Monday, September 25, 2006

Joe Glazer, Labor’s Troubador. Solidarity Forever.

Joe Glazer, the singer-songwriter known as Labor’s Troubador, who played cowboy tunes on a $5.95 mail-order guitar as a boy in the Bronx, then sang songs of solidarity on picket lines and union halls and once on the White House lawn, died on Tuesday at his home in Chevy Chase, Md. He was 88.

Joe Glazer (1918-2006), often called "Labor's Troubadour," has spent a lifetime as one of America's noted historians of labor song. His booming baritone and exuberant guitar have performed exuberantly for millions of workers, strikers, and students. He is the author of several significant labor songs, notably "The Mill Was Made of Marble," which is a commentary on the need for cleaner, safer mill conditions for textile workers.

"Solidarity Forever" is the most popular union song on the North American continent. Ralph Chaplin (1887-1961), the Industrial Workers of the World poet, artist, writer, and organizer, was inspired to compose it in 1915, after helping the coal miners during the great Kanawha Valley Strike. It is still sung at every union rally. Joe Glazer recorded this version. Hear Joe sing "Solidarity Forever".

Labor's Troubadour traces the life and work of labor balladeer Joe Glazer. Glazer has seen songs about the battle for the eight-hour day give way to songs about automation and cheap imports, with a constant refrain of union busters, scabs, solidarity, plant safety, and retirement benefits. Seventy of these songs are included in the book.

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