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Mat Callahan


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Mat Callahan is a musician and author originally from San Francisco, where he founded Komotion International. He is the author of three books, Sex, Death & the Angry Young Man, Testimony, and The Trouble With Music. He currently resides in Bern, Switzerland.

Listen to Mat Callahan HERE talking about the revolutionary music of James Connolly on the Black Sheep podcast May 7th, 2014.

Listen to Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore at the Marxist School of Sacramento on January 16th, 2014 HERE

Check out this great Interview with Mat Callahan May 2017

Check out Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore singing the songs of James Connolly at the Starry Plough in Berkeley, California January 26t, 2014.

Check out Mat Callahan on Indymedia on KPFK.

Purchasing Links

Working-Class Heroes CD
Author: Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore
Publisher: PM Press/ Free Dirt
ISBN: 978-1-62963-762-4
Published: 4/2019
Format: CD
Size: 5.5x5.5
Length: 58 minutes
Subjects: Music/Folk & Traditional / Labor & Industrial Relations

The most essential music is conceived by real human beings: ordinary, anonymous, often poor—people who stood up and joined together to fight injustice and institutional oppression. This is the story of Working-Class Heroes, a collection of American working-class, pre–World War II folk songs revived by Mat Callahan & Yvonne Moore. Here the duo presents 20 songs written by both by folk canon heavyweights and lesser-known but equally gifted songwriters . Both beautiful and emotionally arresting, the album is a collection of stories as much as songs—stories of the women and men who (sometimes literally) gave their lives to emancipate the working class.

Heroes featured in this collection: Sarah Ogan Gunning, Ralph Chaplin, Woody Guthrie, Ella May Wiggins, Joe Hill, Paul Robeson, John Handcox, Aunt Molly Jackson, Jim Garland, and several more anonymous proletarian songwriters, whose names have been long forgotten but their words immortalized.

“The world needs more thinkers like Mat Callahan.”
—Jared Soper, SLUG magazine

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The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in San Francisco, 1965–1975
Editors: Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-702-0
Published: 9/2019
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.5x11
Page count: 96
Subjects: Music/Folk & Traditional / Labor & Industrial Relations

Working-Class Heroes is an organic melding of history, music, and politics that demonstrates with remarkably colorful evidence that workers everywhere will struggle to improve their conditions of life. And among them will be workers who share an insight: in order to better our lot, we must act collectively to change the world. This profusely illustrated treasury of song sheets, lyrics, photographs, histories, and biographical sketches explores the notion that our best hope lies in the capacity of ordinary working people to awaken to the need to emancipate ourselves and all of humanity.

Featuring over a dozen songwriters, from Joe Hill to Aunt Molly Jackson, Working-Class Heroes delivers a lyrical death blow to the falsehood that so-called political songs of the twentieth century were all written by intellectuals in New York. Many, like Ella May Wiggins, were murdered by the bosses. Others, like Sarah Ogan Gunning, watched their children starve to death and their husbands die of black lung, only to rise up singing against the system that caused so much misery.

Most of the songs collected here are from the early twentieth century, yet their striking relevance to current affairs invites us to explore the historical conditions that inspired their creation: systemic crisis, advancing fascism, and the threat of world war. In the face of violent terror, these working-class songwriters bravely stood up to fight oppression. Such courage is immortal, and the songs of such heroes can still lift our spirits, if we sing them today.

Featured in this twenty-song collection are Sarah Ogan Gunning, Ralph Chaplin, Woody Guthrie, Ella May Wiggins, Joe Hill, Paul Robeson, John Handcox, Aunt Molly Jackson, Jim Garland, Alfred Hayes, Joseph Brandon, and several anonymous proletarian songwriters whose names have been long forgotten, though their words will never die.

"This is one of the most captivating, intimate, no-holds-barred books of working-class history I have ever read. And it's a songbook, too!"
—David Rovics

“The world needs more thinkers like Mat Callahan.”
—Jared Soper, SLUG magazine

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The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in San Francisco, 1965–1975
Author: Mat Callahan
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-231-5
Published: 01/2017
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 352
Subjects: History-San Francisco/Music-1960s/Cultural Studies

As the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love floods the media with debates and celebrations of music, political movements, “flower power,” “acid rock,” and “hippies”; The Explosion of Deferred Dreams offers a critical re-examination of the interwoven political and musical happenings in San Francisco in the Sixties. Author, musician, and native San Franciscan Mat Callahan explores the dynamic links between the Black Panthers and Sly and the Family Stone, the United Farm Workers and Santana, the Indian Occupation of Alcatraz and the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and the New Left and the counterculture.

Callahan’s meticulous, impassioned arguments both expose and reframe the political and social context for the San Francisco Sound and the vibrant subcultural uprisings with which it is associated. Using dozens of original interviews, primary sources, and personal experiences, the author shows how the intense interplay of artistic and political movements put San Francisco, briefly, in the forefront of a worldwide revolutionary upsurge.

A must-read for any musician, historian, or person who “was there” (or longed to have been), The Explosion of Deferred Dreams is substantive and provocative, inviting us to reinvigorate our historical sense-making of an era that assumes a mythic role in the contemporary American zeitgeist.


“Mat Callahan was a red diaper baby lucky to be attending a San Francisco high school during the ‘Summer of Love.’ He takes a studied approach, but with the eye of a revolutionary, describing the sociopolitical landscape that led to the explosion of popular music (rock, jazz, folk, R&B) coupled with the birth of several diverse radical movements during the golden 1965–1975 age of the Bay Area. Callahan comes at it from every angle imaginable (black power, anti–Vietnam War, the media, the New Left, feminism, sexual revolution—with the voice of authority backed up by interviews with those who lived it.” —Pat Thomas, author of Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965–1975

“All too often, people talk about the ’60s without mentioning our music and the fun we had trying to smash the state and create a culture based upon love. Mat Callahan’s book is a necessary corrective.” —George Katsiaficas, author of The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968

“Something very special took place in San Francisco in the Sixties, generating waves of social and aesthetic motion that still ricochet around this planet. The Explosion of Deferred Dreams takes a clear-eyed, politically engaged view that separates truth from propaganda. Grasping why the time became legendary and how society dealt with the challenges it created is what Explosion is about—and it accomplishes this critical task with intelligence and clarity.” —Dennis McNally, author of A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead

“In this landmark work, Mat Callahan painstakingly braids disparate threads of the rich tapestry of San Francisco—music, politics, race, culture. In this vast, panoramic portrait, Callahan digs out social/political undercurrents that have never been more thoroughly explored.” —Joel Selvin, Summer of Love: The Inside Story of LSD, Rock & Roll, Free Love and High Times in the Wild West

Poster credits for Explosion Of Deferred Dreams:
P. 135 - Frank Melton

P. 138, 139 - Charles Fleischman

P. 142 - Brighton Goodfellow

P. 143 - Jim Bashfield

P. 148 - Gary Grimshaw

P. 150 - Spain Rodriguez

P. 152, 153 - "Indian Joe" Morris

P. 157, 160, 161 - Ruben Guzmán

P. 158 - Randy Tuten
Poster images provided courtesy the Lincoln Cushing / Docs Populi Archive.

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Songs of Freedom: The James Connolly Songbook

Author: James Connolly
Edited by Mat Callahan with a Preface by Theo Dorgan and Foreword by James Connolly Heron
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-826-5
Published: 09/01/2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 96 Pages
Subjects: Music-Lyrics/History-Ireland

Songs of Freedom is the name of the songbook edited by James Connolly and published in 1907. Connolly's introduction is better known than the collection for which it was written, containing his oft-quoted maxim: “Until the movement is marked by the joyous, defiant singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the most distinctive marks of a popular revolutionary movement, it is the dogma of a few and not the faith of the multitude.” Though most of the songs were of Irish derivation, the songbook itself was published in New York and directed to the American working class, explicitly internationalist in its aims.

 Songs of Freedom is a celebration of the life and work of James Connolly, the Irish revolutionary socialist martyred by the British government for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916. It is at once a collection of stirring revolutionary songs and a vital historical document. For the first time in a hundred years, readers will find the original Songs of Freedom as well as the 1919 Connolly Souvenir program published in Dublin for a concert commemorating Connolly's birth. Both are reproduced exactly as they originally appeared, providing a fascinating glimpse of the workers' struggle at the beginning of the last century. To complete the picture is included the James Connolly Songbook of 1972, which contains not only the most complete selection of Connolly's lyrics, but also historical background essential to understanding the context in which the songs were written and performed.


"My grand aunt Nora Connolly, in her book We Shall Rise Again, said of rebel songs: 'For more may be remembered of a country’s history and treasured deep in the heart of a people through a song or a poem than through the pages of a history book'—how true. It was Nora who taught singers her father’s songs. ‘After 1916,' she said, ‘I never did any more singing’—how sad. Now with this project and through the great talent and commitment of all involved we can hear Nora sing again.”
—James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly and author of The Words of James Connolly

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For a calendar of speaking events, please click here

Latest Blog Entries

  • Working Class Heroes project
    Dear Friends: Two important items this month. First, progress with Songs of Slavery and Emancipation. Second, progress with a new project: Working Class Heroes.
  • Music and Historical Memory
    Music and memory have always been inseparable. After all, Memory is the name of the Goddess who was Mother of the Muses. The Muses, according to the poet Hesiod, "were nine like-minded daughters, whose one thought is singing, and whose...

What Others Are Saying...

working class heroes cd

Working-Class Heroes Finds Striking Relevance in Songs of Past Struggles
By Steve Horowitz
July 11th, 2019

The 20 songs on Working-Class Heroes: A History of Struggle in Song range from well-known classics such as “Joe Hill” and “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad” that have been redone by popular artists to more obscure tunes including “Dreadful Memories” and “The Murder of Harry Simms. Kentucky coal mining singer/activist Sarah Ogan Gunning penned six of the tracks, and her sister and brother Aunt Molly Jackson and brother Jim Garland are represented as well. There are two songs by union organizer Ella Mae Wiggins, one by Woody Guthrie (“Mamma Don’t ‘Low No Bush-Wahs Hanging Around”) and even one credited to “an unknown proletarian”. This is rich material that covers a wide spectrum of concerns, attitudes, and behaviors.

working class heroes cd

Working-Class Heroes Finds Striking Relevance in Songs of Past Struggles
By Jonathan Kissam
UE Union
July 26th, 2019

The common thread running through all of the songs, whether they are laments or celebrations, is the necessity for working people to join together to fight for justice.

working class heroes cdWorking-Class Heroes (CD): A Review
By Joseph Neff
The Vinyl District
June 13th, 2019

Mat Callahan & Yvonne Moore, Working-Class Heroes: A History of Struggle and Song (Free Dirt) Featuring 20 selections, this one’s also CD-only, for no known reason other than that’s how the artists and label desired it, and so be it. The contents are both admirable and musically resonant; anybody with an enduring interest in protest song or curiosity sparked by the tide of current events should find this release of interest. Callahan has been on the scene for decades, both as a musician and as a writer-historian of various leftist causes; his strum is sturdy here, as is his singing. But it’s Moore, no stranger to community involvement herself, who’s the vocal powerhouse; while she has her own vocal thing, in terms of commitment and heft, she reminds me a bit of Barbara Dane, and that’s sweet. A-

expThe Explosion of Deferred Dreams: A Review
By David Rovics
Socialism and Democracy Journal
August 2017

Ultimately, the music business largely returned to its pre-insurgency model of doing business, with more or less rigid musical genres, with pop stars cultivated by record labels and told what to record, with any- thing overtly political once again being treated as a novelty, rarely to be promoted by the record labels. But the cultural renaissance of this period had a far-reaching impact that is still felt today – though often not consciously, for people under the age of 50. If enough people read this book, that impact will become stronger, and better understood.

expThe Explosion of Deferred Dreams: A Review
By Willis M. Buhle
Midwest Book Review
March 2017

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in San Francisco, 1965 - 1975" is a unique, comprehensive, informative, and thought-provoking read from cover to cover and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library 20th Century American Music History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Explosion of Deferred Dreams" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

expThe Explosion of Deferred Dreams: A Review
By Diane C. Donovan
Donovan’s Literary Service
February 2017

The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in San Francisco, 1965-1975 reviews the social, political, and musical milieu of San Francisco from a different viewpoint than most music-oriented histories, considering the social and political state of affairs that influenced musicians and, in turn, led to original musical creations that created social movements.

From the evolution of the San Francisco Sound and its subculture to how the blend of art and politics created a whirlwind of controversy and revolution at the heart of the City, Mat Callahan uses interviews, primary sources, and his own experiences to consider the revolutionary atmosphere and changes reflected in music of the times.

The result is a powerful survey that should be a 'must' not just for music collections, but for any strong in social issues and San Francisco Bay Area history and culture.

expThe Explosion of Deferred Dreams: A Review
By Nick Kuzmack
February 7th, 2017

The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams is an essential book that explores the powerful relationship between music and politics. Author Mat Callahan highlights the struggles that defined the 1960s and although it is a subject well covered, he shows that this era was fresh with sounds that made one move, and groove in a way that was totally revolutionary. This culturally and revolutionary period was far from perfect and could not be boiled down to the popular idea of simply having flowers in one’s hair. In his study, Callahan uses the San Francisco as his model to understand a deep political history that coincides with the cultural renaissance of the 60’s. To do this, Callahan explores a history of the civil rights, labor struggles and the emergence of feminism.

expRevolutionaries Lived in San Francisco but Wore No Flowers in Their Hair
By Peter Cole
Beyond Chron
January 31st, 2017

"Readers beware: this book is not for those wishing for another day-glo daydream of the Merry Pranksters, Grateful Dead, and LSD. Instead, it is a deep, philosophical-historical meditation about the revolutionary potential of music in San Francisco. Parts of the book feel like a slog and it could have been cut by a quarter. Those who stay the course will be rewarded for Callahan knows of what he speaks..."

expWarm San Francisco Nights: A Review of The Explosion of Deferred Dreams
By Ron Jacobs
January 6th, 20

"This book takes us deep into the nexus where art and politics collide and collude; specifically, the nexus where the music of the San Francisco Bay Area colluded to help inspire and inform a cultural revolution that changed minds and social realities. Written in the context of revolutionary culture—with Mao, Marcuse, Marx and Fanon as informants—The Explosion of Deferred Dreams brings Simone De Beauvoir, the Black Panthers, La Raza and the Students for a Democratic Society into the discussion, as well. The result is a radical left critique of culture under monopoly capitalism and a fun ride through the streets, parks and dance halls of 1960s-1970s San Francisco. The reader becomes an observer of community meetings and community squabbles over art and profit. They are also presented with an argument that describes the racial and ethnic diversity of the Bay Area’s counterculture scenes. This latter element is often ignored by most writers and, to be fair, the reality is that the counterculture was mostly a white-skinned phenomenon. However, if there was one geographical region where this was less so, it was the Bay Area. Rock bands did benefits for the Black Panthers and striking farmworkers and the people in the streets banded together across color lines to defend their culture, their public and private spaces, and the revolution against the cops, the mainstream media and establishment politicians..."

SONGS OF FREEDOMLive Review: Mat Callahan sings James Connolly: A Review
By Nicolas Grizzle
City Sound
January 18th, 2014

Callahan and his wife Yvonne Moore, who now call Switzerland home, performed about a dozen songs on acoustic guitar and vocals at the Arlene Francis Center Friday night. The performance was the most punk rock thing I’ve seen all year, and will hold that title for at least a while. The duo sent a frozen shiver down my spine with lines like, “The people’s flag is deepest red, it shrouded oft our martyred dead; and ere their limbs grew stiff and cold, their hearts’ blood dyed its every fold.”


SONGS OF FREEDOMSinging songs for the people: James Connolly comes to life in a new book of revolutionary songs: A Review
By Aaron Leonard
October 30th, 2013

Even more important is that Connolly combined a scholars’ dedication to history’s dynamics with the ability to communicate clearly to working people. His quest for truth did not make him an isolated, ivory-tower academic. He wrote powerfully, but he also brought these writings directly to the workers -- a lesson that we certainly can learn from today.

Connolly’s vision of the future, while certainly incomplete, was nonetheless inspiring. In the nobility of its aims it captured the potential residing in human beings and in our struggle.

Connolly grasped a truth amidst the ruins of centuries of resistance, rebellion and revolution.

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