Happy Birthday Joe Hill. Your light shines on and on.

Posted: October 1, 2014 in *Celebration*, Call to Action, In Remembrance

“Every time I dream of better times, I can feel Joe Hills ashes stirring inside, Waiting on better times”….Otis Gibbs.

October 7, 1879-November 19, 1915

Let’s hear a real good song, There is power in the union.

Joe Hill, born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund in Gavle, Sweden, and also known as Joseph Hillström (October 7, 1879 November 19, 1915) was a Swedish American Labor Activist, and member of the Industrial Workers of The World. I.W.W or the “Wobblies”).  Hill, as an immigrant worker frequently facing unemployment and underemployment, became a popular song writer and cartoonist for the radical union. Joe Hill was called the trubador of the IWW. His songs exposed the harsh but combative life of itinerant workers, and call for workers to organize their efforts to improve conditions for working people.

Hill joined the IWW in 1910, when working on the docks in San Pedro California. He rose in the IWW organization and traveled widely, organizing workers under the IWW banner, writing political songs and satirical poems, and making speeches. He shortened his pseudonym to “Joe Hill” as the pen-name under which his songs, cartoons and other writings appeared. His songs frequently appropriated familiar melodies from popular songs and hymns of the time. He coined the phrase “pie in the sky“, which appeared in his song “The Preacher and the Slave” (a parody of the hymnIn the Sweet By-and-By“).

The Preacher and the Slave, Pie In The Sky written by Joe Hill and this version sung by Cisco Houston who got the song from Harry K. Mc Clintock who got the song from Joe Hill.

Joe Hill was executed by firing squad on November 19, 1915 charged with a murder that he didn’t commit.

Just prior to his execution, Hill had written to Bill Haywood an IWW leader, saying, “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize… Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

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? Oh, 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

Utah Phillips tells us the story of Joe Hill and then recites Joe Hills last will.

Joan Baez sings Joe Hill. The Ballad of Joe Hill was written by Alfred Hayes and set to music by Earl Robinson.

For more insight on the life of Joe Hill and this song see, Takes More Than Guns To Kill A Man.

For an interesting history listen to Anti-Flag’s piece 1915.

Check out this wonderful song by Otis Gibbs, Joe Hills Ashes. Yes we are waiting on a chance to shine. We’ve got the power now we must just seize it all.


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