. And a few years ago William Adler brought the historical Joe Hill back into focus with his superb biography (reviewed in ASR 57).

I have heard a great many performances of Joe Hill’s songs over the past year, and have come to believe that even his weakest songs can be powerful when performed with conviction. Magpie’s version of his “Don’t Take My Papa Away From Me,” written on the eve of Hill’s execution, as the U.S. was being drawn into World War I, brings new life to what is generally viewed as an overly sentimental song – not only proof that Hill remained engaged with the class struggle up to the very end, but also moving in its own right. J.P. Wright’s powerful rendition of “We Will Sing One Song” completely transformed my sense of the song. And of course the converse is also true – at one event I heard a rendition of “There Is Power In A Union” that evoked all the angst and weakness of contemporary business unionism.

John McCutcheon’s “Joe Hill’s Last Will” includes 13 songs, beginning with “Casey Jones” and ending with “There Is Power.” It includes two songs that, to the best of my knowledge, have never before been recorded: “What We Want” (to my mind one of the strongest tracks) and “Overalls and Snuff,” written on the 1,000-mile picket line. “Stung Right,” a lesser-known song about the miseries of life in the Navy that I first heard sung by Ewan MacColl, also gets a strong performance. Joe Hill fans will certainly want a copy, but many of the performances lack conviction, relying instead on lavish production to carry songs perfectly capable of standing on their own if given half a chance.

Bucky Halker’s “Anywhere But Utah” also includes several never-before-recorded Joe Hill songs (“Scissor Bill,” “Come and Take a Joy Ride in my Aeroplane,” “Der Chief of Fresno,” “My Dreamland Girl,” “Nearer My Job to Thee,” “Let Bill Do It, and “It’s A Long Way Down to the Soupline”), among 18 tracks (and three archival segments) that also include standards including “Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay,” “The Preacher and the Slave,” “Mister Block,” “The Rebel Girl” and a rocking rendition of “There Is Power in the Union.” Hill’s rarely recorded anthem “Workers of the World Awaken” (which has some great poetry that powerfully captures the IWW message, but does not sing very well) is also present, but sung in Swedish translation. (Two other tracks interpolate Swedish and English.)

“Anywhere But Utah” comes with a 20-page booklet that includes extensive notes (and lyrics) for each song, offering a quick overview of Hill’s music and his contribution to labor songs. The complete text of Joe Hill’s surviving songs and writings is included in the re-issue of The Letters of Joe Hill, providing clear evidence not only of Joe Hill’s wit, but also of an optimism that is often overlooked. In Joe’s “Soup-line,” for example, the workers quickly tire of the watery soup and other indignities visited upon them, organize to take control of the industries, and implement the four-four day; by song’s end, the soupline is frequented by the former bosses, who subsist as always on the workers’ charity, but no longer so ostentatiously.

Halker brings a sense of commitment to the songs, even as he re-imagines several of them. This is a Joe Hill inflected with ragtime and vaudeville (the popular music of his day, and which he borrowed several tunes from), but also with blues, jazz and rock. A couple of songs seem self-consciously old-timey, and I would have welcomed an English-language version of “Workers of the World Awaken,” one of the songs Joe Hill wrote from death row. But overall, this is an album that takes Hill seriously as a musician, and which will reward repeated listening.

The Letters of Joe Hill adds several letters unavailable when the first edition was issued and greatly expands the explanatory notes. Several articles by Joe Hill are also included, showing his concern with police brutality and the need to organize women workers, but also an intensely practical turn of mind. Joe dismisses the idea that workers can secure their rights through armed struggle, for example, not on ideological grounds but through a discussion of the enormous sums of money that would be required for armaments. Direct action at the point of production, he notes, is more effective, cheaper, and results in no loss of human life. There is no attempt at a full biography here; but by collecting Joe Hill’s writings (articles, letters, poems and songs) and cartoons, Alexis Buss and Philip Foner do much to fill in the contours of Hill’s life and the commitments to which he dedicated his life.

Joe Hill embodies the self-taught working class activist-intellectuals who built the radical labor movement. His songs continue to speak to us a century later, about direct action, the need for solidarity, and the enormous power always in our hands, should we organize to use it.

— Jon Bekken

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:

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Joe Hill Centenary enters Final Days

Fellow Workers,

This week marks the final week leading up to the 100th anniversary of the judicial murder of Joe Hill.  The New York Daily News just run an article, as did Capital & Main, and the Salt Lake Tribune continues updating their Joe Hill page.  And you might like to check out Joe Hill’s Living Message

There are many, many events scheduled for the week, and we keep learning of new ones every day. And we know there will be soapboxing in many locations. Here’s a breakdown of events, organized by state:

Australia: The New South Wales Teachers Federation is hosting a forum on the occasion of the centenary

Bo Widerberg’s film Joe Hill will be shown in a newly restored and digitally remastered version produced by the National Library of Sweden as part of a Joe Hill Centenary event in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday, Nov. 19. Victorian Trades Hall, Lygon and Victoria Streets,  Carlton, commencing at 5.00 p.m.

GermanyConcert: 100 years later: Tribute Concert for a true rebel that never died. Berlin. Bernd Köhler & Blandine Bonjour, Geigerzähler, The Overall Brigade. Supamolly, Jessner Str. 41, D-10247 Berlin. Thursday, Nov. 19, 6:00 – 12:00 p.m.

California: Tom Morello & Friends Joe Hill Memorial Concert. Tuesday, Nov. 17, 8:00 p.m. Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles. Performers include: Tom Morello, Joan Baez, Ziggy Marley, Van Dyke Parks, Boots Riley, Rich Robinson, The Last Internationale, Tim Armstrong, Wayne Kramer, Jill Sobule, David Rovics, and Built for the Sea. Tickets $20.

Concert: “Don’t Mourn, Organize: The Musical Legacy of Joe Hill,” Chico, California. More than a dozen musicians will share music by Joe Hill and inspired by him. Thursday, Nov. 19, 7:00 p.m., Blue Room Theater, 139 West 1st Street, Chico.

Colorado:  Concert: John McCutcheon, “Joe Hill’s Last Will.” Denver, CO. Bread & Roses Cultural Center. Friday, Nov. 20.

IllinoisCommemoration: Joe Hill funeral re-enactment with a casket, brass band and several performers (including Swedish and Italian).  Bucky Halker, Jon Langford, Sally Timms, and more. Sunday, Nov. 22,  The Hideout, 1354 W Wabansia Ave, Chicago.

Exhibition: Joe Hill 100 Years Part 5. URI-EICHEN Gallery, 2101 S Halsted, Chicago. Posters and other memorabilia from the Industrial Workers of the World Collection, Molly Crabapple,  Illinois Labor History Society, etc. continues through Nov. 26.

IowaConcert: John McCutcheon, “Joe Hill’s Last Will.” Saturday, Nov. 21, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Legion Arts.

MarylandConcert: John McCutcheon concludes his Joe Hill’s Last Will tour in Rockville, Monday, Nov. 23

MissouriCommemoration Concert:  Danny Cox, Dr. Joyce Downing, Tom James, Bill Clause, Kasey Raush & Scott Stanton, Ariana Eakle, Bob & Diana Suckiel and more. Friday, Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m. Trailside Center, 9901 Holmes Rd.,Kansas City. $15 donation. Be prepared to sing.

New York: 11/5-28/2015 The Subversive Theatre Collective presents Si Kahn’s play “Joe Hill’s Last Will.” Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Tickets $25, $20 for students, seniors and union members, Thursdays pay what you can. Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Avenue, Buffalo NY.

Soapboxing:  The Upstate New York Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World will lead a traditional soapboxing demonstration at noon, on Thursday, Nov. 19, at Washington Avenue, downtown Albany, adjacent to West Capitol Park.
Presentation & Concert: That evening, IWW delegate Greg Giorgio will discuss Joe Hill’s Legacy and lead a sing-along of Joe Hill’s songs. 6:30 p.m. at the Altamont Free Library.
11/19/2015 Concert: John McCutcheon, “Joe Hill’s Last Will.” Salt Lake City. Thursday, Nov. 19, The State Room.

Don’t Mourn, Organize! Performances in Celebration of Labor Troubadour Joe Hill. New York City. Amy Goodman ofDemocracy Now! will lead a group of musicians and actors in a rousing evening honoring the great labor troubadour Joe Hill: Musicians Allison Moorer, Stephen Said, Son of Nun and Jamie Kilstein, actors Susan Pourfar and Brian Jones, comedian Hari Kondabolu, and writer Walter Mosley. Friday, Nov. 20, 7:00 p.m. New School’s Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall, 66 W 12th St., Manhattan. The event celebrates publication of the new edition of The Letters of Joe Hill. Admission free, but tickets required.

OregonConcert: Anne Feeney, Honoring the Legacy of Joe Hill. Sponsored by NW Oregon Labor Council. Thursday, Nov. 19, 8 p.m. Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St., Portland.

Pennsylvania: Former IWW General Secretary-Treasurer Alexis Buss will discuss the life and legacy of Joe Hill, and in particular his writings collected in the new edition of The Letters of Joe Hill (for which she collected extensive new material and updated and expanded the notes). John Braxton will sing Joe Hill’s songs. Thursday, Nov. 19, 6:30 p.m., Swedish American Historical Museum, Philadelphia. 

An Exhibition on life and legacy of Joe Hill continues at American Swedish Historical Museum, Philadelphia, through Spring.

TennesseeJoe Hill Roadshow, Jack Herranen & the Little Red Band, Black Atticus, Shelby Bottom Duo, Matt Kinman & Friends. Saturday, Nov. 21, Potluck 5:00 p.m., Show 7:00 p.m. Candoro Marble Building, 4450 Candora Ave., Knoxville. $5 donation.

Utah: Joe Hill Roadshow. Otis Gibbs, Duncan Phillips, Kate Macleod, Walter Parks and many special guests. Friday, Nov.  20, 8:00 p.m. The Stateroom, 638 South State St., Salt Lake City. $15 admission.

11/16/2015 Lecture: William Adler will speak on The Man Who Never Died: The Life and Legacy of Joe Hill After a Century, Monday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m., Dumke Legacy Hall in the Hurst Learning Center at Weber State University, Ogden; free.

11/18/2015  Lecture: William Adler, author of The Man Who Never Died, speaks Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. at Ken Sanders Rare Books, 268 S. 200 East, Salt Lake City; free.

11/19/2015  7:21 a.m. Si Kahn & John McCutcheon will stand vigil on the very spot where Joe Hill was tied to a chair, blindfolded and, with a paper heart pinned to his chest, shot to death by a firing squad.  Anyone in the Salt Lake City area is invited to join.  Vigil to mark centenary of the execution of Joe Hill. Sugar House Park, 1400 East 2100 South, Salt Lake City, 6:00 p.m.

Washington: Linda Allen, George Mann, David Rovics and Rebel Voices (Janet Stecher and Susan Lewis). Sunday, Nov. 15, 7:00 p.m. Unitarian Universalist church, 1207 Ellsworth St., Bellingham. Sponsored by Bellingham GMB, Industrial Workers of the World. $10 – $20, no one turned away for lack of funds.

A host of downloads of the soapbox action guide from the region suggest that one should be looking out for soapboxers around the state.

Concert: “Joe Hill…The Man Who Never Died… 100 Years Ago!” Featuring Gary Kanter, Friends & Fellow Travelers. Friday, Nov. 20, 7 p.m. Couth Buzzard Books, 8310 Greenwood Ave., Seattle.

 

WisconsinConcert: Bucky Halker and Lil’ Rev,“Anywhere But Utah – The Songs of Joe Hill.”  Thursday, Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m., Beulah Briton House, 2590 S Superior St., Bayview. Donation.

Concert: John McCutcheon continues his Joe Hill’s Last Will tour in Madison, Wisconsin. Sunday, Nov. 22.

 

West Coast Joe Hill Roadshow

Preston Chipps created a couple short videos of the San Diego kick-off of the West Coast leg of the Joe Hill roadshow:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EG4xI5Ycw0o and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdAbXZknnW0

Bill Raden writes on the lead-up to the centenary of Joe Hill’s execution for Capital & Main:

Hill’s mythic stature continues to serve as the soul of the struggle for workers’ rights and economic equality, and interest in his life shows no sign of abating — a phenomenon that is reflected in the ongoing yearlong seriesof exhibits, book events and concerts commemorating his death.

Joe Hill, of course, was no ordinary organizer but also a poet and balladeer whose knack for taking a well-known hymn or folksong, wryly subverting its original ethos, and transforming it into a stirring Wobbly anthem (“The Preacher and the Slave,” “Rebel Girl,” “Casey Jones — the Unknown Scab”) not only contributed to the Great American Protest Songbook but became the template for future songwriters like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan.

The expanded centenary edition of The Letters of Joe Hill is now available, and its official release is being celebrated with events in Los Angeles (featuring Joan Baez and Tom Morello) and New York (hosted by Amy Goodman and featuring a plethora of musicians and authors, including Walter Mosely). Details are on the Events page. These are part of events marking the centenary being held from Sidney, Australia, to Berlin, Germany, and across the United States. Details are on the Events page, and we will post this weekend a release offering an overview and regional listings.

Video podcast on the Joe Hill Roadshow

An hour-long podcast (also broadcast on local access cable in Madison) showcases the Joe Hill Roadshow. Norm Stockwell (a member of the national organizing committee) and host John Quinlan spend an hour discussing the life and legacy of Joe Hill, and share clips from some of the musicians who will be performing on the Midwest leg of the tour.
This show was produced at the facilities of the Sun Prairie (WI) Media Center.  It will be widely distributed via other community media stations throughout Wisconsin.  While some of the broadcast is Madison-specific, Norm provides extensive background on the national nature of the tour, and both the local and national resonance of the themes it embraces.
At the outset, we share the Phil Ochs/Billy Bragg youtube video that chronicles Joe Hill’s life through picture and song, and use clips throughout the show to offer viewers a sampling of the repertoire of eight of the participating artists.  Here’s the link to the video: http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T02098&video=234065