The first time I heard Joe Hill's name was during the 1970 "Woodstock" movie. Joan Baez, at night, fog swirling around, singing about this man who I'd never heard of.
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead"
"I never died" said he,
"I never died" said he.
"The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,Who is Joe Hill? Who are the Copper Bosses?
"They shot you Joe" says I. "
Takes more than guns to kill a man"
Says Joe "I didn't die."
Says Joe "I didn't die"
As a 20-year-old, I had to look them up. No Internet in 1970. Throughout my K-12 education, nobody ever mentioned Joe Hill, not even in Colorado, Utah's neighbor. The library was my only choice. Books! Joe Hill was a union organizer. Copper bosses? Fat cats who crushed the union members. In Joe Hill's case, he was executed by a Utah firing squad.
Nobody celebrates the Copper Bosses, although they undoubtedly have some buildings named after them. Nobody knows the names of the men on the firing squad.
But we do remember Joe Hill, thanks to songwriters and singers and union activists. Joan Baez. Pete Seeger. Woody Guthrie. The Weavers. Utah Phillips. The Wobblies.
The 100th anniversary of Joe Hill's murder will be marked this summer at the Joe Hill centennial celebration in Salt Lake City. Joe might not have envisioned this, but the event is being promoted and funded through a Kickstarter project.
Take a look at the Kickstarter video. It includes singer-songwriter Kate McLeod from Utah. I had the pleasure of meeting Kate in at arts events in Jackson Hole a few years ago. She is amazing. The whole event is amazing. Crowd-fund it and attend it on Sept. 5.