Lyrics: Phil Ochs.
Tune: “John Hardy.”
Joe Hill came over from Sweden’s shore,
Looking for some work to do,
And the Statue of Liberty waved him by,
As Joe came sailing through, Joe Hill,
As Joe came sailing through.
Oh, his clothes were coarse and his hopes were high,
As he headed for the Promised Land,
And it took a few weeks on the out-of-work streets
Before he began to understand, Joe Hill,
Before he began to understand.
Then, he got hired by a bowery bar,
Sweeping up in a saloon,
As his rag would sail o’er the barroom rail,
It sounded like he whistled on a tune:
You could almost hear him whistling on a tune.
And Joe rolled on from job to job,
From the docks to the railroad line,
And no matter how hungry the hand that wrote,
In his letters, he was always doing fine,
In his letters, he was always doing fine.
And the years went by like the sun goin’ down,
Slowly turn the page,
And when Joe looked back at the sweat upon his tracks,
He had nothing to show but his age:
He had nothing to show but his age.
So, he headed out to the California shore,
But there things were just as bad;
So, he joined the Industrial Workers of the World
’Cause the union was the only friend he had:
Oh, the union was the only friend he had.
Now, the strikes were bloody and the strikes were black,
As hard as they were long;
In the dark of night, Joe would stay awake and write,
In the morning, he would wake them with a song:
In the morning, he would wake them with a song.
And he wrote his words to the tunes of the day,
To be passed along the union vine,
And the strikes were led, and the songs were spread,
And Joe Hill was always on the line,
And Joe Hill was always on the line.
In Salt Lake City, a murder was made;
There was hardly a clue to be found;
Yes, the proof was poor, but the sheriff was sure
That Joe was the killer of the crime,
That Joe was the killer of the crime.
Joe raised his hands, but they shot him down;
He had nothing but guilt to give.
“It’s a doctor I need.” But they left him to bleed,
And he made it ’cause he had the will to live,
He made it ’cause he had the will to live.
Then, the trial was set in a building of wood,
And there, a killer would be named;
And the days weighed more than cold copper ore
’Cause he feared that he was being framed,
’Cause he feared that he was being framed.
Now, strange are the ways of western law,
And strange are the ways of fate,
For the government crawled to the mine owners’ call,
And the judge was appointed by the state,
The judge was appointed by the state.
Now, Utah justice can be had,
But not for a union man;
And Joe was warned by summer early morn,
“There’d be one less singer in the band,
There’d be one less singer in the band.”
Now, William Spry was Governor Spry,
And a life was his to hold;
On the last appeal fell a governor’s tear,
“May the Lord have mercy on your soul, Joe Hill,
May the Lord have mercy on your soul.”
Now President Wilson held up the day,
But even he would fail,
For nobody heard the soul-searching words
Of the man in the Salt Lake City Jail,
Of the man in the Salt Lake City Jail.
Now, for thirty-six years, he lived out his days,
And he more than played his part;
For the songs that he made, he was carefully paid
By a rifle bullet buried in his heart,
By a rifle bullet buried in his heart.
Yes, they lined Joe Hill up against a wall,
A blindfold over his eyes.
“It’s the life of a rebel that I chose to live.
It’s the life of a rebel that I die.
It’s the life of a rebel that I die.”
In the time in his cell, he wrote to his friends,
And his wishes, they were plain:
“My body can’t be found in this bad, old Utah ground.”
So, they laid him on a fast-departing train,
Yes, they laid him on a fast-departing train.
And the rebel rode to Chicago town;
There were thirty-thousand people to mourn;
And just about the time that Joe lay dyin’,
A legend was just being born,
A legend was just being born.
Now, wherever you go in this fair land,
In every union hall,
In the dusky dark, these words are marked
In between all the cracks on the wall,
In between all the cracks on the wall.
They’re the very last words that Joe Hill wrote
When he knew his days were through:
“This is my last and final wish.
Good luck to all of you.
Good luck to all of you.”