About one hundred years ago, Swedish-born itinerant worker and early protest songwriter Joe Hill joined the Industrial Workers of the World union, dedicating his life and music to the cause. When he was convicted of murder, some say unfairly, and executed by firing squad in 1915, Hill became the martyred symbol of the labor movement, celebrated in song and union lore and as much a source of inspiration for Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan in the past as he is for singer-songwriter Billy Bragg today.
Denver author Bill Adler has written a new book on Hill, which includes evidence against the organizer's murder conviction that might become the basis for a call to legally exonerate him, and in celebration of its release, the Bread and Roses Workers' Cultural Center is throwing a two-day Joe Hill Festival. And why lionize a man who lived and died a century ago? "Because of the spirit, the elan, the magnetism he carried in his work," insists Bread and Roses organizer Lowell May. "He was a dude,"; May adds, and you know he really means it.
It all begins tonight at 8 p.m. with a concert of Joe Hill music featuring folksingers John McCutcheon and Elena Klaver at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street. Tomorrow's events, including film screenings, poetry and a Joe Hill sing-along, continue at 27 Social Centre, 2727 West 27th Avenue, from noon to 10 p.m. Adler will be selling copies of The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon at the fest, but if you miss him this weekend, he's also hosting book signings next week at the Boulder Book Store (7:30 p.m. August 30, 303-447-2074) and the Tattered Cover Colfax Avenue (7:30 p.m. Aug. 31, 303-322-7727).
Tickets for the McCutcheon concert are $17, and events at 27 Social Centre are free; visit www.workersbreadandroses.org for details.
Fri., Aug. 26, 8 p.m., 2011