The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon

The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon

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by William M. Adler
     
 

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For Labor Day, the definitive biography of Joe Hill, legendary American songwriter and labor hero, with explosive new evidence pointing to his innocence of the crime for which he was executed nearly a century ago.See more details below

Overview

For Labor Day, the definitive biography of Joe Hill, legendary American songwriter and labor hero, with explosive new evidence pointing to his innocence of the crime for which he was executed nearly a century ago.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Many readers may know the moving folk song "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night." In 1915, labor activist Joe Hill was executed in Utah for a murder it remains doubtful he committed. Adler (Mollie's Job: A Story of Life and Work on the Global Assembly Line) reexamines the murky circumstances of the crime and trial. Hill, a proud member of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), was known for his humorous yet aggressive protest songs. Set to popular tunes and featured in the IWW's Little Red Songbook, they were pointed attacks on the establishment. Hill's famous "The Preacher and the Slave" mocks the hypocrisy of offering spiritual advice before worldly sustenance and introduced into the American lexicon the phrase "pie in the sky." Adler references newspapers, archival sources, and related significant biographies to tell Hill's story. He speculates why Hill refused to testify at his trial and highlights the criminal record and weak alibi of another likely murder suspect, introducing a letter of somewhat shaky provenance that he believes exonerates Hill. VERDICT Highly recommended. Appropriate for students and lay readers, this biography is an easy read, provides necessary historical context, and may successfully revive Hill in American popular consciousness.—Laura Ruttum, Denver
Kirkus Reviews

Well-researched revelations about the union martyr and prolific protest songwriter.

If Labor Day were a gift-giving occasion, this biography of Joe Hill by freelance writer Adler(Mollie's Job: A Story of Life and Work on the Global Assembly Line, 2000, etc.) would top this year's holiday list. As the author notes, the man who was executed in 1915 for a murder he didn't commit now seems "to float with Paul Bunyan and John Henry and Johnny Appleseed in a celestial realm somewhere between fiction and legend." The Swedish immigrant was complicit in that mythmaking, insisting he defend himself against charges of killing a grocer (where there was no motive or evidence tying him to the scene), then offering little defense and finally demanding a new trial rather than settling for the pardon he might well have received (his thousands of advocates included President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller). But somewhere during his incarceration, Hill decided that he was worth more to the labor movement dead than alive. He refused to explain the only evidence against him, a gunshot wound suffered on the night of the crime, most likely inflicted by a friend who had been engaged to a woman they both coveted; her letter explaining the details is one of the keys unearthed by the Adler's five years of research. Hill's story remains inextricably linked with that of the IWW—the International Workers of the World (or "Wobblies")—notorious as America's most radical union of the early 20th century. Not only did it embrace the foreign and unskilled, but rather than campaigning for better wages, it urged the abolishment of the wage system. Yet what ultimately distinguished the Wobblies was their celebration of "the power of song" in galvanizing a movement. While the Wobblies are a dim memory, and Hill has become better known through a song eulogizing him than any he wrote, he remains a seminal influence on musical activism from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger through Bob Dylan.

Stronger in research than storytelling, Adler reveals the man beneath the myth, detailing the life that spawned the legend.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781608192854
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
08/31/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
1,274,661
File size:
5 MB

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