“John Neuhaus was passionate in his belief that Wobblies and friends should continue to sing all the numbers in the IWW songbooks… [not seeing them] as cultural or historical artifacts, but…as songs in the repertoires of living singers.”—Archie Green, Preface, The Big Red Songbook (Charles H. Kerr, 2007, p. 7)
We, here at Political Folk Music, wholeheartedly agree with Fellow Worker Neuhaus, providing the resources necessary for keeping the IWW songs of The Little Red Songbook in the repertoires of living singers. For almost all songs indexed on our website, we freely provide lyrics, downloadable PDF files of sheet music (including vocal melody and harmony lines, chords, and arrangements for instrumental accompaniment—guitars, keyboards, etc.) and downloadable MIDI files that include the lyrics (the midis can be opened with karaoke software, such as vanBasco’s Karaoke Player). Singing generally provides positive psychological effects, and singing these songs in particular reminds us that we are not misfits in a free and just society but rather the downtrodden in an oppressive and exploitative world. Singing these songs provides us with an identity. Singing these songs instills pride and joy for us who are living lives in which there is little to take pleasure. Hearing the words of these songs come forth from our own mouths assures us that our demands for human rights are altogether proper. Richard Brazier described The Little Red Songbook as “a good friend” that “brought much delight.” We hope you will find our website as much of a delightful friend.
However, Political Folk Music includes hundreds of songs not found in The Little Red Songbook. Moreover, we have freely updated lyrics when appropriate, preferring, for example, Hazel Dicken’s “Rebel Girl” lyrics to those of Joe Hill’s original. While we describe ourselves as anarcho-syndicalists, we believe “dual card singing” is advantageous for networking, for organizing, for strategizing, and for empowering militant solidarity. In the tradition of Staughton Lynd’s concept of accompaniment, we love accompanying (pun intended) other dissenters on our clarinets, oboes, and saxophones. Therefore, we are not concerned with any “intrusion” of socialist songs, communist songs, songs of liberation theology, movement songs, topical songs, folk songs, or even popular songs, guided only by Woody Guthrie’s injunction “to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built … to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work…. made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.” We particularly want to include songs composed or performed by Paul Robeson, Utah-Phillips, Alistair Hulett, Chumbawamba, and They Might Be Giants, either because we admire these performers or we dig their work. Finally, we find happiness in keeping alive the songs of our Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors.
This is our third iteration of Political Folk Music, 1.0 being hacked and 2.0 being lost following an unsuccessful website migration when our web hosting company went out of business. Fortunately, we can rebuild the website; unfortunately, restoring the thousands of lyrics, PDF files, and MIDI files will take time. We thank you for your patience and invite you to contact us to ask if we can prioritize re-uploading a particular song. Please keep in mind….
♫ We are not affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World.
♫ We are amateur musicians with rudimentary computer skills.
♫ We promise never to commodify our content by placing PDF and MIDI files behind a paywall.
♫ We are precarious workers living paycheck to paycheck on short-term contracts. Donations to help fund the website are gratefully accepted.
♫ We support living musicians and encourage those who are financially able to do so as well.
♫ This website is for non-profit educational purposes only. Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Aggrieved copyright holders are asked to contact us to request the removal of any offending content.