A Conversation for The 1909 Spokane, Washington Free Speech Campaign

Free Speech

Post 1


Good Item. Weren't the members called Wobblies?.
Kenneth Allsop wrote a very good book called,I believe "Hard Travellin" dealing more generally with Hobo's.
Interesting the enmity with the Salvation Army - both organisations realised the value of popular song to spread their message.Thanks to " O Brother Where Art Thou" at least the non-sanitised version of "Big Rock Candy Mountain" is heard again.
Is the Neil Young song "thrasher" about these times ?(well the first verses anyway)anybody know?

Free Speech

Post 2

David Conway

Glad you liked it!

Yes, members of the IWW were called, and called themselves, "Wobblies." In fact, one of their better songs is entitled "The Popular Wobbly." The story, and I can't verify its accuracy, so it's not in anything I've written here, goes that one of their organizers had a speech impediment (or a heavy accent). When asked the name of his union, what came out was "I Wobble Wobble." Hence, Wobblies.

I'm not familiar with the Allsop book, but if he actually lived with them for a while, it would be worth reading. Studies from the outside *can* be very well done, but a lot of people living on the streets will tell a person what they think that person wants to hear. I don't think you can *really* know a culture until you've lived as part of it.

It's certainly true that both the Salvation Army and the Wobblies used popular music to get their message accross. A person might not remember a sermon or a speech, but if you put it to a tune, it sticks.

The Wobblies were perfectly willing to put their own words to hymns, too. Let the Salvation Army teach people the tune, the Wobblies would provide the words! One of the most powerful, and disturbing, anti-war songs I've ever been exposed to first appeared in the 1913 IWW Songbook. It was entitled "Christians at War" and sung to the tun of "Onward Christian Soldiers."

First verse:

"Onward, Christian soldiers! Duty's way is plain:
Slay your Christian neighbors, or by them be slain.
Pulpiteers are spouting effervescent swill,
God above is calling you to rob and rape and kill.
All your acts are sanctified by the Lamb on high;
If you love the Holy Ghost, go murder, pary and die."

After that it gets less pleasant and more graphic.

I haven't got the first idea about "thrasher," but I'm sure somebody and answer that question.

Again, thank you for your kind words.


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