"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Monday, May 30, 2011

For Memorial Day: two ballads of Joe Hill

(Update: I've posted a link to this in honor of Labor Day, as promised.)

On Memorial Day, I'm thinking of Joe Hill (1879-1915), great American: Swedish immigrant, labor organizer, song writer, martyr. "And just about the time that Joe died, lynching was just being born."

This is for my Grandfather Norval, Norwegian immigrant and Seattle labor organizer, my father Selden, author of The Pecan Shellers of San Antonio (1936), and the legions of uncounted, unknown, everyday heroes of democracy, especially those persecuted by the government for being "too liberal" -- then, now, and future. So to today's text... the story:

Above, the Phil Ochs ballad performed by Billy Bragg. There are many versions of this, but I particularly like the visuals in this video. There's also a video of a different version, Phil Ochs performing his ballad in Sweden, which you might be able to find on YouTube.

Joe Hill's Last and Final Will, written in jail the night before his execution by a corrupt state:

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

Joe asked his friends to move his body over the state line because he didn't want to be caught dead in Utah. His ashes were sent to every other state for scattering by Wobblies (international workers union). 

Here's another great American, Paul Robeson, who was also persecuted by the government for being too liberal, singing the traditional Ballad of Joe Hill,

and here's Joan Baez singing the same song.

Finally, "Says Joe, but I ain't dead": a NYC demonstration in the 1990's to reclaim the streets.

(Post to be recycled on Labor Day)