Franklin Rosemont was born in Chicago in 1943. His father, Henry, was a labor activist, and his mother, Sally, a jazz musician. He edited and wrote an introduction for What Is Surrealism? Selected Writings by André Breton, and edited Rebel Worker, Arsenal/Surrealist Subversion, The Rise and Fall of the Dill Pickle, and Juice Is Stranger than Friction: Selected Writings of T-Bone Slim. With Penelope Rosemont and Paul Garon he edited The Forecast Is Hot! His work was deeply concerned with both the history of surrealism (writing a foreword for Max Ernst and Alchemy: A Magician in Search of Myth) and of the radical labor movement in America. For several decades he and Penelope Rosemont combined such interests helming the venerable radical publishing house the Charles H. Kerr Co. He died in 2009 in Chicago.
The Big Red Songbook: 250+ IWW Songs!
Editors: Archie Green, David Roediger, Franklin Rosemont, and Salvatore Salerno • Foreword: Tom Morello • Afterword: Utah Phillips
Publisher: PM Press/Charles H. Kerr Library
Page count: 560
Subjects: Music-Lyrics/Labor History
In 1905, representatives from dozens of radical labor groups came together in Chicago to form One Big Union—the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), known as the Wobblies. The union was a big presence in the labor movement, leading strikes, walkouts, and rallies across the nation. And everywhere its members went, they sang.
Their songs were sung in mining camps and textile mills, hobo jungles and flop houses, and anywhere workers might be recruited to the Wobblies’ cause. The songs were published in a pocketsize tome called the Little Red Songbook, which was so successful that it’s been published continuously since 1909. In The Big Red Songbook, the editors have gathered songs from over three dozen editions, plus additional songs, rare artwork, personal recollections, discographies, and more into one big all-embracing book.
IWW poets/composers strove to nurture revolutionary consciousness. Each piece, whether topical, hortatory, elegiac, sardonic, or comic served to educate, agitate, and emancipate workers. A handful of Wobbly numbers have become classics, still sung by labor groups and folk singers. They include Joe Hill’s sardonic “The Preacher and the Slave” (sometimes known by its famous phrase “Pie in the Sky”) and Ralph Chaplin’s “Solidarity Forever.” Songs lost or found, sacred or irreverent, touted or neglected, serious or zany, singable or not, are here. The Wobblies and their friends have been singing for a century. May this comprehensive gathering simultaneously celebrate past battles and chart future goals.
In addition to the 250+ songs, writings are included from Archie Green, Franklin Rosemont, David Roediger, Salvatore Salerno, Judy Branfman, Richard Brazier, James Connell, Carlos Cortez, Bill Friedland, Virginia Martin, Harry McClintock, Fred Thompson, Adam Machado, and many more.
“This engaging anthology features the lyrics to 250 or so Wobbly songs, rich with references to job sharks, shovel stiffs, capitalist tools, and plutocratic parasites. Wobbly wordsmiths such as the fabled Joe Hill, T-Bone Slim, Haywire Mac, and Richard Brazier set their fighting words to popular tunes of the day, gospel hymns, old ballads and patriotic anthems.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“This collection, the last major work both of the late ‘laborlorist’ Archie Green and of the late surrealist poet and labor publisher Franklin Rosemont, should be of great value to folklorists, activists, and singers alike.”
—Journal of American Folklore
—International Labor and Working-Class History
Joe Hill: The IWW & the Making of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture, Second Edition
Author: Franklin Rosemont • Introduction by David Roediger
Publisher: PM Press/Charles H. Kerr Library
Page count: 656
A monumental work, expansive in scope, covering the life, times, and culture of that most famous of the Wobblies—songwriter, poet, hobo, thinker, humorist, martyr—Joe Hill. It is a journey into the Wobbly culture that made Hill and the capitalist culture that killed him. Many aspects of the life and lore of Joe Hill receive their first and only discussion in IWW historian Franklin Rosemont’s opus.
In great detail, the issues that Joe Hill raised and grappled with in his life: capitalism, white supremacy, gender, religion, wilderness, law, prison, and industrial unionism are shown in both the context of Hill’s life and for their enduring relevance in the century since his death.
Collected too is Joe Hill’s art, plus scores of other images featuring Hill-inspired art by IWW illustrators from Ralph Chaplin to Carlos Cortez, as well as contributions from many other labor artists.
As Rosemont suggests in this remarkable book, Joe Hill never really died. He lives in the minds of young (and old) rebels as long as his songs are sung, his ideas are circulated, and his political descendants keep fighting for a better day.
“Joe Hill has finally found a chronicler worthy of his revolutionary spirit, sense of humor, and poetic imagination.”
—Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams
“Rosemont’s treatment of Joe Hill is passionate, polemical, and downright entertaining. What he gives us is an extended and detailed argument for considering both Hill and the IWW for their contributions toward creating an autonomous and uncompromising alternative culture.”
—Gordon Simmons, Labor Studies Journal
“Magnificent, practical, irreverent and (as one might say) magisterial, written in a direct, passionate, sometimes funny, deeply searching style.”
—Peter Linebaugh, author of Stop, Thief!
“Rosemont seems to have hunted down every available detail of Hill’s short life and abiding legend.”
—Los Angeles Times
“It has been a long time since so much new material on Joe Hill and the Wobblies has been collected in one volume. All students of the IWW, labor cartoons and songs, radical humor, and the history of blue-collar countercultures in the U.S. will find this book indispensable.”
—Salvatore Salerno, editor of The Big Red Songbook
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
- Joe Hill: The IWW & the Making of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture, Second Edition: Portside
Joe Hill: The IWW & the Making of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture, Second Edition: A Review
By Paul Buhle
December 21st, 2015
No review can be equal to the richness of Rosemont's Joe Hill, and as David Roediger's introduction suggests, it is best suited to the repeated perusing by readers at every level of historical sophistication. He does not say that the author spends a bit too much time adrift, wandering from Joe Hill-related topic to topic and leaving the reader bemused. But there is no harm in being bemused within a subject as large and symbolic as this one. The Letters of Joe Hill, by contrast, is brief and to the point. A demon researcher aided by his surviving brother, Henry and his nephew, the famed historian Eric, Phil Foner brought to light the packet of correspondence written from the Utah prison. Given how little is ever likely to be known about Joe Hill's personal life and mental framework, these letters are small treasures, to which Foner and his successors have added Hill's own lively if primitive cartoons and many of the song lyrics that made him famous and have kept him famous. Alexis Buss, a recent General Secretary of the IWW, adds useful archival notes, while one of the most prominent singers of Wobbly songs in recent decades, Tom Morello, offers up his personal dedication: Joe is the famed artist's "favorite singer. the poet-laureate of the working class in the early twentieth century." (vii).