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Joe Hill

  
Joe Hill

Joe Hill

October 7, 1879 – November 19, 1915

(Born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, and also known as Joseph Hillström)

Swedish- American labor activist, songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as the Wobblies). He was unjustly executed for murder after a controversial trial.

Hill rose in the IWW organization and traveled widely, organizing workers under the IWW banner, writing political songs and satirical poems, and making speeches. His songs frequently appropriated familiar melodies from songs of his time. He coined the phrase “pie in the sky”, which appeared in his song “The Preacher and the Slave” ( A parody of the hymm “In the Sweet Bye and Bye”). Other notable songs written by Hill include “The Tramp”, “There is Power in the Union”, “Rebel Girl”, and “Casey Jones:  Union Scab”.

Hill was executed by firing squad on November 19, 1915, and his last word was “Fire!”  Just prior to his execution, he had written to Bill Haywood, an IWW leader, saying, “Goodbye Bill.  I die like a true blue rebel.  Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize… Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

His will, which was eventually set to music by Ethel Raim, read:

 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? – Oh. – 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 –

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Filed under American Politics, Labor