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Medley of ten songs about working class and unions compiled by The Nation

Thanks to The Nation magazine and the magic of You Tube, there is now a chance to get a complete medley of some of the best songs about working people and unions on line. Over the Labor Day weekend, The Nation put up a group of ten songs, and as they say in the introduction, it's a shame to leave out "Which Side Are You On?" but they did in their choicing. Anyway, if you go to the link, you can hear some classics (like the Pete Seeger version of Solidarity Forever which many in Chicago have been learning and playing for the past year or more) and others that have been harder to get (like the original Tennesse Ernie Ford "Sixteen Tons"). The URL for those who can't get a hotlink is: http://www.thenation.com/blog/163148/top-ten-labor-day-songs Madison Wisconsin, February 21, 2011. Substance photo by Garth Liebhaber.If someone would go out and get the lyrics to each of the ten songs, may they would eventually appear here. Without that, here is "Solidarity Forever" for Labor Day and beyond.

Chicago Illinois June 14, 2011. Substance photo by Graham Hill.In his introduction to the medley, Nation Associate Editor for Projects Peter Rothberg writes:" In honor of Labor Day 2011, here’s a stab at the impossible task of naming the best songs ever written about working people. I know it’s a travesty to not include ‘Which Side Are You On’, but I just couldn’t bear to knock out any of the eventual finalists. I also feel terrible about not including anything by The Clash or John Mellencamp and thought Johnny Paycheck’s classic ‘Take This Job and Shove It’ deserved mention. Please use the comments field below to let me know your favorite labor songs and enjoy your Monday!"

Every one of the songs selected by Peter Rothberg is worth listening to, so at some point this article has to list each of the ten. But the one that moved me the most, because I had not heard it in more than a quarter century, was sung by Phil Ochs in Sweden a long time ago, "The Ballad of Joe Hill." Before his untimely death, Phil Ochs sang for all of us, and I can still remember him singing, along with Country Joe and the Fish and Peter Paul and Mary, when we marched, ran, shouted, and sang (and got tear gassed and some beaten) in August 1968, when that year crashed in front of the world ("The Whole World is Watching") during the Democratic Convention in Chicago in August 1968.

Chicago Teachers Union leads more than 1,000 school workers outside the Chicago Board of Education meeting on June 22, 2011. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In the years that followed the watershed event, I ran across thousands of people who said they had been on Chicago's streets during those nasty (CS gas causes pain) and bloody (one friend of mine had his legs broken with billy clubs) days.

But some of those times, as in Lincoln Park the first day of the protests, it was easy to count those of us who were there — because there were so few. And Phil Ochs was one of those few. When he sang his song "I Ain't A Marchin' Anymore" against American imperialism, it seemed like everyone knew the words. Or maybe it was just because those around me did after we were let out of jail for talking to soldiers who had been camped in Chicago to suppress the demonstrations against the Vietnam War.

Here are some of the songs The Nation put up this year:

SOLIDARITY FOREVER

SOLIDARITY FOREVER! By Ralph H. Chaplin (Tune: "John Brown's Body", "Battle Hymn of the Republic") Below are the four ‘main’ verses of the union song “Solidarity Forever”. Two other verses from the “original” have been deleted. These are the ones usually sung. The original was first published in the IWW Little Red Song book.

Stand up Chicago, a coalition of unions and community groups, chose the Regency Hyatt Chicago hotel for the site of its June 14, 2011 protest. The Hyatt, owned by the billionaire Pritzker family (one of whose members, Penny Pritzker, was put on the Chicago Board of Education by millionaire Rahm Emanuel) was chosen for the protest because of its unfair labor practices. Substance photo by Graham Hill.When the Union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run, There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun. Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one? But the Union makes us strong.

CHORUS Solidarity forever! Solidarity forever! Solidarity forever! But the Union makes us strong.

It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities wherethey trade. Dug the mines and built the workshops; endless miles of railroad laid. Now we stand, outcast and starving, 'mid the wonders we have made; But the Union makes us strong. (Chorus)

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn. But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn. We can break their haughty power; gain our freedom when we learn That the Union makes us strong. (Chorus)

The Rotunda of the state capitol building in Madison Wisconsin on February 23, 2011. Substance photo by Garth Liebhaber.In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold; Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousandfold. We can bring to birth the new world from the ashes of the old, For the Union makes us strong. (Chorus)

There is too much to do this morning to finish this contribution with the lyrics to all the songs, but they are available, along with others not in this collection, and it's good people are singing them again, and remembering them.



Comments:

September 13, 2011 at 11:45 PM

By: John Stewart Whitfield Cutler

Teaching Social Justice

I TAKE IT THAT ALL YOU TEACHING FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE INSTRUCTORS REMEMBERED THAT TODAY SEPT. 13TH IS CONMEMORATION OF LOS NINOS HEROES DE CHAPULTEPEC, IF NOT YOU HAVE THE REST OF THE WEEK WITH BOTH MEXICO AND CENTRO AMERICA CELEBRATING THEIR INDEPENDENCE FROM THE RUTHLESS SPANIARDS OF THAT TIME.

LOS NINOS LESSON, NEEDLESS TO SAY, IS A GREAT WAY OF ARGUING IN FAVOR OF A MEXICAN'S RIGHT TO COME HERE, GIVEN THAT WE HAVE HAD HALF THEIR LAND FOR OVER 160 YEARS, THOUGH GOD KNOWS WHAT THE INDIGENOUS OF THE SOUTHWEST WOULD SAY ABOUT THAT.

LOS NINOS HEROES

Though most Americans know little about the war with Mexico,

Mexicans view the war as a crucial event in their history.

On September 14, 1847, General Winfield Scott captured

Mexico City, after the hard fought battle of Chapultepec, the site of

the Mexican military academy.

There, six young cadets leaped from Chapultepec Castle (now a History museum)

to commit suicide rather than surrender to the U.S. army.

There is a monument in Chapultepec Park that honors los Niños He`roes

(the boy heroes) It inspires pilgrimmages every September.

Henry David Thoreau, in "Civil Disobedience", quoted Abraham Lincoln as having said; "The war with Mexico was a senseless war."

In South Chicago, as you may know at 83rd & Commercial, is a school named after "Los Niños".

May 19, 2012 at 6:28 PM

By: John S. Whitfield

Union Sundown (Bob dylan)

UNION SUNDOWN

Well my shoes they comes from Singapore

My flashlight's from Taiwan

My tablecloth's from Malayisia

My belt buckle's from the Amazon

You know this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines

And the car I drive is a Chevrolet

It was put together down in Argentina

By a guy making thirty cents a day.

Well it's sundown on the union

And what's made in the USA

Sure was a good idea

'Til greed got in the way.

Well this silk dress is from Hong Kong

And the pearls are from Japan

Well the dog collar's from India

And the flower pot's from Pakistan

All the furniture it said "Made in Brazil"

Where a woman she slaved for sure

Bringing home thirty cents a day to a family of twelve

You know that's a lot of money to her.

Well it's sundown on the union

And what's made in the USA

Sure was a good idea

'Til greed got in the way.

Well you know lots of people complaining that there is no work

I say "Why you say that for

When nothing you got is US made ?"

They don't make nothing here no more

You know capitalism is above the law

It say "it don't count 'less it sells"

When it costs too much to build it at home

You just build it cheaper someplace else.

Well it's sundown on the union

And what's made in the USA

Sure was a good idea

'Til greed got in the way.

Well the job that you used to have

They gave it to somebody down in El Salvador

The unions are big business friend

And they're going out like a dinosaur

They used to grow food in Kansas

Now they want to grow it on the moon and eat it raw

I can see the day coming when even your home garden

Is gonna be against the law.

Well it's sundown on the union

And what's made in the USA

Sure was a good idea

'Til greed got in the way.

Democracy don't rule the world

You'd better get that in your head

This world is ruled by violence

But I guess that's better left unsaid

From Broadway to the Milky Way

That's a lot of territory indeed

And a man's gonna do what he has to do

When he's got a hungry mouth to feed.

Well it's sundown on the union

And what's made in the USA

Sure was a good idea

'Til greed got in the way.

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