Shelby Bottom Duo Joe Hill Roadshow (Tennessee)

“For those who wonder about the lineage of Woody Guthrie’s celebrated songs of social conscience and labor activism, the Shelby Bottom Duo & Friends have provided a compelling answer with the Joe Hill Roadshow—a collection that places top notch musicianship and heartfelt singing at the service of songs as meaningful now as they were when Hill wrote them a century ago.”  —Jon Weisberger, International Bluegrass Music Association Songwriter of the Year and Print Media Person of the Year.  

Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, 4 pm, House Concert by Shelby Bottom Duo and a talk by art historian Gail Levin about the paintings of Edward Hopper.  308 Oxford Street, San Francisco. Limited space.  Please contact bernellalevin@gmail.com if you plan to attend.

Tuesday, Feb. 21 2017, IBEW Local 175, Chattanooga, TN

Wednesday, March 15, 2017, Midsouth Peace & Justice Center, Memphis, TN

Tuesday, March 21, 2017, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN

Saturday, April 15, 2017, Louisville, KY Shelby Bottom Duo with John Paul Wright, locomotive engineer, community organizer, union organizer, labor singer, poet and djembe player.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017, UAW Local 737, Nashville, TN

April 2017, AFL-CIO of Knoxville, date pending.

February, March and April 2017 dates pending for Nashville Musical History shows.
For more information, contact bernellalevin@gmail.com.

Joe Hill & Wobbly Gifts for all Seasons

We have a wide array of Joe Hill and labor-oriented material suitable for gifts, including:

Bucky Halker: Anywhere But Utah (Songs of Joe Hill)

A Full Life: James Connolly The Irish Rebel

2017 Solidarity Forever Labor History Calendar

Direct Action Gets the Goods women’s cut T-shirts

Joe Hill centenary T-shirts

Fred Alpi singing Joe Hill and other labor songs in French

The Shelby Bottom Duo singing songs of Joe Hill

Joe Hill’s letters and other writings

the definitive biography of Joe Hill, by William Adler  (the site lists it at full price; we have a large quantity of discounted copies arriving shortly which will be available in quantities of 3 or more at very attactive prices; drop us a line at iwwhlf@gmail.com if interested)

and full color Christmas Cards drawn by Joe Hill in his Salt Lake City jail cell

Two Joe Hill shows in Nashville, Tennessee

14788453_1475036769-0384_funddescriptionTuesday, Oct.  25, 2016. Musical History of Joe Hill & the Early Labor Movement Tour with the Shelby Bottom Duo (Michael August and Nell Levin) United Auto Workers Local 737, 6207 Centennial Blvd, Nashville TN, 2 pm.
Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. SPECIAL ALBUM RELEASE SHOW! Musical History of Joe Hill and the Early Labor Movement Tour with Shelby Bottom Duo, Nashville Peace & Justice Center, Friends Meeting House, 530 26th Avenue N., Nashville, 7 pm.

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

Joe Hill Roadshow in Lansing, Michigan

The Joe Hill Roadshow makes a return appearance in Lansing Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, at 7:30 p.m. at the MSU Community Music School. Tickets are $18, $5 for students.  Performing are Magpie (Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino), Charlie King and George Mann.

If you haven’t heard these songs before, you’ll be surprised how funny and singable they are—and how much the lyrics ring true today.

“The IWW has always seemed to me to be remarkably free of ideological blinders,” King says. “They were clear-eyed about the owning class and the working class, and knew that at times of crisis your worst enemies may be found among the latter. They have been consistently pragmatic in their strategies—and their songs reflect that.”

“Joe Hill created a body of very practical, well-crafted songs that wear very well a century later,” says Charlie King. “The 1% are as tenacious as then, and the 99% need the demystifying reminders found in Wobbly songs. An injury to one is still an injury to all.”

 

The IWW in its Heyday

Eric Chester, author41t31ijmpdl-_sx325_bo1204203200_ of The IWW in Its Heyday, will be speaking about the book at three East Coast events.

Saturday, September 24: Somerville Public Library, 2 pm. 79 Highland Avenue, Somerville MA.

Wednesday, September 28:  Off the Common bookstore,71 S Pleasant St.,  Amherst MA, 7 pm .

Tuesday, October 11: Wooden Shoe Books, 704 South St., Philadelphia PA, 7 pm.  (Cosponsored by Bindlestiff Books)

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’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

Dedicated to IWW songwriter Joe Hill