Saturday, September 01, 2018

9/03 34th Bread & Roses Heritage Festival

Charlie Welch<>
34th Bread & Roses Heritage Festival

Monday, Sept 3  11:30 to 6 Campagnone Common Lawerence MA

As the region’s only true Labor Day festival, 34th Annual Bread & Roses
Heritage Festival is an open-air arts and music festival honoring
Lawrence, Massachusetts’ multi-cultural roots and rich labor history
while commemorating the most significant event in Lawrence history: the
1912 Bread and Roses Strike. A day of activism and family fun, the
Festival boasts 3 stages of socially conscious performances, an array of
family activities, rows of community vendors, historical trolley and
walking tours, culturally diverse food offerings, educational
presentations and more!


• Historic Trolley Tours: FREE 50 minute tour of the historic mill town,
Lawrence, MA. Departs from City Hall every 30 minutes starting at
12:00pm, with the last trolley at 4:00pm. Get TICKETS in advance at the
Friends of Lawrence Heritage State Park tent (these fill up quickly).

Los paseos en trolley con guía en español salen a las 2:00pm, 3:00pm y
4:00pm. Busque su boleta en la mesa de “Friends of Lawrence Heritage
State Park.”

• Historic Walking Tours: FREE. Leaves from the Strikers' Monument on
the Common across from City Hall and goes through the mill district,
focusing on the Strike of 1912.

• Commemoration Ceremony at 11:30AM at the 1912 Textile Workers'
Strikers' Monument across from City Hall. Welcome by the Chair of the
1912 Strikers’ Monument Committee, the President of the Bread and Roses
Heritage Committee, and Mayor Dan Rivera

• Celebration of Dreamers and Doers for Social Justice - We will
celebrate the accomplishments and ongoing organizing efforts of several
local workers’ campaigns.

• “Hustle and Soul”- A group of young, local creatives present an
eclectic multimedia production will take festival-goers on a
thought-provoking experience to explore the topics of intergenerational
struggles, the immigrant/urban experience, and reimagining the future of
the City of Immigrants.

• Lawrence History Live! – Historians, workers, and union
representatives present their insights into Lawrence's history and
today’s workers’ issues and actions in a centrally located speakers’
tent. Lawrence History Live! also includes a Community Forum which
offers in-depth discussion of the current housing crisis. Festival
visitors are encouraged to participate and contribute their views in a

• Community Corner – In the tradition of the labor, free-speech, and
civil rights movements, we are providing a soap box, open to all, to
step up and have a voice.

• Family Activities – Family entertainment includes an international
food court, pony rides, walking and trolley tours, a magic show, learn
about reptiles, and portrait artist Ed Bray. The highly popular Kidz
Zone will feature an eclectic mix of arts and crafts by the Lawrence
Arts House <> (La House),
a community based expressive arts studio with a therapeutic framework
that reclaims art-making as a process for healing. MORE:

While you're there check out the poster exhibit at the museum. (3rd one

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For The Late Rosalie Sorrels- A Working Class Anthem For Labor Day- " Solidarity Forever"

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels- A Working Class Anthem For Labor Day- " Solidarity Forever"

Solidarity forever!
For the union makes us strong

When the union's inspiration
through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater
anywhere beneath the sun.
Yet what force on earth is weaker
than the feeble strength of one?
But the union makes us strong.

They have taken untold millions
that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle
not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power;
gain our freedom when we learn
That the Union makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power
greater than their hoarded gold;
Greater than the might of armies,
magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world
from the ashes of the old
For the Union makes us strong.

This labor anthem was written in 1915 by IWW songwriter and union organizer Ralph Chaplin using the music of Julia Ward Howe's Battle Hymn of the Republic. These song lyrics are those sung by Joe Glazer, Educational Director of the United Rubber Workers, from the recording Songs of Work and Freedom, (Washington Records WR460)

The Baptism Of Fire- Norman Mailer's "St. George And The Godfather"

The Baptism Of Fire- Norman Mailer's "St. George And The Godfather"

Click on the headline to link to a "The New York Times" obituary for American writer Norman Mailer article, dated November 10, 2007.



As I recently noted in this space while reviewing The Presidential Papers and Miami and the Siege of Chicago (hereafter, Miami) at one time, as with Ernest Hemingway, I tried to get my hands on everything that Norman Mailer wrote. In his prime he held out promise to match Hemingway as the preeminent male American prose writer of the 20th century. Mailer certainly has the ambition, ego and skill to do so. Although he wrote several good novels, like The Deer Park, in his time I believe that his journalistic work, as he himself might partially admit, especially his political, social and philosophical musings are what will insure his place in the literary pantheon. With that in mind I recently re-read his work on the 1972 political campaign St. George and the Godfather-the one that pitted the hapless George McGovern against the nefarious President Richard M. Nixon. This work while not as insightful as Miami or as existentially philosophical (except a short screed on the abortion question) or as cosmic as his approach in the Presidential Papers nevertheless only confirms what I mentioned above as his proper place in the literary scheme of things.

As mentioned in those previous reviews Theodore White may have won his spurs breaking down the mechanics of the campaign and made a niche for himself with The Making of a President, 1960 and his later incarnations on that same theme but Mailer in his pithy manner has given us a useful overview of the personalities and the stakes involved for the America in these campaigns. I would also note here that his work on the 1972 campaign represents the efforts of a man deeply immersed in the working of bourgeois politics from the inside. The 1972 campaign however also marked the beginning of new kid on the block ‘gonzo’ journalist Doctor Hunter Thompson’s take on that same process from the outside with Fear and Loathing on the 1972 Campaign Trial. In a shootout Thompson wins this one hands down. Poor Teddy White is over in a corner somewhere, muttering. In Mailer’s defense, as he acknowledged, there was not much to work with in 1972 inside the process and so the only real way to do it was from the outside.

That last statement is kind of an epiphany for my take on these three journalistic works by Mailer. The campaigns of 1960, 1968 and 1972 not only bear commenting on as part of the breakdown of the bourgeois consensus in the last third of the 20th century but represent a parallel personal politic story about my own political trajectory in that period. One clear point that I made in Miami was my undiminished commitment to the defeat of one Richard M. Nixon in the year 1968. As a result I found myself going from critical support for Lyndon Johnson, uncritical adoration for Robert Kennedy and ultimately pounding on doors for Hubert Humphrey. The details of that sorry saga have been commented on in this space last year in Confessions of an Old Militant-A Cautionary Tale. (See archives, October 2006). My main point for reviewing the 1972 campaign is that by that time , although Richard Nixon had not taken himself off my most wanted list and George McGovern was clearly superior to the likes of Hubert Humphrey as an honest bourgeois presidential candidate, I had decisively broken from ‘lesser evil’ politics. Between 1968 and 1972 I had had a socialist ‘conversion’ experience and for me the Democratic Party had become an empty shell. If one takes the time to compare Mailer’s work on the 1968 and 1972 elections one can draw that same contrast between the two without necessarily drawing my political conclusion. In a couple of hundred pages on the campaign 1972 Mailer basically has to make up a story out of whole clothe because the drama on the Democratic side came after the convention with the vice-presidential choice debacle and on the Republican side the convention was so scripted that one could have read the transcripts instead. Again the real action, the real face of the born-again Richard Milhous Nixon came after the convention in the throes of the Watergate explosion.

As I write this commentary it has been 35 years since those conventions and much has politically gone on in that time, mainly for the worst from the perspective of leftist politics. One would think that it is finally time for a shift back to the left. I believe that the right wing has had its time and that indeed the shift is taking place, if slowly. If one seeks to find the genesis for the bad politics of this period then Norman Mailer’s take on these events, as exemplified in the conventional political process, bears close examination. That said, as I noted in the Miami review, and and which bears repeating here, we had better make very good use of any shift to the left and not let the other side off the hook this time. Enough said.

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love- Botticelli’s 115th Dream-With Botticelli’s “Venus” In Mind

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love- Botticelli’s 115th Dream-With Botticelli’s “Venus” In Mind

By Special Guest Alex James

[Frankly my oldest brother Alex, who after all is over ten years older than I am, and I have never been all that close. Maybe that is natural due our age differences and of his decided and vocally not wanting to have an unruly younger brother tagging along while he and his vaunted corner boys did their thing. Later the gap widened as his lawyerly pursues were far removed as a rule from my own social and cultural concerns. A few weeks ago though, knowing that I write for a number of blogs, including here at American Left History, and in various smaller print journals he approached me on behalf of he and his “corner boys,” at least the ones still standing some fifty years later, to help organize and write a small tribute booklet in honor of their fallen comrade and fellow corner boy, Peter Paul Markin, who led them west in the great Summer of Love, San Francisco, 1967 explosion. I took on the tasks after Alex explained to me that he had been smitten with a nostalgia bug when he had gone to a legal conference out there by an exhibit at the deYoung Museum out in Frisco town, The Summer of Love Experience, being presented to honor the 50th anniversary of the events of that summer.

Fair enough. I was glad to help out since I only knew the events second-hand and have always been interested in writing about and have written extensively about that period. As a result I had thought that the experience of putting out a small publication where we had to maybe for the first time in our lives work closely together “bonded” Alex and me somewhat. Fair enough again. Now though the guy is all hopped up, maybe showing signs of senility for all I know, about an exhibition he had seen at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts where they have Botticelli’s Venus on display. As far as I know Alex could have given a rat’s ass about art, about the Renaissance back in the day or anything since not connected with his law practice. But the other day he asked me for some space here to talk about how that Botticelli painting at the exhibition reminded him about some love interest he had had during that summer of love period. What can I say. He is after all my brother.  Zack James]       
[I had written the basics of the small piece I wished to present here about a young girl that I had met out in San Francisco, Jewel Night Star, when I was out there after the Scribe [Peter Paul Markin] got a bunch of us to head out west in late summer 1967. (I will explain that whole moniker business, that serious need to “reinvent” ourselves below but just know now that I was always known out there as Cowboy, or Cowboy Angel, depending on my mood, the day, hell maybe the drug intake) That was before I read my youngest brother Zack’s introduction. I felt compelled to add a note here to announce to what he always likes to call a “candid world” that I am neither senile nor have I been in the past, a past Zack, tied up with his various writing projects about times that he has only lived through vicariously totally oblivious to the call of culture, to the call of art and artifact. What more can I say though as he is my host here. Oh, yes, he is also after all my brother. Alex James.]

I would be the last person in the world to deny that memories, good and bad, creep up on a person sometimes in unusual ways. (Of course in my law practice I have had to pay short shrift in general to anything to do with memory on behalf of my clients but that is out of professional necessity to keep the buggers from huge jail time or cash outlays.) Recently this came home to me in a very odd way. I had been out in San Francisco to attend a law conference which I do periodically to confer with other lawyers in my special areas of concern when as I was entering the BART transit station on Powell Street I noticed on a passing bus an advertisement for an exhibition called The Summer of Love Experience being put on at the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that wild west experiment. That set off the first series of memory bells which forced me to take some time out to go see what they had produced about those long ago times.                    

See, strange as it may seem given my subsequent total emergence into my law practice (at times just to keep afloat with three unhappy ex-wives and a parcel of kids, some happy some not, to support which almost killed me about ten years ago with a crush of college tuitions) I had been one of those tens of thousands of young people who drifted west to see what the whole thing was all about in San Francisco in the summer of love, 1967. Zack has probably told you that when I came back from this recent Frisco trip I gathered those of my old hometown corner boys from the Acre section of North Adamsville who as Zack stated were “still standing” to put together a small tribute book in honor of the event dedicated to the memory of the late Peter Paul Markin, the guiding spirit who led us out West like some latter day prophet.  

Mad monk Markin (and he really was we all called him the Scribe after our leader Frankie Riley gave him that moniker  in junior high school after Markin once had written some total bullshit homage to him and it hit the school newspaper and ever after the Scribe was his “flak” writing some stuff that was totally unbelievable about the real Frankie Riley whom we knew was seven kinds of a bastard even then) had gone out in the spring of 1967 after dropping out of Boston University in his sophomore year and had come back in late summer telling us the “newer world” he was always yakking about (and which we previously had given a rat’s ass about) was “happening” out there. He conned, connived, and begged but six of us beside him (and ever after also including Josh Breslin from up in Olde Sacco, Maine whom the Scribe met out in Frisco who was not a North Adamsville corner boy but whom we made one since he was clearly a kindred spirit)   went out and stayed for various lengths of time. I had gone back out with Markin after his “conversion” plea and stayed for about a year, mostly, as with all of us one way or another riding Captain Crunch’s “merry prankster” converted yellow brick road bus (the latter Markin’s term).     

While out there I had many good sexual and social experiences but the best was with a young gal whom I stuck with most of the time who went by the name Jewel Night Star as I went by the names Cowboy or Cowboy Angel depending on my mood. I make no pretense to know all of the psychological and sociological reasons at the time or thereafter but these monikers we hung on ourselves were an attempt to “reinvent” ourselves. Break out of the then conventional nine to five, beat the commies, and buy lots of stuff world our parents tried to drive a nail in our hearts about. Some people changed their monikers, their personas every other week but I stuck with my based on the simple love that I had had for Westerns growing up and since we were in the West it seemed right. Markin’s Be-Bop Kid was an overlay from his hearty interest in the “beats” who by 1967 were passe, who were being superseded by what was beginning to be called the “hippies.” Such were the times. The Jewel Night Star moniker when she told me about it one night was based on her eyes which in a certain light looked like diamonds, like twinkling stars. As long as I knew her she stuck with that moniker as well.            

Funny when I was out in Frisco for the conference and went to the museum I didn’t think anything about her. Had been through a small succession of women after she left the bus and as I have mentioned have had a whole raft of women since then, married and unmarried. I just mainly “dug” the scene at the museum and thought about the great music we heard (when they played White Bird by It’s a Beautiful Day I freaked out since I had not heard that song in ages), about the plentiful and mostly safe dope we did (we had an unwritten pact among the North Adamsville corner boys not to do LSD, “acid” after Markin explained his “bad trip” on the substance and after we had seen more than a few people going crazy at concerts and need medical attention), and about how we could “outrage” bourgeois society by our dress, our free spirits and, well, our goofiness if it came right down to it. (Tweaking those who were trying to drive those nails into our hearts.)

Then last week, or the week before, I got this postcard advertisement from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston asking me to join their membership. (I assume somehow that having paid my admission to the deYoung on-line I had become a prime target for every museum from Portland East to Portland West). The ‘hook” on the other side of the postcard was that with a paid up membership I could see Botticelli’s Venus up close and personal. A view of that image on that postcard lead me directly, I say straight line directly, to my first memories of Jewel Night Star in maybe the fifty years since that summer of 1967 time.         

In the early fall of 1967 Markin and I had hitchhiked out across the whole country to Frisco. (I can see every mother grimace at that idea now, or then for that matter.) I won’t go into the details about how we got out there which I have written about in that tribute book the guys and I put together and Zack edited. Besides this is about Jewel not about some Jack Kerouac On The Road -influenced fling on our parts. Markin had had some contact with this guy, this wild man, Captain Crunch, who had somehow, most people who knew anything about it agreed that it was through a dope deal, gotten a yellow brick road converted school bus which he was travelling on up and down the West Coast picking up kindred spirits and letting them stay in and around the bus. (The attrition rate was pretty high most people staying a few weeks and then getting off or told to find another way to travel by Mustang Sally, the Captain’s sort of girlfriend, I never did figure out their actual relationship in all the time I was on the bus, if they stole stuff, didn’t keep fairly decent personal hygiene or let the drugs make them too weird and in need of some medical help.) When we got out West the Captain’s bus was stationed in Golden Gate Park and after the Scribe (then going under the moniker the Be-Bop kid-no more Scribe okay) introduced us and the Captain thought I was cool (and I thought he was as well) I was “on the bus.”              

A couple of weeks later the Captain was talking about taking a slow trip south to a place in La Jolla for the winter where he had a friend. The idea was that we would “house-sit” what turned out to be a mansion since that friend was one of the first serious high distribution drug dealers getting his product directly from south of the border only thirty or forty miles away in Tijuana.  We were all for it (me since every place was a new place for me in California and I was curious). It was on that trip as we headed toward Big Sur down the Pacific Coast Highway, a place called Todo el Mundo that I met Gail Harrington, Jewel Night Star.

We had stopped at a campsite where there was a party that was still going after about the six days before we got there so everybody was, using a term of art from those days “wasted.” I was grabbing a joint from somebody when this young woman came up to me and asked for a hit, for a “toke” for some grass. Her look. Well just check out the Botticelli Venus above that accompanies this piece and you get an idea. Tall, thin, hair braided, as was the style when a lot of young woman were on the road and didn’t want to, or couldn’t hassle with that daily chore to look beautiful stuff. Just as we guys grew our hair long and grew beards to avoid having the hassle of shaving. She had on a diaphanous kind of granny dress that showed her shape in detail. Nice. The granny dresses also a question of convenience and an expression that a woman’s shape was not as important as whether she was “cool” or not. But the best thing about her beyond being a Botticelli vision, a dream, what did I call it in the title to this piece. Yes, his 115th dream, was that she was very friendly, and a little flirty, in a nice way unlike all the girls from North Adamsville that I knew who might be nice but who thought sex was a mortal sin before marriage, maybe ever.

At first I was a little disoriented when we hit Frisco and joined up with the bus since the girls were really without much guile friendly in a way that it was easier talking to them than the Bible between the knees girls I was used to. By the time we got to Todo el Mundo I had had a few dalliances, a few what we called back in the neighborhood, “one night stands” which didn’t go anywhere and nobody worried about it but I was still unsure about what to expect from the young women who were travelling that same “road” we were travelling. So I was kind of shy a little around Jewel at first since she struck me as something out of the Renaissance, something out a painting by Botticelli who before he “got religion” later in his life under the influence of Savonarola which I had seen in an art book when I was taking an art course in high school (and have been unable to find in recent Internet searches looking for that exact painting). They were mostly young countesses and merchants’ daughters who had time on their hands and whom Botticelli was interested in painting for profit and for a different look than the inevitable Holy Family, Jesus, religious paintings that were becoming overdone and passe. (I thought it was funny how many of his young women looked like Northern European women since I had a fixed idea of dark-eyed, dark haired, dark complexion Italian women who I saw at school or in the Little Italy neighborhood that started about ten blocks from the Irish-dominated Acre.)              

Well Jewel was not from Renaissance Italy but from Grand Rapids in Michigan. Had come west when she finished her first year at Michigan after she had heard one night on a date what the folk singer at the club she was attending talked about the music explosion going on out there. She had been out for several months and had headed south to Todo el Mundo when she thought things had gotten too weird in San Francisco. She had hitchhiked down with a guy who was heading further south to Los Angles but she was just then content to stay along the rugged rural coast for a while. Which she would have done for longer she said except when I asked to travel south on the bus she agreed. But that was a few weeks later.           

I suppose I have been somewhat beaten down in the women department because I had forgotten how easy to be with. Jewel was, I guess, thinking back she was one of those “flower children” that we kept hearing about. Meaning nothing more than she was whimsical, was relatively hassle-free and liked nothing better than to roam the hills around Todo el Mundo and the hardscrabble beaches in the area. With me in tow.  All of this may sound kind of simple-minded, kind of what is the big deal about his woman. But look at the look of Venus above, look at that faraway look and that twisting of her braids and you will get an idea of what Jewel was like. Look at Botticelli’s Venus eyes and you will see the same night star that I finally saw in Jewel’s.     

Like I said we stayed together more or less for most of that year I was out there until in the spring of 1968 Jewel said she was getting tired of the road and wanted to either settle down out in the desert, out in Joshua Tree where several communal groups were being formed or head back home to school. I didn’t like either idea although a few months later I would head back east to finish college. We agreed that our paths were going in different directions and one day she told me that she had purchased a bus ticket to Joshua Tree (actually when I went out there many years later Twenty-nine Palms the nearest bus stop then). The next day was the last day I saw her. Although we had agreed to keep in touch that like a lot of things in those days it never happened.  I wonder if she is still alive wherever she is if those eyes of hers still sparkle in a certain angle like a night star. I hope so.  

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels--Don’t Mourn- Organize (And Maybe Sing A Song Or Two) - In Honor Of Labor Agitator/Songwriter Joe Hill

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels--Don’t Mourn- Organize (And Maybe Sing A Song Or Two) - In Honor Of Labor Agitator/Songwriter Joe Hill

If I Could Be The Rain I Would Be Rosalie Sorrels-The Legendary Folksinger-Songwriter Has Her Last Go-Round At 83

By Music Critic Bart Webber

Back the day, back in the emerging folk minute of the 1960s that guys like Sam Lowell, Si Lannon, Josh Breslin, the late Peter Paul Markin and others were deeply immersed in all roads seemed to lead to Harvard Square with the big names, some small too which one time I made the subject of a series, or rather two series entitled respectively Not Bob Dylan and Not Joan Baez about those who for whatever reason did not make the show over the long haul, passing through the Club 47 Mecca and later the Café Nana and Club Blue, the Village down in NYC, North Beach out in San Francisco, and maybe Old Town in Chicago. Those are the places where names like Baez, Dylan, Paxton, Ochs, Collins and a whole crew of younger folksingers, some who made it like Tom Rush and Joni Mitchell and others like Eric Saint Jean and Minnie Murphy who didn’t, like  who all sat at the feet of guys like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger got their first taste of the fresh breeze of the folk minute, that expression courtesy of the late Markin, who was among the first around to sample the breeze.

(I should tell you here in parentheses so you will keep it to yourselves that the former three mentioned above never got over that folk minute since they will still tell a tale or two about the times, about how Dave Van Ronk came in all drunk one night at the Café Nana and still blew everybody away, about catching Paxton changing out of his Army uniform when he was stationed down at Fort Dix  right before a performance at the Gaslight, about walking down the street Cambridge with Tom Rush just after he put out No Regrets/Rockport Sunday, and about affairs with certain up and coming female folkies like the previously mentioned Minnie Murphy at the Club Nana when that was the spot of spots. Strictly aficionado stuff if you dare go anywhere within ten miles of the subject with any of them -I will take my chances here because this notice, this passing of legendary Rosalie Sorrels a decade after her dear friend Utah Phillips is important.)

Those urban locales were certainly the high white note spots but there was another important strand that hovered around Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, up around Skidmore and some of the other upstate colleges. That was Caffe Lena’s, run by the late Lena Spenser, a true folk legend and a folkie character in her own right, where some of those names played previously mentioned but also where some upstarts from the West got a chance to play the small crowds who gathered at that famed (and still existing) coffeehouse. Upstarts like the late Bruce “Utah” Phillips (although he could call several places home Utah was key to what he would sing about and rounded out his personality). And out of Idaho one Rosalie Sorrels who just joined her long-time friend Utah in that last go-round at the age of 83.

Yeah, came barreling like seven demons out there in the West, not the West Coast west that is a different proposition. The West I am talking about is where what the novelist Thomas Wolfe called the place where the states were square and you had better be as well if you didn’t want to starve or be found in some empty arroyo un-mourned and unloved. A tough life when the original pioneers drifted westward from Eastern nowhere looking for that pot of gold or at least some fresh air and a new start away from crowded cities and sweet breathe vices. A tough life worthy of song and homage. Tough going too for guys like Joe Hill who tried to organize the working people against the sweated robber barons of his day (they are still with us as we are all now very painfully and maybe more vicious than their in your face forbear). Struggles, fierce down at the bone struggles also worthy of song and homage. Tough too when your people landed in rugged beautiful two-hearted river Idaho, tried to make a go of it in Boise, maybe stopped short in Helena but you get the drift. A different place and a different type of subject matter for your themes than lost loves and longings.  

Rosalie Sorrels could write those songs as well, as well as anybody but she was as interested in the social struggles of her time (one of the links that united her with Utah) and gave no quarter when she turned the screw on a lyric. The last time I saw Rosalie perform in person was back in 2002 when she performed at the majestic Saunders Theater at Harvard University out in Cambridge America at what was billed as her last go-round, her hanging up her shoes from the dusty travel road. (That theater complex contained within the Memorial Hall dedicated to the memory of the gallants from the college who laid down their heads in that great civil war that sundered the country. The Harvards did themselves proud at collectively laying down their heads at seemingly every key battle that I am aware of when I look up at the names and places. A deep pride runs through me at those moments)

Rosalie Sorrels as one would expect on such an occasion was on fire that night except the then recent death of another folk legend, Dave Von Ronk, who was supposed to be on the bill (and who was replaced by David Bromberg who did a great job banging out the blues unto the heavens) cast a pall over the proceedings. I will always remember the crystal clarity and irony of her cover of her classic Old Devil Time that night -yeah, give me one more chance, one more breathe. But I will always think of If I Could Be The Rain and thoughts of washing herself down to the sea whenever I hear her name. RIP Rosalie Sorrels 

Every Month Is Labor History Month


Don’t Mourn-Organize!: Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill, various artists, Smithsonian/Folkways, 1990

The name Joe Hill evokes, or at least it used to, very strong emotions among militants of the international labor movement. A casual check of any of the old time labor songs will, more likely than not, find Joe’s signature on or influence all over them. Thus, it is no surprise that Smithsonian/Folkways was able to find plenty of material and plenty of singer/songwriters ready and willing to pay tribute to an early labor militant and Industrial Workers Of The World (IWW, Wobblie) Joe Hill. As usual in a Smithsonian/Folkways production there are copious liner notes that give plenty of information about the Joe Hill’s life, his exploits, his influences and his frame-up execution in Utah in 1915. I will thus not spend much time on those areas but rather spend time on the highlights of the performances here.

By all indications Joe Hill was ready, as ready as a man (or woman) is ever ready to face his death by execution when the deal finally went down in 1915. That is the source of his legend and of the forthright admonition that he transmitted to fellow Wobblie the labor leader “Big Bill” Haywood- Don’t Mourn- Organize, or words to that effect. That sort phrase gives the substance of what Joe was trying to do every since he had landed in America several years earlier. As Hill pointed out one of the key ways that workers then (and now) get a sense of their conditions of life and from there get inspired to action is through song.

The long term truth of that strategy is open to debate but not the premise that song historically has been important to every progressive social movement (and others, as well, but here I am concerned with the international labor movement). In the propaganda wars of the class struggle Joe Hill produced some memorable songs that were set to popular melodies of the day or old time religious tunes. Those efforts are on full display here in such songs as “The Preacher And The Slave”, “The White Slave” and “Rebel Girl”. So if you hear melodies that sound familiar, as well as words that express the social concerns of his day and ours (white slavery, wage struggles, the influence of religion, union organizing, the fight against the bosses, etc.) your ears are not deceiving you.

As to the performances here there is a virtual who’s who of the labor left cultural workers, from the past and the present. Billy Bragg on the late pro-labor folksinger Phil Ochs’ tribute “Joe Hill”. The recently departed old unrepentant Wobblie Utah Phillips reciting “Joe Hill’s Last Will”. A nice piece about “Joe Hill’s Ashes” by Mark Levy. “The Tramp” by Cisco Houston, Woody Guthrie’s old traveling companion and comrade (who was an important folk figure in his own right). The above-mentioned “The White Slave” by Hill contemporary old Wobblie Alfred Cortez as well as “The Preacher And The Slave” by “Haywire Mac” McClintock of “Hard Rock Candy Mountain’ fame. That is enough to whet any labor historian or militant’s appetite. However there is more.

I want to pay special attention to three tracks. One is the powerful version of Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson’s “Joe Hill” done by Paul Robeson. Anyone familiar with that name knows what I mean both about the voice and about his commitment to the labor movement (as a supporter of the Communist Party and its various cultural organizations). If not, then you are certainly in for a treat. The other is a narrative by the old ex-Wobblie and later Chairperson of the American Communist Party Elizabeth Gurley Flynn introducing the song that Joe Hill wrote for in 1915 just before his death, “Rebel Girl”. In the end she may have been less of a rebel girl than Brother Hill would have liked, but in those days she was a very effective militant IWW woman speaker (and pleasing to the male eye as well, a not unimportant trait in those days). Just hearing that voice from the history of the American labor movement talking about its heroic period was worth the price of admission. The then well-known mountain music singer and worker/woman’s rights advocate Hazel Dickens does the song. History, labor movement music and a tribute to Joe Hill. Nice.

Joe Hill’s Last Will

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide,
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan-
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”
My body? Ah, If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will,
Good luck to all of you, Joe Hill

Joe Hill was an IWW man. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was, and is a radical union dedicated to abolishing the wage system and replacing it with a democratic system of workplace organization.

Joe Hill was a migrant laborer to the US from Sweden, a poet, musician and union radical. The term “pie in the sky” is believed to come from his satirical song, “The Preacher and the Slave”.

Hill was framed for murder and executed by firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 19, 1915. His last words were, “Fire!”

Just before his death he wrote to fellow IWW organizer Big Bill Haywood a letter which included the famous words, “Don’t mourn, Organize”.

The poem above was his will. It was set to music and became the basis of a song by Ethel Raim called “Joe Hill’s Last Will”.

A praise poem by Alfred Hayes became the lyrics of the best-known song about Joe Hill, written in 1936 by Earl Robinson. This was sung so beautifully by Joan Baez at Woodstock in 1969:

Joe Hill

words by Alfred Hayes
music by Earl Robinson

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

“In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,
him standing by my bed,
“They framed you on a murder charge,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead.”

“The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
they shot you Joe” says I.
“Takes more than guns to kill a man”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”

And standing there as big as life
and smiling with his eyes.
Says Joe “What they can never kill
went on to organize,
went on to organize”

From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
where working-men defend their rights,
it’s there you find Joe Hill,
it’s there you find Joe Hill!

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

"The Preacher And The Slave"

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
But when asked how ’bout something to eat
They will answer in voices so sweet

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die

And the Starvation Army they play,
And they sing and they clap and they pray,
Till they get all your coin on the drum,
Then they tell you when you’re on the bum

Holy Rollers and Jumpers come out
And they holler, they jump and they shout
Give your money to Jesus, they say,
He will cure all diseases today

If you fight hard for children and wife-
Try to get something good in this life-
You’re a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.

Workingmen of all countries, unite
Side by side we for freedom will fight
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we’ll sing this refrain

You will eat, bye and bye,
When you’ve learned how to cook and how to fry;
Chop some wood, ’twill do you good
Then you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye

The chorus is sung in a call and response pattern.

You will eat [You will eat] bye and bye [bye and bye]
In that glorious land above the sky [Way up high]
Work and pray [Work and pray] live on hay [live on hay]
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die [That's a lie!]

You will eat [You will eat] bye and bye [bye and bye]
When you’ve learned how to cook and how to fry [How to fry]
Chop some wood [Chop some wood], ’twill do you good [do you good]
Then you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye [That's no lie]


by Joe Hill /words updated/

There are women of many descriptions
In this cruel world as everyone knows
Some are living in beautiful mansions
And wearing the finest of clothes

There's the blue blooded queen and the princess
Who have charms made of diamonds and pearls
But the only and true kind of lady
Is the Rebel Girl

She's a rebel girl, a rebel girl
To the working class she's the strength of this world
From Newfoundland to B.C.
She's fighting for you and for me

Yes she's there by our side
With her courage and pride
She's unequalled anywhere

And I'm proud to fight for freedom
With the rebel girl!

Pete Seeger Lyrics

Joe Hill Lyrics

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me.
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead."
"I never died," says he,
"I never died," says he

"In Salt Lake, Joe," says I to him,
Him standing by my bed.
"They framed you on a murder charge."
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead,
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."

"The copper bosses killed you, Joe,
They shot you, Joe," says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man."
Says Joe, "I didn't die,"
Says Joe, "I didn't die."

And standing there as big as life,
And smiling with his eyes,
Joe says, "What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize,
Went on to organize."

"Joe Hill ain't dead," he says to me,
"Joe Hill ain't never died.
Where working men are out on strike,
Joe Hill is at their side,
Joe Hill is at their side."

"From San Diego up to Maine
In every mine and mill,
Where workers strike and organize,"
Says he, "You'll find Joe Hill."
Says he, "You'll find Joe Hill."

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me.
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead."
"I never died," says he,
"I never died," says he.

Pete Seeger Lyrics

Talking Union Lyrics

If you want higher wages, let me tell you what to do;
You got to talk to the workers in the shop with you;
You got to build you a union, got to make it strong,
But if you all stick together, now, 'twont he long.
You'll get shorter hours,
Better working conditions.
Vacations with pay,
Take your kids to the seashore.

It ain't quite this simple, so I better explain
Just why you got to ride on the union train;
'Cause if you wait for the boss to raise your pay,
We'll all be waiting till Judgment Day;
We'll all he buried - gone to Heaven -
Saint Peter'll be the straw boss then.

Now, you know you're underpaid, hut the boss says you ain't;
He speeds up the work till you're 'bout to faint,
You may he down and out, but you ain't beaten,
Pass out a leaflet and call a meetin'
Talk it over - speak your mind -
Decide to do something about it.

'Course, the boss may persuade some poor damn fool
To go to your meeting and act like a stool;
But you can always tell a stool, though - that's a fact;
He's got a yellow streak running down his back;
He doesn't have to stool - he'll always make a good living
On what he takes out of blind men's cups.

You got a union now; you're sitting pretty;
Put some of the boys on the steering committee.
The boss won't listen when one man squawks.
But he's got to listen when the union talks.
He better -
He'll be mighty lonely one of these days.

Suppose they're working you so hard it's just outrageous,
They're paying you all starvation wages;
You go to the boss, and the boss would yell,
"Before I'd raise your pay I'd see you all in Hell."
Well, he's puffing a big see-gar and feeling mighty slick,
He thinks he's got your union licked.
He looks out the window, and what does he see
But a thousand pickets, and they all agree
He's a bastard - unfair - slave driver -
Bet he beats his own wife.

Now, boy, you've come to the hardest time;
The boss will try to bust your picket line.
He'll call out the police, the National Guard;
They'll tell you it's a crime to have a union card.
They'll raid your meeting, hit you on the head.
Call every one of you a goddamn Red -
Unpatriotic - Moscow agents -
Bomb throwers, even the kids.

But out in Detroit here's what they found,
And out in Frisco here's what they found,
And out in Pittsburgh here's what they found,
And down in Bethlehem here's what they found,
That if you don't let Red-baiting break you up,
If you don't let stool pigeons break you up,
If you don't let vigilantes break you up,
And if you don't let race hatred break you up -
You'll win. What I mean,
Take it easy - but take it!

Pete Seeger Lyrics

If I Had A Hammer Lyrics

If I had a hammer,
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening,
All over this land.

I'd hammer out danger,
I'd hammer out a warning,
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

If I had a bell,
I'd ring it in the morning,
I'd ring it in the evening,
All over this land.

I'd ring out danger,
I'd ring out a warning
I'd ring out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

If I had a song,
I'd sing it in the morning,
I'd sing it in the evening,
All over this land.

I'd sing out danger,
I'd sing out a warning
I'd sing out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

Well I got a hammer,
And I got a bell,
And I got a song to sing, all over this land.

It's the hammer of Justice,
It's the bell of Freedom,
It's the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

It's the hammer of Justice,
It's the bell of Freedom,
It's the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.