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“Pie In The Sky” – Joe Hill, the Wobblies, and Your Band by Alex Walsh

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Joe HIllHave you ever wondered where the phrase “Pie in the Sky” came from? It came from a protest song by Joe Hill. Joe Hill was a labor activist, songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of The World (the Wobblies). He was born in 1879 in Sweden and executed in 1915 in Utah. Here is the chorus from “The Preacher and the Slave” that includes the Pie In The Sky phrase:

 

You will eat [You will eat] bye and bye [bye and bye]

In that glorious land above the sky [Way up high]

Work and pray [Work and pray] live on hay [live on hay]

You’ll get pie in the sky when you die [That’s a lie!]

Joe Hill emigrated from Sweden to the US in 1902 when he was 23. He worked many jobs from New York to San Francisco. In 1910 he joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) or Wobblies. He became an organizer, travelling around the west hopping freight trains and writing political songs and satirical poetry and speaking at rallies. He was executed in 1915 in Utah for what appears to be controversial reasons. (Check out his wiki page)

 

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IWW ImageTwo Things: A WOBBLIE?  Sounds like some sort of children’s toy.

And: What does the IWW have to do with My Band? We might be industrious, but I wouldn’t call us workers…

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A LOT OF HISTORY IN ONE PARAGRAPH:

100 years ago the labor movement was full of different factions that had different ideas and approaches. By the late 1930s, the line of thinking that won out was basically what unions look like today – a union / management contract relationship. It seemed to work out because the middle class grew. But then things unraveled and unions are where they are now.

WHAT THIS HAS TO DO WITH YOUR BAND

Today, right now, in San Francisco, you can complain all you want about being treated badly by promoters or not getting paid, but if there ain’t no union contract a union will not be able to help you. Why? Because you and your band, under the law, are Independent Contractors, not employees. And unless there’s some kind of crazy revolution, that won’t change.

Well, let’s start a revolution, right? Exciting!

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sad musicianYes, but it (the revolution) has been tried before and failed miserably.

But how can this be?

I’ll leave that for a future blog post.

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pie eatingJust Eat Yer Damn Pie

So it’s back to a grass roots approach (sort of a Wobblie approach). It seems like that’s the solution in this day and age because the established labor structure is so rigid (there must be an app for that).

Check out Fair Trade Music. It was started in the Portland Local and has been endorsed by the AFM. It’s still going on and gaining momentum. Since their inception they’ve identified some things that would be practical improvements for musicians, such as designated musician loading zones in front of venues, and achieved them by passing legislation. Not exactly throwing yourself against the barricades, but revolutionary nonetheless.

No reason it can’t work here, Right? ? ?