Tribute by David Rovics in 2015, the anniversary year of the execution of Joel Haglund, alias Josef Hilstrom a.k.a. Joe Hill)
David Rovics is a socialist troubadour from and in the USA of many years’ standing and has composed many songs about many issues. He also regularly tours and this year plans to go on a tour of Joe Hill’s homeland to celebrate this worker organizer, singer, song and other text writer and martyr. You can look him up on
(The punctuation arrangement below is mine — there was none in the text I received).
Joel Haglund came from Sweden
Which was very far from Eden:
By the time he left most of his family died;
His sisters and his mother,
His father and his brothers
So with one remaining sibling at his side,
He got a notion
To sail across the ocean
Where he heard the streets were paved with gold;
Not long after his arrival
As he toiled for survival
He realized the bill of goods that he’d been sold.
He got a whole lot wiser —
Became an organizer —
And he organized with artistry and skill.
He spoke up, raised his fist
Got right on the blacklist
That’s why he changed his name to Joe Hill.
He heard that it was best
If he headed to the west
Where the Industrial Workers of the World
Were finding the solutions
For making revolution
With red songbook and red flag unfurled.
A hundred years ago, the bard
With the union card,
Proved his music was too powerful, too strong;
They couldn’t stand the sound —
They had to take him down —
Lest he organize the working class in song.
Soon as he paid his dues,
He tried hard to light the fuse,
Speaking, singing, writing lyrics and cartoons;
He sent off the whole mess
To the Wobbly press
And they sang his songs as they fought the goons!
He joined a singing movement
That fought for improvement
By abolishing wage-slavery worldwide;
He sang the Wobbly line
Beseeching workers to combine
Learn from Mr Block — the bosses lied.
His life would be cut short
By a kangaroo court
Eager to determine one man’s fate;
Evidence was circumstantial
But that’s inconsequential
When you’ve become an enemy of the state.
They put him up against the wall
And that was all
They gunned him down in 1915 —
He took all the bullets he could take
There by the Salt Lake
For being the best bard they’d ever seen