The labor troubadour Joe Hill was executed by the state of Utah on November 19, 1915, accused of murdering two shopkeepers. Five years earlier, while working on the docks in California, Hill met members of the IWW and became an active Wobbly. Soon his humorous and biting political songs, like "The Preacher and the Slave,"1 were being sung on picket lines across the country. From his jail cell in Utah, Hill wrote to "Big Bill" Haywood in a telegram, "Don't waste time mourning. Organize!"—a line that became a slogan of the U.S. labor movement. On the eve of his execution, Hill penned these words2.From Voices of A People's History, edited by Zinn and Arnove
My Will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing To divide
My kin don't need to fuss and moan—
"Moss does not cling to a rolling stone["]
My body?—Oh!—If I could choose
I would want to ashes it reduce,
And let The merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again
This is my Last and Final Will.—
Good Luck to All of you,
1 "The Preacher and the Slave," First published in the Jul 6, 1911 edition of the Industrial Worker "Little Red Songbook" as "Long Haired Preachers,", credited to F. B. Brechler (subsequently credited to Joe Hill in Mar 6, 1913 fifth edition)
Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.
The starvation army they play,
They sing and they clap and they pray
'Till they get all your coin on the drum
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum:
Holy Rollers and jumpers come out,
They holler, they jump and they shout.
Give your money to Jesus they say,
He will cure all diseases today.
If you fight hard for children and wife --
Try to get something good in this life --
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.
Workingmen of all countries, unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight;
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:
You will eat, bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry.
Chop some wood, 'twill do you good,
And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye.
2 Joe Hill, "My Last Will" (November 18, 1915). First printed in the Herald-Republican (Salt Lake City, Utah), November 18, 1915. Reprinted in Franklin Rosemont, Joe Hill: The IWW and the Mating of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture: Profusely Illustrated (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 2002), p. 132.