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Don't Mourn - Organize!: Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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  • Don't Mourn - Organize!:  Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill
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Editorial Reviews

Joe Hill's powerful songs moved Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Utah Phillips, Si Kahn, and countless others to blend politics and song. This dramatic tribute to the Industrial Workers of the World songwriter and activist Joe Hill, features songs by and about Hill performed by Billy Bragg, Hazel Dickens, Earl Robinson, Paul Robeson, and others. Compiled by Lori Elaine Taylor. "A treasure for anyone interested in American folk or labor music." -- Washington Post
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 15, 1990)
  • Original Release Date: July 15, 1990
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
  • ASIN: B000001DHC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,719 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I felt like I was hearing the history my teachers hadn't told me about. I love the mix of voices and viewpoints. I'd be hard pressed to pick out a favorite, although Utah Phillips comes close. This album made me a Paul Robeson fan. I listen to it whenever I want/need to rev up my engines to fight for justice.
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The story of Joe Hill, executed in Utah on trumped up charges, demands to be told, over and over again. Joe was executed by firing squad in spite of massive national and international protests and an appeal by President Wilson. Joe Hill died because his music and his labor organizing threatened to unravel the threads of society that gave a privileged few access to health, leisure, and comfort, while the masses toiled 60 and 70 hours per week, with no benefits or protections (like the workers who produce all that "made in China" stuff we buy!). Although Joe's story may be nearly 100 years old, with activists like Mumia Abu Jamal sitting on death row--we must remember.
While this CD contains some important music, I really wish I'd gone out and spent the cash to purchase the recordings by the individual artists. I enjoy listening to my Utah Phillips and Pete Seeger CDs more--and each one has a more internally consistent feel than this one.
But, if you're a labor history or folk music buf, purchasing this CD is a no brainer. Do it. Otherwise, spend some time listening to Utah Phillips, Pete Seeger, Billy Bragg, and the other musicians represented here on their own recordings. You'll have a much richer experience.
(If you'd like to discuss this review or CD in more depth, please click on the "about me" link above and drop me an email. Thanks!)
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Though it's true that the consistency on this album is varied, the good stuff is truly good. So good that the CD gets 5 stars just because this material is on there, and it's like nothing you ever heard before. Real 1920's PUNK ROCK!!!
You can hear the incredible insolence of Joe Hill's lyrics, especially as sung by one of the old time Wob's who knew him. Some of this stuff is so subversive it makes Jello Biafra look like a yuppie, and it makes Maralyn Manson look like the poser he is. This is REAL subversion, from real people, native Americans and immigrants like Joe, who weren't playing games or striking poses, but really saw things as they are and really wanted to change the world. Though some of these songs are hippy tunes from the 60's, there is nothing hippyish about Joe Hill. Your boy is a hard core working class true American hero, every bit as tough and no nonsense as any hard-bitten coal miner or any other blue collar American of today, except, unlike so many of todays "Reagan Democrats", this guy had his eyes wide open.
Thats why they shot him, of course.
I just wish the Dropkick Murphy's would cover some of these.
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Format: Audio CD
While historically interesting, this is an inconsistent collection where the minuses are greater than the plusses. For the most part, the songs on this collection are boring, sixties era folk-songs which just don't have any energy. Fortunately, this is all made worthwhile by two cuts: Billy Bragg's "Joe Hill" and Hazel Dicken's "Rebel Girl"....two bluegrass ravers that'll make you wanna get up and head to the picket lines. An interesting cut is a mini-interview with Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock, who knew Joe Hill and was a Wob. For any fans of the "O Brother Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, Haywire Mac did the original recording of "Big Rock Candy Mountain." But the Haywire Mac selection, as interesting as it might be, doesn't make up for a lackluster collection. On the other hand, if you're a Hazel Dickens fan, "Rebel Girl" will make you want to have this.
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I have to give this Smithsonian project the highest rating, because it captures one of the enduring myths of the Folk Revival, the Labor Movement, and American leftist politics. And I say all that as a folk music fan, the son of a union member, and a now moderate Democrat who was more radical thirty years ago. Joe Hill was a real person, but good songs, even about real people, do not have to tell the truth to be good songs. The truth seems to be that Mr. Hill probably did shoot down a grocer and his son in a botched robbery, and although he might have been executed partly because of his labor organizing, and his seemingly anarchist politics, that does not mean he was innocent of the crime. A comprehensive biography, "Joe Hill" by Gibbs M. Smith, is pretty convincing in its thesis that Joe got a fair trial, and a fair appeal, in Utah in 1915. Surprisingly, neither the judge nor the majority of the jurors were even Mormons, whose culture one might think was indeed at variance with Joe's politics. Joe was his own worst witness at the trial, and was pretty much begged to explain how he got a bullet wound at the same moment the grocer died with a discharged weapon in his hands, and why Joe had a handgun and threw it away in that same hour. The book is an eye-opener for those of us who want Joe to be a foul victim of capitalism. That aside, Earl Robinson's song "Joe Hill", adapted from a poem about him, has been a staple of left-leaning songfests for 70 years or so. Paul Robeson's version is on here (one of many he recorded) and to my ears, his was always the best. The disc also gives us Earl Robinson's own rendition. From the '30's to 1989, various aspects of Joe Hill's life, from his songs to his famous last will, to songs about him, and stories about him, are collected here for those who have a soft spot for the labor movement, or the famous song, or the man himself. Not every moment is compelling, but as other reviewers have noted, the good stuff on here is really great stuff.
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