Joe Hill

(1936)

Joe Hill was a union organizer and songwriter. In 1914 he was accused of murder, and the following year he was executed, even though many people believed he was innocent. His songs are still an inspiration for all kinds of workers. For example, you might know “The Preacher and the Slave,” also known as “Pie in the Sky.”

You will eat, by and by In that glorious land above the sky Work and pray, live on hay You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

More famous than Joe Hill’s own songs, though, is a song that was written about him. Ten years after he died, Alfred Hayes wrote a poem called “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.” Earl Robinson set it to music about a decade later, and it quickly became an anthem for the labor movement.

Starting in the 1930s, the African-American actor and singer Paul Robeson was one of this country’s most passionate voices for the outsider. He lent his voice to the struggles of blacks, workers, and anyone who had trouble getting a fair deal. Paul Robeson sang “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” all over the world, at rallies and protests -- and in concert.

--Miriam Lewin

Joe Hill
by Alfred Hayes


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" says he,
"I never died" says he.


"In Salt Lake City, Joe," says I,
Him standing by my bed,
"They framed you on a murder charge,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."


"The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
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"


And standing there as big as life
and smiling with his eyes.
Says Joe "What they can never kill
went on to organize,
went on to organize"


From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
Where workers strike and organize
it's there you'll find Joe Hill,
it's there you'll find Joe Hill!


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" says he,
"I never died" says he.
"I never died" says he.


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