German public broadcaster SWR is airing a German-language program on its internet radio station SWR2 this Sunday: “The Ashes of Joe Hill – The Resurrection of a Legend” Sunday, December 6, 2020 2:05 p.m., SWR2 Feature on Sunday, https://www.swr.de/swr2/doku-und-feature/die-asche-von-joe-hill-swr2-feature-am-sonntag-2020-12-06-100.html?fbclid=IwAR2c-eQ-7tx4rVEiekdkY0Zj61r7PFuy3Sygi6IcAKhwARs4dYB-RBOTkxI
November 19, 2020, marked the 105th anniversary of Joe Hill’s death.
British musician Holly Carter held a live online talk on the anniversary of Joe Hill’s murder by the state of Utah. She sings a few Joe Hill songs during a longer discussion of his life and influence: https://www.facebook.com/hollycartermusic/videos/162897875541834 It’s worth a listen, though she does slip up a few times – alternating between International and Industrial Workers of the World
Folksinger Otis Gibbs marked the anniversary by telling the story of Billy Bragg and Joe Hill’s ashes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY0O1v07_XQ&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR00czr8-A7KLPsgQUbwmCogq3isSwe251o50ZKhmkX2M4m2pZ_Q5ZaPceY&ab_channel=OtisGibbs
Dubamix’s new album includes his cover of Joe Hill’s “Rebel Girl.”
“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.
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…
Wednesday, March 14, 2018,
- Location: Divinity 124 (Reading Room), Vanderbilt University
Joe Hill’s songs fanned the flames of discontent in the early 20th century, becoming anthems of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. Hill was executed in 1915 for a murder he probably did not commit, but his music has lived on to influence generations of social and political protest music.
Featuring the Shelby Bottom Duo and Q&A with faculty from the Divinity School, and Departments of History and Sociology.
Light refreshments will be served. The event is free and open to the public. Closest parking is Wesley Place Garage.
Co-sponsored by Vanderbilt Department of Sociology, Divinity School, Department of History, Program in American Studies, and Blair School of Music’s Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology. Special thanks to the Tennessee Arts Commission.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shelby Bottom Duo invites you to attend a free performance of their acclaimed show “A Musical History of Joe Hill & the Early Labor Movement,” Tuesday April 25, 11 am at the UAW hall, 6207 Centennial Blvd in west Nashville, Tenn.