Our nefarious governor, Scott Walker, is back home in Wisconsin after his ill-fated Presidential bid. Nothing has changed here: Walker and the Republican-dominated State Legislature continue to dismantle a century's worth of progressive legislation dealing with everything from clean water to worker's compensation. Perhaps of greatest concern are the changes which remove ethical oversight and the size and type of campaign contributions. Anything goes as far as Scottie and friends are concerned. Every time you think they can't sink any lower, they do.
Meanwhile, across Wisconsin, ordinary citizens continue to protest, to fight back, to organize, to dream of a better future and to be energized by the songs of Joe Hill. Why songs, you ask? Here's Hill's answer:
“A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over; I maintain that if a person can put a few cold, common sense facts into a song, and dress them up in a cloak of humor to take the dryness off of them, he will succeed in reaching a great number of workers who are too unintelligent or too indifferent to read a pamphlet or an editorial on economic science.”
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Joe Hill, a Swedish immigrant, rabble rouser, union organizer, song writer, IWW member and the voice of working men and women down to this day. Hill was executed for a crime he supposedly did not commit. Information that only recently came to light appears to confirm his innocence. "There is Power in a Union," sung here by Billy Bragg, is one of Joe Hill's compositions from 1913.
Contemporary singer/songwriter/activist (and former Wisconsinite) John McCutcheon will be in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater on Sunday, Nov. 22 with "Joe Hill's Last Will" that looks at the life and music of Hill. Though Joe Hill wrote dozens of songs, I think most people are more familiar with the tune about Joe, "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night," written by Alfred Hayes and put to music by Earl Robinson. It was famously sung Paul Robeson and here by Joan Baez at Woodstock.
To all my graphic designer friends: Note the crop marks and pica notation on one of the images in the Billy Bragg video. Clearly meant to be reproduced in a print publication.