Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

I Dreamed I saw Joe Hill Last Night

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.

Written in reply to America, Tiger Lilies & and Politics: A Response to “America the Beautiful and Rabih Haddad”

see also: America the Beautiful and Rabih Haddad

Joe Hill (wikipedia)
Joe Hill mp3′s at emusic.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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4 February, 2007 - Posted by | anarchism, audio, Big Bill Haywood, courage, history, IWW, Joan Baez, Joe Hill, labor, media, mp3, music, nonviolence, peace, poetry, politics, protest, radical, repression, revolution, scanlyze, socialism, strikes, Sverige, Sweden, unions

4 Comments »

  1. If by “framed” you mean a deliberate and conscious effort to invent a case, then he wasn’t. There’s no evidence of that whatever. Railroaded, yes, but not framed. Nor was the railroading the result of his union activities. There’s no evidence of that, either.

    Sorry. Those are just the facts. Joe was a martyr alright, but not to the union. He was a martyr to poverty, to being a stranger, to the lazy, unskilled, even moronic kind of police work that was all too common in those days, and to what appears to have been an unfortunate co-incidence. They would have railroaded anybody with his profile, union man or not.

    Comment by mick | 11 July, 2007 | Reply

  2. It’s easier to think of it that way, yes. We’ll never know for sure. But it’s hard for anybody to deny that the aftermath of the original trial evidences a very deep desire to see the dirty Wob die.

    – “Orange Mike” Lowrey
    IWW I.U. 660

    Comment by Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey | 30 July, 2007 | Reply

  3. Well, Mick, strictly speaking you are dead right – but “railroaded” doesn’t scan, does it? My guess is that Alfred Hayes well knew that “framed” was wrong but used some poetic licence to get around the problem, and went on to creat a classic piece of verse…….

    Phil the Phluter, 5 September, 2008

    Comment by Phil the Phluter | 5 September, 2008 | Reply

  4. Luke Kelly sings a great version

    Comment by Jasper | 30 November, 2008 | Reply


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