HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. PRESIDENT

Truly a Republican worth loving …..
Lincoln Mural by Hugo Gellert
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All young children have heroes …. mine was Abraham Lincoln. His name, as well as his image were very much a part of my childhood.
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There was a savings bank in my neighbourhood which carried his name. The upper wall was adorned with a mural of Lincoln leading the slaves to freedom, very much in the style of Moses doing the same thing.
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The local High School, which I attended, was Abraham Lincoln High School. The Brigade of brave American volunteers that went off to fight Franco and his fascists in Spain was named the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, definitely the bravest men I ever met.
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So, wherever I went, whatever I did, the image of Abraham Lincoln was forever present.
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Today, 209 years after his birth, he is still my hero,  a man whose visions of justice would be welcome in America today.

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Happy Birthday Mr. President!
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His famous speech in Gettysburg is still an inspiration for all who strive for Statehood and Freedom….
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The Gettysburg Address
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– Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – Nov. 19, 1863

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

 

Image of Lincoln by Charles White


POETIC TRIBUTE TO MY FRIEND RICKY EISENBERG

Earlier in the year one of my oldest and dearest friends passed away. This past Saturday a memorial was held for him in New York City. Here is a report of the event written by another dear friend, Matt Weinstein…

Hundreds filed into the Church of the Redeemer on West 83rd Street for a fitting tribute and memorial to Ricky Eisenberg who died on February 3, 2017 after doing battle with a protracted illness.

The hundreds included friends, old and new, fellow activists and comrades, beloved family members and others who came into contact with Ricky through the years. Dedicated to a better world, one free of war and injustice, Ricky Eisenberg fought his entire life with a passion and a principled, uncompromising determination to forge change for his fellow human beings.

The afternoon was presided over by Rickly’s sister Nora who introducted us to speaker after speaker who regaled the gathering with anecdotes and stories of their relationship with the man. Daughters brought Ricky to life in front of our eyes by recounting his great humor (which we all knew and loved), his caricatures of multitude personalities, his love of music and food (pastrami was most often noted) and more .

We were treated to performances that inspired us. Particularly moving were the several pieces by the great NYC Labor Chorus, including John Lennon’s Imagine. That was especially relevant to this memorial because it envisioned a new world, something that Ricky stood and fought for. A newly-formed group of young girls, the Riverdale Youth Chorus, were also wonderful and they brought down the house with a charming performance of one of Ricky’s favorites: Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?

Later we heard from the family: both daughters joined with granddaughter Grace to perform a song she had written. Though the program ran on for several hours, we were entranced throughout because Ricky was such an important part of our lives and because he was truly “larger than life” as was said in one of the speeches. This was a moving memorial to a man who had an impact on everyone who knew him. We then celebrated Ricky’s love of good food by repairing to another room for sandwiches, wine and dessert. A great way to finish the day. Ricky—we love you and will not forget you. This we promise.

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And finally a poetic tribute to Ricky written by my dearest friend, Tom Karlson…

Ricky
73 years, a life
too short
two years of war,
every day a battle
the weapons, laughter and courage
Gracie, Jackson, Annie, Julie, Sara, Nora, and Katie
and a battalion of family, friends, and comrades
life lengthened and sweetened by that great thirst
to right all things wrong
with eye and brain and heart and body
to do wht must be done

it is late August 1960
West Harlem CCNY Convent Avenue 133st
meeting of the Marxist Discussion Club
we Don Quixotes are declaring war
war on the ban against communist speakers
STRIKE!
and strike we did
10,000 students on the street
a call for Ban the Ban
a call for Free Speach
Ben Davis and Herbert Aptheker came to speak

this, the beginning
marches, demonstrations, strikes, meets, Mayday

our position no tuition
Hands off Cuba, Cuba Si Yankee No
and when the CIA murdered Lumumba, Congo prime minister
down to the UN we went
chanting who’s the man who’s got to, go Dag Hammarskjold

a bus ride to Washington
to support Cuba
a time for song story and joke
a time where
art politics struggle mate gyrate
a time of incubation
when Cuba, antiwar’ civil rights, 
student’s rights, labor’s rights, women’s rights 
set the stage for a half a century 
of friendship, food, love, and class war

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Here is a photo of Tom reciting the poem at the memorial

Photo by Matt Weinstein

CARRIE FISHER’S SENSE OF HUMOUR FOLLOWS HER TO THE GRAVE

The vessel for the ashes? An extra large Prozac pill doubling as an urn, showing that Carrie Fisher’s sense of humor about just about everything, including her mental illness, lives on.

Fisher spent years as a mental health advocate and even battled mental illness herself. In her interviews and in books, Fisher worked to break the stigma around mental illness and divulged her bipolar disorder over a decade ago.

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Carrie Fisher’s Ashes Placed in Giant Prozac Pill Urn

Todd Fisher brought the cremated remains of his sister Carrie Fisher to the private memorial for their mother Debbie Reynolds on Friday in Los Angeles.

The vessel for the ashes? An extra large Prozac pill doubling as an urn, showing that Carrie Fisher’s sense of humor about just about everything, including her mental illness, lives on.

“Carrie’s favorite possession was a giant Prozac pill that she bought many years ago. A big pill,” Todd explained to Entertainment Tonight. “She loved it, and it was in her house, and Billie and I felt it was where she’d want to be.”

Todd also shared how he and the rest of the family are doing in the wake of the two deaths.

“Everybody’s as settled as we can be, and we’re not going to go any further,” Todd told reporters. “We’ll have a bigger service down the road for the public and all the family friends, but this was a private family service and we’re — it was fitting and it was beautiful.”

The date for the memorial hasn’t been set, but Todd noted that there are still ways to commemorate the late actresses.

“We have so much of them that was left behind,” he added. “All of my sister’s words and all the movies, and all the things that they created. That’s what we need to remember.”

Fisher spent years as a mental health advocate and even battled mental illness herself. In her interviews and in books, Fisher worked to break the stigma around mental illness and divulged her bipolar disorder over a decade ago.

Some of Fisher’s remains were buried with her mother.

TOUCHING TRIBUTES TO CARRIE FISHER FROM INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS

She was not only an iconic female figure in media, one of the earliest strong female characters that young girls everywhere looked up to, she was also an advocate for mental health, sharing her own story of dealing with depression and addictions and in doing so, giving a voice to those struggling with these issues.

Monika Report

Monika 

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Chris 'ROY' Taylor

Chris ‘ROY’ Taylor

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Carlos Latuff

Carlos Latuff

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MJHiblenART

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All FROM

HELEN KELLER; BLIND, DEAF, BUT FAR FROM DUMB

A childhood illness rendered this dear woman blind, deaf and dumb ….

Yet, in adulthood she saw more than most people, heard of the injustices facing humanity and spoke volumes about it all.

“What are you committed to,” an interviewer asked her in 1916, “education or revolution?” “Revolution,” Keller replied.

The following poem was written in honour of her 136th birthday on the 27th of June

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THREE LIVES

© By Tom Karlson

born June 27th, 1880

partial death two years later

coffined by the fever

without sound, without light, without words

for six years

hot and cold, odors, winds, vibrations

tantrum without words

nightmare without sound

 

blind deaf mute

but wait

Anne Sullivan is coming

grave robber and miracle worker

teaching Helen

turning lips into words, thoughts, visions

teaching Helen Braille, finger spelling,

signs and speech

vibration into pitch

pitch into Beethoven

thought into books, speeches

 

thought into action

socialism, the IWW,

labor rights, women’s rights, civil rights anti war

joins Debs’ Socialist Party

when Debs was jailed

when the ACLU was founded

Helen carried the card

when communism was under fire

Helen joined the fray

 

our blind deaf Helen roars

sees, hears, talks and writes of evil

the evils of war

the evils of exploitation

the evils of capitalism

A MUST WATCH ~~ RABBINICAL ACCOLADE FOR THE CHAMP

This is absolutely brilliant!

This is going viral on the Net …. please share with your friends

A POEM FOR THE GREATEST

Image by Carlos Latuff

Image by Carlos Latuff

 THE GREATEST

© By Tom Karlson

born Cassias Clay1942, became Mohammed Ali 1965

yes he held the Olympic gold

laid out Sunny the bear Liston two times

for the world heavyweight belt

joined the Nation of Islam before the 2nd Liston fight

a warm up for what was coming

 

these epic battles were not against

the brothers’ Frazier and Foreman

when Ali refused induction

brought on a waterfall of hate

this enemy could not be defeated with fist and rhyme,

with bouts of fifteen 3 minute rounds

inside the squared circle

 

this foe, a shape changer

from war, to racism, to religious hatred

this main event reverberated

for three and one-half years

of banishment from boxing

the enemy was defeated with brain and talk

with picket line and printed word and the highest court

 

Ali’s fight and victory resonated

from Alabama to Rubens Island

from Billie Jean King to the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee

and the hundreds of campuses that cheered the champ

 

defeated for a time was the pentagon,

the ugly race hating half of America,

the war-profiteers, and their embedded sports writers

 

winner was tolerance and understanding

and how we were taught by the champ

to fight for our beliefs

 

In April 1967, Ali refused to be drafted and requested conscientious-objector status. He was immediately stripped of his title by boxing commissions around the country. Several months later he was convicted of draft evasion, a verdict he appealed. Credit Ed Kolenovsky/Associated Press

In April 1967, Ali refused to be drafted and requested conscientious-objector status. He was immediately stripped of his title by boxing commissions around the country. Several months later he was convicted of draft evasion, a verdict he appealed. Credit Ed Kolenovsky/Associated Press

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. PRESIDENT

Lincoln Mural by Hugo Gellert
&
*
All young children have heroes …. mine was Abraham Lincoln. His name, as well as his image were very much a part of my childhood.
*
There was a savings bank in my neighbourhood which carried his name. The upper wall was adorned with a mural of Lincoln leading the slaves to freedom, very much in the style of Moses doing the same thing.
*
The local High School, which I attended, was Abraham Lincoln High School. The Brigade of brave American volunteers that went off to fight Franco and his fascists in Spain was named the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, definitely the bravest men I ever met.
*
So, wherever I went, whatever I did, the image of Abraham Lincoln was forever present.
*
Today, 207 years after his birth, he is still my hero,  a man whose visions of justice would be welcome in America today.

 *

Happy Birthday Mr. President!
*
His famous speech in Gettysburg is still an inspiration for all who strive for Statehood and Freedom….
*
The Gettysburg Address
———————————————————–

– Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – Nov. 19, 1863

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

 

 

Image of Lincoln by Charles White


DESERTPEACE STANDS IN SILENCE TODAY FOR THE PASSING OF A TRUE WOMAN OF VALOR

 

Anne Yellin / Photo by Matt Weinstein

Anne Yellin / Photo by Matt Weinstein

This morning I received an email from Sue, the daughter of the woman pictured above, informing me of the passing of her mother Anne Yellin yesterday, just a month short of her 99th birthday. She lived a full life and changed the lives of many who knew and loved her, including my own.

Anne played a special role in my life and I credit her more than anyone else for making me what I am today. It was she that handed me the leaflet in front of Woolworth’s in 1960 …. the leaflet that changed my life as can be seen in THIS post from the archives.

Anne was a pillar of the community I grew up in, known to all and loved by all. She was predeceased by her loving husband Jack, a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, in his own right, a true hero. She is survived by two loving daughters and Sue and Nancy and their children. May they all be comforted in the knowledge that the memory of their mother and grandmother will live on for years to come.

Bella Ciao dear Comrade and Friend!

My dear friend Matt Weinstein adds the following …

A good friend and one of the great “old-timer” activists and champions of peace and justice passed away today: Ann Yellin. She was a friend of my parents and a doting mom to her two daughters, Sue and Nancy as well as a very loving grandma. Ann, an RN by trade who worked for many years at Coney Island Hospital, was married to Jack Yellin, a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade—those courageous premature anti-fascists who fought in Spain before WW II, standing up to Franco and his backer, Hitler. And she was very proud of him. He died a long time ago but Ann carried his memory with her as the years passed and that memory helped bolster her to carry on. Ann was active throughout her life—she was a member of the Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach chapter of Women Strike For Peace, fighting for a world free of the nuclear threat and then later in the Shorefront Peace Committee—its successor. Strongly opinionated but never wavering in her commitment, Ann Yellin was a strong partisan of socialism and with that as her goal she was one of those rare women who translate their beliefs and world outlook into concrete action on behalf of humanity. She was a beautiful woman—inside and out. We won’t soon forget her and the larger than life contributions she made for a better world.Ann died a month before her 99th birthday.

In honour of Anne’s 90th birthday, Matt wrote the following … (Click on link)

THE GREATEST GENERATION~~ A GUEST POST

Matt and Anne in happier times ...

Matt and Anne in happier times …

And finally, a Biblical tribute to our wonderful Woman of Valor …

Eshet Chayil אשת חיל (Psalm 31 Hebrew and English text translation)

IN MEMORY OF THE MAN WHO NEVER DIED

One Hundred years later New Yorkers remember …

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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You too can keep his memory alive!

Remembering the Life and Music of Labor Agitator Joe Hill, Who Was Executed 100 Years Ago Today

BY DAVID COCHRAN

He was killed by firing squad in the state of Utah on November 19, 1915.

He was killed by firing squad in the state of Utah on November 19, 1915.

Joe Hill saw his music as a weapon in the class war, composing songs to be sung on soapboxes, picket lines or in jail. And 100 years ago today, the forces of capital and the state of Utah executed him.

Chicago musician and scholar Bucky Halker is honoring the centennial with a CD of new interpretations of Hill’s music, “Anywhere But Utah—The Songs of Joe Hill,” taking his title from Hill’s dying wish that his remains be transported out of state because he didn’t want “to be found dead in Utah.” The album includes such familiar Hill classics as “The Preacher and the Slave,” “There is Power in a Union” and “Rebel Girl” as well as some surprising obscurities, like the wistfully romantic “Come and Take a Joy-Ride in My Aeroplane.”

Born Joel Hagglund in Sweden, Hill immigrated to the United States in 1902, changing his name to Joseph Hillstrom, which would eventually be shortened to Joe Hill. Working his way across the country, Hill became politicized, eventually joining the Industrial Workers of the World. Popularly known as the Wobblies, the IWW sought to organize those workers more mainstream unions avoided—the unskilled, migrants, immigrants, minorities—in an effort to combine the entire working class into One Big Union.

As a Wobbly, Hill was active in free speech fights in Fresno and San Diego, a strike of railroad construction workers in British Columbia and even fought in the Mexican Revolution.

In 1914, Hill was arrested in Salt Lake City and charged with killing a storekeeper, allegedly in a botched robbery. Despite the flimsy nature of the evidence, Hill was convicted and sentenced to death, with the prosecutor urging conviction as much on the basis of Hill’s IWW membership as any putative evidence of his involvement in the crime. An international amnesty movement pressed for a new trial, but the Utah governor refused and Hill was executed by firing squad on November 19, 1915. In a final message to IWW General Secretary Bill Haywood, Hill urged, “Don’t waste any time in mourning—organize.”

Since his death, Hill has been immortalized in a wide variety of cultural expression, including poetry by Kenneth Patchen, fiction by Wallace Stegner, and a song by Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson, popularized by Paul Robeson, promising “where workingmen are out on strike, Joe Hill is at their side.”

I talked to Halker about Hill’s music, politics and legacy. Halker is the author of the seminal work on Gilded Age labor music,For Democracy, Workers, and God: Labor Song-Poems and Labor Protest, 1865-95, and has previously released a tribute album to Woody Guthrie.

For one who was not a native English speaker, Joe Hill had a keen understanding of American slang, humor, and various folk and popular song forms. How did he become such a master of the American vernacular? How does he compare with other folksingers closely associated with insurgent movements, such as Woody Guthrie?

Hill is part of a long tradition of “organic” intellectuals in the USA. He was also just plain smart, which you can tell from reading his lyrics and other writing. He was self-educated, with an appetite for ideas. And remember that the labor movement was filled with men and women of this sort, dating to the early 19th century. Unions, of course, often had their own libraries, so workers could check out literature related to everything from poetry to economics. Also, cheap pamphlets on the issues of the day, including Marxism, were extremely common in the years after the Civil War and well into the 20th century. If you look at the people who wrote labor music and poetry, they typically share this kind of background.

Hill and Guthrie also share a tremendous skill in the realm of vernacular speech. He mastered all this hobo and Wobbly slang of the era and the latest music-hall, vaudeville lyrics of the day. Also, Hill’s work is filled with humor, irony and sarcasm—hardly easy skills to gain in your second language. No doubt he picked all this up from hobos, labor activists, and Wobblies, but I also believe his ear for music helped him in this effort.

Hill had some musical training and a passion for music that is obvious in his lyrical approach. You can tell from his lyrics that he paid close attention to the musical hall and Tin Pan Alley writers of the day. Most of them were also immigrants or children of immigrants and were very skilled at slang, lyrical twists and clever use of idioms. Indeed, Hill’s lyrics and choice of tunes have much more in common with music hall composers than the folk or county models that Guthrie and others made use of in the years of the great labor uprising of the 1930s and which became the template for labor songsters thereafter.

Hill and other Wobbly bards and writers should get some credit for their use of sarcasm and irony in the development of American literature. They had sharp wits and tongues that worked deftly and quickly, which only pissed off the lunkhead bosses, the law and the ruling elite even more. The authorities and their lackeys dislike radicals even more when they’re much smarter than they are.

What was the role of music in the creation of the Wobbly movement culture?

Music was a centerpiece of the Wobbly “movement culture.” However, I wouldn’t say this came into existence with the IWW. Earlier, the abolitionists and the Gilded Age labor movement made singing, songwriting, poetry and other forms of writing a key part of their efforts. Coal miners and Jewish textile workers had already developed a strong working-class poetic and musical tradition, as did the Knights of Labor. So Joe Hill and Woody Guthrie were standing on big shoulders.

Having said that, the IWW took the music and poetry to new heights and cleverly used singing and chanting as a way to garner attention from workers, the media, and the authorities. Fifty workers singing makes a lot more noise at a rally or in a jail cell than one speaker on a soapbox or one person ranting in the joint.

What kinds of considerations did you take into account in updating Hills music?

I quickly decided I wanted to record a couple of the sentimental love songs because that part of Hill’s personality had been neglected. They read like old vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley lyrics, so I worked on melodies and chord changes that were common to those types of pieces. I also decided that on songs like “Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay” and “It’s A Long Way Down to the Soupline” that I wanted to use a brass band that had the flavor of the music hall that Hill was leaning on. I hoped to make it a bit like a drunken Salvation Army band in the process, which fit the brass band sound anyway.

I knew he’d been to Hawaii and the Pacific Islands too, so I decided to do a couple songs with the ukulele at the center, which was appropriate given some things I’d read on Hill and the music he heard on that trip (plus the ukulele had become popular at the time).

I wanted to make a record that Hill would like. That was my priority from the beginning. I don’t think he’d like a straight folk revival, strumming acoustic guitar approach, as that has nothing to do with most of his material. He played the piano and the fiddle, after all. The folk revivalists did a great service by keeping Hill’s work in circulation, but trying to keep him in that small musical box is way off the mark. So, I borrowed from vaudeville and the music hall, piano blues and early jazz, alt-country, swing, punk and gospel.

I think Joe would be very happy with this recording—more so than what’s preceded.

What sorts of musical choices did Hill make? What kinds of influences did he draw on?

Hill came from a music-loving family and he also had some musical training as a child before his dad died and the family fell on hard times. He heard a lot of religious music, as his family were strong Lutherans and sometimes attended Salvation Army gatherings. Since hymns were well known, even across sectarian religious (and political) lines, hymn tunes were often used by labor songwriters going back to the mid-19th century. Hill’s use of “In the Sweet By and By” as the tune for “The Preacher and the Slave” was very much in a labor tradition, as was “Nearer My God to Thee” for his “Nearer My Job to Thee.”

Hill also wrote his own music for some of his songs—for his classic “Rebel Girl,” for example. And though he leaned heavily for the music of the “Internationale” for his “Workers of the World Awaken,” he did include clear pieces of his own work in writing that one, too.

But most often he drew on the vaudeville, music hall, early Tin Pan Alley songs that were popular with workers at the time. For “Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay” he took the tune from a music hall hit by the same name. For “Scissor Bill” he took the tune from “Steamboat Bill,” which was a huge hit at the time and a best-selling early recording.

With all his tune choices, he was like other working-class writers and had the same goal—use tunes that workers knew already for labor songs and then they’d be easy for workers to sing.

Can you give the background of some of the other songs?

“Der Chief of Fresno” grew out of the IWW’s free speech campaign. Fresno was a place where the police were notably confrontational. Hill added his voice to the mix with a piece that appears to have been a chant of sorts. That’s why I added the multiple voices on the words “der chief” whenever it comes around. I like the use of the German “Der” in the title, as if the chief might make a good member of the oppressive Prussian army.

“Stung Right” represents the strong anti-military bent of the IWW, even before the outbreak of World War I. Many immigrant workers had already come from regions of the world where they were drafted and made to fight the battles for the ruling class and were determined to stay out of future such wars. What’s more, many working-class groups saw war as a senseless ruling class fight that only pitted workers against each other. Nationalism was seen as suspect.

Little wonder, then, that after the Spanish-American War in 1898, and the needless slaughter it entailed, anti-war and anti-military sentiments found welcome ears. Hill was aware that workers also signed up with the military when their economic situations were difficult. At least they gave you a bit of cash and some food in the army. In this piece, he’s warning workers not to fall for it

“Rebel Girl” is another of his best efforts. Hill wrote it himself for Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Hill followed her career closely and admired her work on behalf of labor. They frequently corresponded while Hill was in prison. He even wrote a cute little song for her son called “Bronco Buster Flynn.” Flynn had visited Hill while he was awaiting execution and sent him a photo of her son Buster.

One song that struck me was “Come Take a Joy Ride in My Aeroplane.” As you say in your liner notes, that seems to represent a “romantic and carefree side” that we don’t typically associate with Hill.

There were three of these romantic, sentimental songs that Hill wrote, all of which were discovered after his arrest and none of which had music or tunes for them. Of course, there may be more, but we haven’t yet found those. They weren’t typical of Hill’s writing, which is generally focused on labor and political issues. But you can find some of this same sentiment in his letters, so it clearly was a key component of who Joe Hill was.

Frankly, I think historians and musicians have missed the boat in not addressing this romantic impulse. I suppose it seems counter to our image of the left-wing radical. But hell—I’d rather hang out with a person with strong romantic tendencies and a left-wing leaning personality, than some dour old sourpuss like Marx or Lenin, wouldn’t you? I also think within the IWW there was a strong sense of romance about the world. This can be found clearly in Wobbly writers like Haywire Mac or Ralph Chaplin. Some of this could be channeled toward a utopian impulse, as in the classic IWW song “Big Rock Candy Mountain.”

Hill just gave it a more personal twist. Why shouldn’t he want to fall in love and be carried away for a while in the reverie of romance? Don’t we all? Here’s a guy who went to work at age nine, contracted tuberculosis, went on the tramp to survive and worked an endless stream of low-paying jobs. Why not dream of taking flight above this dreary earth with your gal and soar above the troubles below? Sounds like fun to me.

What is it about Hill that makes his legacy resonate so widely?

Obviously, the injustice of his arrest, trial, and execution continues to resonate, especially when a day doesn’t pass without some prisoner being released from prison after new evidence or DNA tests exonerated him or her.

Beyond that obvious point, I think there are many people who hear his songs and immediately sense that the issues raised by Hill and other Wobbly bards remain important to our national discussion, including decent wages and working conditions, immigrant rights, discrimination based on race, the oppression of women, the right to form a union and the right to free speech.

I have to admit, however, that I’m often bewildered by conservative labor leaders in the USA who pull out Hill’s legacy when it’s convenient and make positive comments about him. If he were around today, they’d throw him out of their conventions in a minute.

I also think there’s considerable appeal to Hill’s personal demeanor throughout the trial. He died a heroic, noble death—something few people can claim for their lives. He gave his life for the cause, and his trial and execution played out in the international media of the day. He’s a romantic character of the type that is more common in early movies than in reality.

 

 

BELLA CIAO JULIAN BOND

Mr. Bond in 1966, before making a speech in New York. Credit Associated Press

Mr. Bond in 1966, before making a speech in New York. Credit Associated Press

This weekend the world lost one of the greatest heroes of our time, Julian Bond. In an obituary that appeared in the New York Times yesterday it was reported that  ‘Julian Bond’s great-grandmother Jane Bond was the slave mistress of a Kentucky farmer.’ Twitter was overloaded  with comments yesterday that he wasn’t a farmer but a slave master, and there is no such thing as a slave mistress.  Being a mistress is voluntary, she was a raped slave.  Interesting that a writer at the Times didn’t use language properly, and great that so many people spotted it. Also interesting that there was no correction for this at the Times.

The following short video will introduce you to the man himself …. with what you should know about his legacy …

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Here he interviews a fellow activist, Angela Davis …

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He will be sorely missed by all who struggle for true Justice throughout the world.

Bella Ciao dear Julian

 

THE SERIOUS SIDE OF CHARLIE CHAPLIN

fam-p2-Charlie

When we think of Charlie Chaplin we remember a little mustached clown with a cane and bowler hat who made us laugh, probably more than any other clown in history.

Today, April 16th, would be his 126th birthday. I always remembered that date as it is also the birthday of my father.

In honour of his special day I want to share a clip from his movie The Great Dictator which illustrates the serious side of this wonderful man …

If only there were world leaders today that share these sentiments

Sentiments arguably as true today as they were in 1940.
“In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way”

REMEMBERING MALCOLM X, OUR BROTHER AND TEACHER

If you aren't careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. Remembered by Carlos Latuff

If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.
Remembered by Carlos Latuff

Malcolm X was assassinated 50 years ago this month (February 21st 1965). He would have been almost 90 years old. But he left us when his time was due. A fearless, courageous and sincere man who will never be forgotten by those who stand with the oppressed.

We will remember him today as we did yesterday as our beloved brother.

We remember him and appreciate the sacrifices he made not only for the African Americans but all people across the world. May God grant him mercy and the highest station in paradise. Amen.

Eulogized by Ossie Davis

Remembered by his friends and comrades…

Contents
Assassination of Malcolm X
Harlem resident
Sonia Sanchez
James Henrik Clarke
Ella Collins
Prince Faisal (not to be confused with THE King Faisal)
Ossie Davis
Amiri Baraka
Yvonne Little
Alex Haley
Sharon 10X
Maya Angelou
Denzel Washington
Nelson Mandela
Tariq Ramadan
Robert Haggins
Earl Grant
Yuri Kochiyama
Shirley Joshi
Malcolm X in Smethwick, Birmingham, UK (12/02/1965)
Ossie Davis
Malcolm X in Oxford Union (04/12/1964)
Malcolm X resting

Click HERE to read related report

Malcolm X remembered as civil rights leaders grapple with new protest movement

LIFE BEFORE DEATH IN THE OCCUPIED WEST BANK

Don't just remember .... Help stop the madness!

Don’t just remember …. Help stop the madness!

“Here lies my brother”: Short video recalls life of murdered Palestinian teen

The night before he died, Muhammad and his father went up on the roof of their house. The teen pointed toward nearby Birzeit University and told his father that he wanted to study journalism there.

“Through media and journalism,” his father recalls Muhammad saying, “I can send a message to the world that there’s a people here that is carrying out legitimate resistance to the occupation and I can ask the world to help us end the occupation.”

Click HERE to see what you can do to stop the murders

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Click HERE to read Ali Abunimah’s full report on the situation

REMEMBERING CHE AND VITTORIO, MARTYRS EXTRAORDINAIRE

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Forty seven years ago this month Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was murdered by the CIA in Bolivia. 

Below is a heartbreaking letter from the mother of Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian in Gaza murdered by similar forces of hatred just over three years ago. Imagine the letter having been penned by the mother of Che …

Both live on in the hearts of all who work for Social Justice throughout the world …

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“Don’t cry for me if I die, do what I was doing and I will live on in you.” —
Che Guevara
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A letter from Vittorio’s mother

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One has to die to become a hero, to hit the headlines and to have TV crews around the house, but does one have to die to stay human? I recall Vittorio in the Christmas of 2005, detained and incarcerated in the Ben Gurion Airport, the scars left by the handcuffs that cut his wrists, the denial of any contact with the consulate, the farcical process. And I recall Easter that same year, when just across the Allenby Bridge at the Jordanian border the Israeli police blocked his entrance in the country, put him on a bus and, seven against one (one of the seven was a policewoman), they beat him up “with skill”, without leaving any external marks, like the real professionals they are, then hurling him to the ground and throwing at his face, as a last scar to add to the others, the hair they had ripped off him with their machines.

Vittorio was unwanted in Israel. Too subversive, for having joined his friend Gabriele one year earlier and demonstrated along with the women and men of the village of Budrus against the Wall of Shame, teaching them the lyrics and singing together our most beautiful partisan song ‘O bella ciao, ciao…’. (see below)

Back then no TV crew came by, not even when in the Fall of 2008 a commando attacked in Palestinian waters off Rafah the fishing boat he had boarded. Vittorio was incarcerated in Ramle and soon after sent back home with nothing but the clothes on his body. Nevertheless, I cannot but be thankful to the press and television that have approached us with composure, that have ‘besieged’ our home with restraint, without excesses and that have given me the chance to talk about Vittorio and about his ideals and the choices he made.

This lost child of mine is more alive than ever before, like the grain that has fallen to the ground and died to bring forth a plentiful harvest. I see it and hear it already in the words of his friends, above all the younger among them, some closer, some from afar. Through Vittorio, they have known and understood, and now even more, how one can give ‘Utopia’ a meaning, like the thirst for justice and peace, how fraternity and solidarity still stand and how, as Vittorio used to say, ‘Palestine can also be found at your doorsteps’. We were a long way from Vittorio, but now we are closer than ever, with his living presence magnified at every passing hour, like a wind from Gaza, from his beloved Mediterranean, blowing fierily to deliver the message of his hope and of his love for those without a voice, for the weak and the oppressed, passing the baton.

Stay human. – Restiamo umani.

The above is a translation of the letter written by egidia beretta arrigoni, mother of vittorio arrigoni, translated by Sebastiao Nascimento

Bella Ciao Vitto
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Scenes in Gaza after Vittorio’s murder…..
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Honoured by Carlos Latuff

Honoured by Carlos Latuff

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As was Che on the 40th Anniversary of his martyrdom

As was Che on the 40th Anniversary of his martyrdom

THE BABY THAT COULD SAVE THE WORLD

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In 2011, former President Clinton told reporters in Davos, Switzerland: “I would like to have a happy wife, and she won’t be unless she’s a grandmother … It’s something she wants more than she wanted to be president.”

Let’s hope to God he was right!

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Chelsea Clinton Has Baby Girl Named Charlotte

First Grandchild for Hillary and Bill Clinton

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By Reuters

Chelsea Clinton has given birth to a girl, she said in a statement on social media, giving former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton their first grandchild.

“Marc and I are full of love, awe and gratitude as we celebrate the birth of our daughter, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky,” Clinton said in the post on her Twitter and Facebook profiles, referring to her investment banker husband Marc Mezvinsky.

The messages came out after midnight on the U.S. East Coast. Details on the baby’s height and weight have not been released.

Later on Saturday, Charlotte’s new grandparents shared their excitement about the birth in a joint statement.

“We are thrilled to be with our daughter and her husband as they welcome their daughter into the world,” the senior Clintons said.

“Chelsea is well and glowing. Marc is bursting with pride. Charlotte’s life is off to a good start,” they said.

Chelsea Clinton announced her pregnancy in April while sitting side-by-side with her mother in armchairs on a stage at a New York City event on empowering women.

It remains unclear how the birth of the first Clinton grandchild will affect the political ambitions of Hillary Clinton, who is considering a run for the White House in 2016.

In 2011, former President Clinton told reporters in Davos, Switzerland: “I would like to have a happy wife, and she won’t be unless she’s a grandmother … It’s something she wants more than she wanted to be president.”

A LIFELONG ZIONIST’S DREAM THAT TURNED INTO A NIGHTMARE

It took a lifetime of 90 years for this man to wake up from his nightmare ….. others are sure to follow.

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<em>Theodore Bikel, Photo courtesy of Bikel</em>

Theodore Bikel, Photo courtesy of Bikel

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The shameful apologies trying to justify the death of Arab children with trite explanations of ‘collateral damage’ and ‘use children as shields and they will die’ fill me with anger. Yes, a Jewish child’s life if precious to me but how dare anyone suggest that another child’s life is less precious, less deserving of a future? What is most frustrating is that those who place lesser values on non-Jews are supposed stalwarts of a community that I can no longer rightfully call mine. Where is the commitment to open dialogue, the respect to hear out opposing ideas, where is the dictum that commands us to listen, to debate, to agonize with each other rather than hurl epithets of disloyalty?

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Grieving the children of Palestine and the dream of Zionism

by Theodore Bikel FOR

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Through all the turmoil of these last weeks and months I have been tortured by thoughts of children, Jewish children, Palestinian children, Syrian, Iraqi children – all those who most innocently of all, and most grievously of all, are the victims of the Middle East Madness.

Rachel mebaka et baneha, Rachel mourns her children. With her I weep for the children knowing that they are all her children, our children, every one of them.

The shameful apologies trying to justify the death of Arab children with trite explanations of ‘collateral damage’ and ‘use children as shields and they will die’ fill me with anger. Yes, a Jewish child’s life if precious to me but how dare anyone suggest that another child’s life is less precious, less deserving of a future? What is most frustrating is that those who place lesser values on non-Jews are supposed stalwarts of a community that I can no longer rightfully call mine. Where is the commitment to open dialogue, the respect to hear out opposing ideas, where is the dictum that commands us to listen, to debate, to agonize with each other rather than hurl epithets of disloyalty?

People see suffering and unless it is Jewish suffering they are silent. How dare they? Many years ago, at the famous March on Washington, Rabbi Joachim Prinz declared that the crime of the century was silence, silence in the face of injustice. I say it now to my own community; Jewish silence in the face of injustice is intolerable because Jews are commanded to live by a moral code that calls such silence not only wrong but makes it a crime.

My father has been gone for many years now but he left me to be the guardian of his dream, a dream of a Zionism whose engine to fulfillment would be the socialism of the kibbutz movement. Both have now been corrupted and made irrelevant in a land that practices capitalist consumerism and allows children to go to bed hungry.  In my mind I have been offering my father apologies that his dream has been thwarted and that both he and I are left with the sadness of frustrated hope.

I am an old man now but I know how to grieve over a boyhood dream that has gone.

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Enjoy his music ….

SEEGER FEST FOR PEACE

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At Lincoln Center – zillions of people came to celebrate Pete & Toshi.  It was like a hootenanny that went on for almost 4 hours with lots of performers singing Pete’s songs with the audience joining in.  There was one totally beautiful speech by Harry Belafonte who praised Pete’s dedication to humanity and added that when he sang Tsena, Tsena he never dreamed that the country would turn into the horrible spectacle of children’s destroyed bodies lying on a beach in Gaza.  He saw an opportunity to speak truth and he took it.

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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Pete Seeger brought the world together

Pete Seeger, who died in January, was a modern-day troubadour for social justice who was on the frontline of every key progressive crusade in his lifetime. Peter Dreier pays tribute to a great artist and human being.

‘TO everything, there is a season,’ Pete Seeger’s song, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes, tells us. ‘A time to be born, a time to die.’

Seeger died on 27 January at 94. In the spirit of that song, he spent his time on earth planting, healing, laughing, building, dancing, loving, embracing and advocating peace.

Seeger brought the world closer together with his music. Every day, every minute, someone in the world is singing a Pete Seeger song. For over six decades, he introduced Americans to songs from other cultures, like ‘Wimoweh’ (‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’) from South Africa, ‘Tzena, Tzena’ from Israel (which reached number two on the pop charts) and ‘Guantanamera’ from Cuba, inspiring what is now called ‘world music’. The songs he has written, including the antiwar tunes, ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’, ‘If I Had a Hammer’ and ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, and those he has popularised, including ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and ‘We Shall Overcome’, have been recorded by hundreds of artists in many languages and have become global anthems for people fighting for freedom. His songs are sung by people in cities and villages around the world, promoting the basic idea that the hopes that unite us are greater than the fears that divide us.

Seeger was a much-acclaimed and innovative guitarist and banjoist, a globe-trotting song collector, and the author of many songbooks and musical how-to manuals. In addition to being a World War II veteran, he was on the frontlines of every key progressive crusade during his lifetime – labour unions and migrant workers in the 1930s and 1940s, the banning of nuclear weapons and opposition to the Cold War in the 1950s, civil rights and the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s, environmental responsibility and opposition to South African apartheid in the 1970s, and, always, human rights throughout the world.

For the past decade, Pete has kept coming out of semi-retirement to do one more concert, give one more interview, write one more book, record one more album. His remarkable spirit, energy and optimism kept him going through triumphs and tragedies, but he outlived all his enemies and remained one of the greatest American heroes of this or any other era.

Several biographies of Seeger have been published in the past decade, including David King Dunaway’s How Can I Keep from Singing? The Ballad of Pete Seeger, Alec Wilkinson’s The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger, and Alan Winkler’s To Everything There Is a Season: Pete Seeger and the Power of Song. Six years ago Jim Brown produced a wonderful documentary film, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song.

Pete, who was modest and self-effacing despite his remarkable accomplishments, never wrote an autobiography. But two years ago he published a collection of his writings, Pete Seeger: In His Own Words. The book presents Pete in his own voice. With Pete’s cooperation, Rob Rosenthal, sociology professor at Wesleyan University, and Sam Rosenthal, a musician and writer, dug through Pete’s extensive writings – letters stored for decades in his family barn, notes to himself, published articles, rough drafts, stories, books, poems and songs – to chronicle and illuminate Pete’s incredible life as America’s troubadour for social justice.

Making music for change

The son of musicologists Charles and Ruth Seeger, Pete spent two years at Harvard, where he got involved in radical politics and helped start a student newspaper, The Harvard Progressive. He quit in 1938 in order to try his own hand at changing society by making music. He worked at the Library of Congress’s Archive of American Folk Song, where he learned many of the songs he would sing throughout his career, travelled around with Woody Guthrie singing at migrant labour camps and union halls, and perfected his guitar- and banjo-playing skills.

In 1941, at age 22, Seeger formed the Almanac Singers with Lee Hays and Millard Lampell, later joined by Guthrie, Bess Lomax (daughter of musicologist John Lomax) and several others who rotated in and out of the group. The Almanacs drew on traditional songs and wrote their own songs to advance the cause of progressive groups, the Communist Party, the Congress of Industrial Organisations unions, the New Deal and, later, the United States and its allies (including the Soviet Union) in the fight against fascism. The Almanacs were part of a broader upsurge of popular progressive culture during the New Deal, fostered in part by programmes like the federal theatre and writers’ projects. Even so, the group was hounded by the FBI, got few bookings and was dropped by its agent, the William Morris Agency. After Seeger and Guthrie joined the military, the group disbanded in 1943.

The Almanacs cultivated an image of being unpolished amateurs. Guthrie once said that the Almanacs ‘rehearsed on stage’. Among them, however, Seeger was the most gifted and disciplined musician, with a remarkable repertoire of traditional songs. He carefully crafted a stage persona that inspired audiences to join him, a performing style that he perfected when he began working as a soloist. Every Seeger concert involved a lot of group singing.

Immediately after World War II, American radicals and liberals sought to reignite popular support for progressive unions, civil rights and internationalism. The left’s folk-music wing hoped to build on its modest successes before and during the war. In 1946 Seeger led the effort to create People’s Songs, an organisation of progressive songwriters and performers, dominated by but not confined to folk musicians, and People’s Artists, a booking agency to help the members of People’s Songs get concert gigs and recording contracts. They compiled The People’s Song Book, which included protest songs from around the world, sponsored a number of successful concerts, and organised chapters in several cities and on college campuses.

When Henry Wallace ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket in 1948, his campaign relied heavily on folk music. Seeger travelled with Wallace during the campaign, distributing song sheets at every meeting or rally so that sing-alongs, led by Seeger, could alternate with Wallace’s speeches.

By 1949 folk music’s popularity had grown, with performers like Burl Ives, Josh White and others gaining a foothold in popular culture, but the folk music of this period had lost much of its political edge.

For a brief period, as a member of the Weavers folk quartet, Seeger achieved commercial success, performing several chart-topping songs that reflected his eclectic repertoire. The group was formed in 1948 by Seeger and Hays (both former Almanacs), along with Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman. They exposed audiences to their repertoire of songs from around the world as well as to American folk traditions, but without the overt advocacy of left-wing political causes. Decca Records signed the Weavers to a recording contract and added orchestral arrangements and instruments to their music, a commercial expediency that rankled Seeger but delighted Hays. The Weavers performed in the nation’s most prestigious nightclubs and appeared on network television shows.

In 1950 their recording of an Israeli song, ‘Tzena, Tzena’, reached number two on the pop charts, and their version of Lead Belly’s ‘Goodnight, Irene’ reached number one and stayed on the charts for half a year. Several of their recordings – ‘On Top of Old Smokey’, ‘Kisses Sweeter Than Wine’, ‘Wimoweh’, and ‘Midnight Special’ – also made the charts. Their 1951 recording of Guthrie’s song ‘So Long It’s Been Good to Know You’ reached number four.

The blacklist years

But the Weavers’ commercial success was shortlived. As soon as they began to be widely noticed in 1950, they were targeted by both private and government witch-hunters. The FBI and Congress escalated their investigations. A group of former FBI agents founded the newsletter Counterattack in 1947 to expose Communism in American society; in 1950, the newsletter issued a special report, ‘Red Channels: the Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television’. It listed 151 actors, writers, musicians, broadcast journalists and others whom it claimed were part of the Communist influence in the entertainment industry – including Seeger and the Weavers. Hollywood studios, TV shows and other venues blacklisted people on the list. A few performers, notably Josh White and Burl Ives, agreed to cooperate with the investigators and were able to resume their careers; others refused to do so, and some were blacklisted. The Weavers survived for another year with bookings and even TV shows, but finally the escalating Red Scare caught up with them. Their contract for a summer television show was cancelled. They could no longer get bookings in the top nightclubs. Radio stations stopped playing their songs, and their records stopped selling. They never had another major hit record.

Seeger left the Weavers to pursue a solo career, but he was blacklisted from the early 1950s through the mid-1960s. In 1955 he was convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to discuss his political affiliations at a hearing called by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, although he never spent time in jail. (The conviction was overturned on appeal in May 1962.) Many colleges and concert halls refused to book Seeger. He was kept off network television. In 1963 ABC refused to allow Seeger to appear on Hootenanny, which owed its existence to the folk music revival Seeger had helped inspire.

During the blacklist years, Seeger scratched out a living by giving guitar and banjo lessons and singing at the small number of summer camps, churches, high schools and colleges, and union halls that were courageous enough to invite the controversial balladeer. In 1966, on New York City’s nonprofit educational television station, he hosted a low-budget folk music programme, Rainbow Quest, that gave exposure to many little-known country, bluegrass and folk singers. The station had a limited viewership at the time, but fortunately the programmes were taped and are now available on YouTube.

Eventually, Seeger’s audience grew. In the 1960s he sang with civil rights workers at rallies and churches in the South and at the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. He popularised the song ‘We Shall Overcome’ in the United States and during his concerts around the world. In a letter to Seeger, Martin Luther King Jr thanked him for his ‘moral support and Christian generosity’. In 1967 Tom and Dick Smothers defiantly invited Seeger onto their popular CBS television variety show, the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. True to his principles, Seeger insisted on singing a controversial antiwar song, ‘Waist Deep in the Big Muddy’. CBS censors refused to air the song, but public outrage forced the network to relent and allow him to perform the song on the show a few months later.

Role model

Seeger helped catalyse the folk music revival of the 1960s, encouraging young performers, helping start the Newport Folk Festival, and promoting the folk song magazine Sing Out! that he had helped launch. His book How to Play the 5-String Banjo taught thousands of baby boomers how to play this largely forgotten instrument. He continued to bring audiences songs from around the world, often sung in their original languages.

Tons of prominent musicians – including Bob Dylan, Bono, Joan Baez, the Byrds, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Morello and Bruce Springsteen – consider Seeger a role model and trace their musical roots to his influence. Many of his 80 albums, which include children’s songs, labour and protest songs, traditional American folk songs, international songs and Christmas songs, have reached wide audiences. Among performers around the globe, Seeger became a symbol of a principled artist deeply engaged in the world.

In 1969 Seeger launched the nonprofit group Clearwater, near his home in Beacon, New York, and an annual celebration dedicated to cleaning up the polluted Hudson River. The effort, at first written off as simplistic and naive, helped inspire the environmental movement. The Hudson, once filled with oil pollution, sewage and toxic chemicals, is now swimmable.

Through persistence and unrelenting optimism, Seeger endured and overcame the controversies triggered by his activism. In 1994, at age 75, he received the National Medal of Arts (the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the US government) as well as a Kennedy Center Honor, when President Bill Clinton called him ‘an inconvenient artist, who dared to sing things as he saw them’. In 1996 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because of his influence on so many rock performers. In 1997 he won the Grammy Award for his 18-track compilation album, Pete.

In the 21st century, some of the nation’s most prominent singers recorded albums honouring Seeger, including Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions. In May 2009 more than 15,000 admirers filled New York City’s Madison Square Garden for a concert honouring Seeger on his 90th birthday. The performers included Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez, Billy Bragg, Rufus Wainwright, Bela Fleck, Taj Mahal, Roger McGuinn, Steve Earle, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dar Williams, Tom Morello, Ani DiFranco and John Mellencamp.

In 2012 Pete released two new albums. A More Perfect Union featured 16 original songs written with singer-songwriter Lorre Wyatt and includes duets with Springsteen, Morello, Earle, Harris and Williams. The two-CD Pete Remembers Woody honoured his friend as part of the centennial celebration of Guthrie’s birth. It includes reminiscences, songs and anecdotes.

In the past year, Seeger released the music video and single of ‘God’s Counting on Me, God’s Counting on You’, performed with Arlo Guthrie at Carnegie Hall; shared the stage at New York’s Beacon Theater with Harry Belafonte, Jackson Browne and others to celebrate the life of Native American activist Leonard Peltier, and issued an audiobook titled Peter Seeger: The Storm King, Stories, Narratives and Poems (which was nominated for a Grammy).

Toshi, his wife of 70 years who helped manage Pete’s career, died in July. Despite the enormous loss, Pete kept on singing. He sang ‘I Come and Stand at Every Door’ on Democracy Now! on 9 August to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. He sang ‘This Land Is Your Land’ (adding an anti-fracking verse) at the Farm Aid concert in Saratoga Springs in September (joined by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews). In December, he performed at a concert in Nyack to benefit the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a peace group. He was scheduled to receive the first Woody Guthrie Award from the Guthrie Foundation and Grammy Foundation in February.

Probably no song reflects Pete’s indomitable spirit more than ‘Quite Early Morning’, the song he sang on the Colbert Report in 2012.

Don’t you know it’s darkest before the dawn

And it’s this thought keeps me moving on

If we could heed these early warnings

The time is now quite early morning

If we could heed these early warnings

The time is now quite early morning

Some say that humankind won’t long endure

But what makes them so doggone sure?

I know that you who hear my singing

Could make those freedom bells go ringing

I know that you who hear my singing

Could make those freedom bells go ringing

And so keep on while we live

Until we have no, no more to give

And when these fingers can strum no longer

Hand the old banjo to young ones stronger

And when these fingers can strum no longer

Hand the old banjo to young ones stronger

So though it’s darkest before the dawn

These thoughts keep us moving on

Through all this world of joy and sorrow

We still can have singing tomorrows

Through all this world of joy and sorrow

We still can have singing tomorrows

Pete’s fingers can strum no longer, but, thanks to him, people around the world can have many ‘singing tomorrows’.

 

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SONGS FOR THE THREE MARTYRS

First see yesterday’s post … MISSISSIPPI BURNT DOWN 50 YEARS AGO TODAY

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Here are some songs written to celebrate their lives and honor their deaths, as well as one Yiddish song, “Donna Donna,” written a quarter-century earlier but profoundly appropriate, I think, to the day. The performers are Tom Paxton; Simon & Garfunkel; Harry Belafonte (singing a Pete Seeger-Frances Taylor song); Joan Baez; Richard and Mimi Farina (she was Joan Baez’s sister); Nechama Hendel; and wrapping it up, one of my favorite Phil Ochs songs, “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.” All the songs were written by the performers except where noted. (Originally appeared AT)

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Tom Paxton: “Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney.”

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Harry Belafonte: “Those Three Are on My Mind.” (Written by Pete Seeger and Frances Taylor. Hear Pete singing it here.)

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Simon and Garfunkel: “He Was My Brother” (for Andrew Goodman, their friend and classmate at Queens College).

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Richard and Mimi Farina: “Michael, Andrew and James.”

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Nechama Hendel: “Donna Donna” (the Yiddish original, by Aaron Zeitlin and Sholom Secunda). (For Joan Baez’s famous performance of the English version [“…Calves are easily bound and slaughtered, never knowing the reason why, but whoever treasures freedom like the swallow has learned to fly”] click here.)

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Phil Ochs: “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.”

BELLA CIAO RUBY DEE

Another great human being took leave of us on Wednesday ….. once again asking the unanswered; WHERE ARE THE REPLACEMENTS FOR THESE WONDERFUL PEOPLE?  WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE!!

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 Click HERE to see Slide Show

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G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times

Ruby Dee, one of the most enduring actresses of theater and film, whose public profile and activist passions made her, along with her husband, Ossie Davis, a leading advocate for civil rights both in show business and in the wider world, died on Wednesday at her home in New Rochelle, N.Y. She was 91.

Her daughter Nora Davis Day confirmed the death.

A diminutive beauty with a sense of persistent social distress and a restless, probing intelligence, Ms. Dee began her performing career in the 1940s, and it continued well into the 21st century. She was always a critical favorite, though not often cast as a leading lady.

Her most successful central role was Off Broadway, in the 1970 Athol Fugard drama, “Boesman and Lena,” about a pair of nomadic mixed-race South Africans, for which she received overwhelming praise. Clive Barnes wrote in The New York Times, “Ruby Dee as Lena is giving one of the finest performances I have ever seen.”

Her most famous performance came more than a decade earlier, in 1959, in a supporting role in “A Raisin in the Sun,” Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark drama about the quotidian struggle of a black family in Chicago at the dawn of the civil rights movement. Ms. Dee played Ruth Younger, the wife of the main character, Walter Lee Younger, played by Sidney Poitier, and the daughter-in-law of the leading female character, the family matriarch, Lena (Claudia McNeil).

Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in “A Raisin in the Sun,” which opened on Broadway in 1959. Creditvia Photofest

 

Ruth is a character with far too much on her plate: an overcrowded home, a troubled husband, a young son, an overbearing mother-in-law, a wearying job and an unwanted pregnancy, not to mention the shared burden of black people everywhere in a society skewed against them. Ms. Dee’s was a haunting portrait of a young woman whose desperation to maintain grace under pressure doesn’t keep her from being occasionally broken by it.

The play had 530 performances on Broadway and was reprised, with much of the cast intact, as a 1961 film. On screen, Edith Oliver wrote in The New Yorker, Ms. Dee was “even more impressive” than she was onstage. “Is there a better young actress in America, or one who can make everything she does seem so effortless?” Ms. Oliver wrote.

The loyal but worried loved one was a role Ms. Dee played frequently, in films like “The Jackie Robinson Story” (in which she played the wife of the pioneering black ballplayer, who starred as himself) and “No Way Out,” a tough racial drama in which she played the sister of a prison doctor (Mr. Poitier).

Over the course of Ms. Dee’s career, the lives of American blacks, both extraordinary and ordinary, belatedly emerged as rich subject matter for mainstream theater productions and films, and black performers went from being consigned to marginal and often belittling roles to starring in Hollywood megahits.

Ms. Dee went from being a disciple of Paul Robeson to starring with Mr. Poitier on Broadway. She was a featured player in the films of Spike Lee and an Oscar nominee for a supporting role in the 2007 movie “American Gangster,” about a Harlem drug lord (Denzel Washington); she played a loving mother who turned a blind eye to her son’s criminality.

But Ms. Dee not only took part in that evolution; through her visibility in a wide range of projects, from classics onstage to contemporary film dramas to television soap operas, she also helped bring it about.

In 1965, playing Cordelia in “King Lear” and Kate in “The Taming of the Shrew,” she was the first black woman to appear in major roles at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Conn. In 1968, she became the first black actress to be featured regularly on the titillating prime-time TV series “Peyton Place.”

She appeared in two of Mr. Lee’s earliest films, “Do the Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever.” (On Thursday, Michelle Obama tweeted about Ms. Dee: “I’ll never forget seeing her in ‘Do the Right Thing’ on my first date with Barack.”)

Ms. Dee picketed Broadway theaters that were not employing black actors for their shows and spoke out against film crews that hired few or no blacks.

Having made her name in films that addressed racial issues, she began seeking out more of them. She collaborated with the director Jules Dassin on the screenplay for “Up Tight!,” a 1968 adaptation of “The Informer,” Liam O’Flaherty’s 1925 novel set after the Irish civil war. (It had also been filmed by John Ford.) Mr. Dassin and Ms. Dee shifted the tale of betrayal among revolutionaries to 1960s Cleveland; Ms. Dee played a welfare mother who helped feed her family by resorting to prostitution.

She also lent her voice and presence to the cause of racial equality outside show business. She was an active member of the Congress of Racial Equality, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

At the Tony Awards ceremony on Sunday, Audra McDonald, in accepting her sixth acting award for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” acknowledged Ms. Dee as one of five black women whose shoulders she stands upon. (The others were Holiday, Maya Angelou, Diahann Carroll and Lena Horne.)

A revival of “Raisin in the Sun,” now playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on Broadway, the same stage as the original production, won three Tonys, including one for Sophie Okonedo, who plays Ruth Younger. In a statement, Ms. Okonedo called Ms. Dee “one of my heroines.”

Ruby Ann Wallace, as she was known when she was born in Cleveland on Oct. 27, 1922, grew up in Harlem. The third child of teenage parents, she was reared mostly by her father, Marshall Wallace, who became a waiter on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and his second wife, the former Emma Amelia Benson, a college-educated teacher who was 13 years older than he. Ms. Dee described her as a strict but loving mother, a stickler for elocution and the person who introduced her to poetry, music and dance.

By the mid-1940s, when she graduated from Hunter College, Ms. Dee was already a working actress, having appeared on Broadway and in productions of the American Negro Theater, then a fledgling professional company housed in the basement of the Harlem branch of the New York Public Library.

She had also been married, in 1941, to the singer Frankie Dee Brown. The marriage dissolved within four years, but it gave Ms. Dee the name by which she would be known for the rest of her life.

She made her Broadway debut in December 1943 in a short-lived play called “South Pacific,” unrelated to the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that came along more than five years later. In 1946 she joined the cast of a Broadway-bound play called “Jeb,” about a black soldier who has lost a leg in World War II and discovers that his sacrifice for his country is of little value in the face of the racism he encounters on his return home.

Hired as the understudy for the role of Libby, the title character’s loving girlfriend, Ms. Dee not only replaced the original actress in the role before opening night but also fell in love with the star, Ossie Davis. The show lasted for nine performances, the relationship nearly 60 years, until Mr. Davis’s death in 2005. They married in 1948.

Besides her daughter Nora, Ms. Dee is survived by another daughter, Hasna Muhammad; a son, the singer Guy Davis; a sister, Angelina Roach; and seven grandchildren.

The partnership between Ms. Dee and Mr. Davis was romantic, familial, professional, artistic and political, and they jointly received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton.

During their careers they performed together many times, including in “Raisin,” when Mr. Davis took over the stage role of Walter Younger from Mr. Poitier, and in “Purlie Victorious,” Mr. Davis’s own broad satire about a charismatic preacher in the Jim Crow South, on Broadway in 1961 and in the 1963 film version, “Gone Are the Days!”

In 1998 they published a joint autobiography, “With Ossie & Ruby: In This Life Together,” to commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary. The book is remarkable for its candor, not only about their careers and upbringings but also about their intimate lives, together and apart, and their reflections on race relations, politics and art. Told in separate, alternating voices, it was a book-length public conversation that testified to a lifelong private one.

Ms. Dee and Mr. Davis stood together, far to the political left, on behalf of numerous causes. They spoke out in the 1950s against the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and against the persecution of American Communists (and purported Communists) in the investigations by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. When, under the McCarran Internal Security Act, the government revoked the passport of Robeson, the great black actor, singer and outspoken socialist, they helped organize the campaign to have it restored.

They were friends and supporters of both the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, whose eulogy, after his assassination in 1965, was delivered by Mr. Davis. On Aug. 28, 1963, the day of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which culminated in Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Ms. Dee and Mr. Davis were the M.C.’s of the entertainment event at the foot of the Washington Monument that preceded the march to the Lincoln Memorial. They raised money for the Black Panthers. They demonstrated against the Vietnam War.

In 2005 Ms. Dee received a lifetime achievement award from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

“You can only appreciate freedom,” she said then, “when you find yourself in a position to fight for someone else’s freedom and not worry about your own.”

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