Joe Hill

Swedish-American labor activist, songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World

Joe Hill (October 7, 1879November 19, 1915), born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, and also known as Joseph Hillström, was a radical songwriter, labor activist and member of the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies. He was executed for murder after a controversial trial. After his death, he became the subject of a folksong.

I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize.


  • 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.

  • 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.

    • "The Preacher and the Slave" (1911)
  • There is pow'r, there is pow'r
    In a band of workingmen.
    When they stand hand in hand,
    That's a pow'r, that's a pow'r
    That must rule in every land —
    One Industrial Union Grand.
  • A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over. And I maintain that if a person can put a few common sense facts into a song and dress them up in a cloak of humor, he will succeed in reaching a great number of workers who are too unintelligent or too indifferent to read.
  • I'll take the shooting. I'm used to that. I've been shot a few times in the past, and I guess I can stand it, again.
    • Remarks to the judge after being found guilty of murder (1915-07-08), as quoted in Philip Foner, The Case of Joe Hill (International Publishers Co., 1966, ISBN 0-717-80022-9, 127 pages), p. 49. Under Utah law, he was allowed a choice of being shot or hanged.
  • 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 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. [Joe Hill]
  • Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize.
  • I die with a clear conscience, I die fighting, not like a coward.
    • Said while being taken to his execution, as quoted in Philip Foner, The Case of Joe Hill (International Publishers Co., 1966), p. 108
  • Workers of the world awaken. Break your chains, demand your rights.
    All the wealth you make is taken, by exploiting parasites.
    Shall you kneel in deep submission from your cradle to your grave?
    Is the height of your ambition to be a good and willing slave?
    • "Workers of the World Awaken"
  • "The planet, Earth."
    • Hill's response after being asked where he was born.
    • Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology pp. 127

About Joe Hill

  • If there is really one thing that I am proud of in my long labor history, it is that while he was in prison, before he was executed, Joe Hill wrote a song for me dedicated to me, that was called, the "Rebel Girl" and that song, I hope you will do it here some time, it may not be the best of words or the best of music, but it came from the heart and it was certainly so treasured.
  • During his short life, he penned some of the Wobblies' most beloved labor songs, including labor movement mainstays like "There Is Power in a Union" and "Rebel Girl," which he dedicated to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and his last words to Big Bill Haywood have since been taken up as a rallying cry-"Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize!"
  • It was characteristic of IWW meetings that after the last speech had ended and the applause had died down, the audience would break up into circles, to continue discussing the subject, and later each circle would sing its favorite song. Gradually the circles would merge, and finally each man present, his arms over another's shoulders, would join in Joe Hill's best-known ballad, The Preacher and the Slave.
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