JOE HILL — new song by David Rovics on 100th anniversary of the singer-organizer’s death by capitalist firing squad

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.

Joel Haglund, aka Joe Hill
Joel Haglund, aka Joe Hill


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



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