Shelby Bottom Duo (Michael August and Nell Levin) has created an entertaining, multimedia educational presentation called Joe Hill Road Show: A Musical History of Joe Hill and the Early Labor Movement and recorded a companion CD of the Joe Hill songs called Joe Hill Roadshow.
This unique contribution to public history is a combination of spoken word, live music, and a slide show of historical images that brings this often forgotten (or unknown) history to life for contemporary audiences. Our goal is to share this vital slice of labor history with a wide range people so that we can all better understand why this early twentieth century history is still relevant. Here is a link to the Joe Hill Road Show performance video.
Songwriter Joe Hill is the precursor of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. He was immortalized when Joan Baez sang “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. A Swedish immigrant, Hill was a member of the international labor group, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies), active in the decade leading up to World War I.
In 1914, Joe Hill was framed for two murders he did not commit. Despite protest from the Swedish ambassador, Helen Keller and President Woodrow Wilson, he was executed at age 36 by a firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 19,1915. 30,000 people attended his funeral in Chicago. He subsequently became a labor icon.
In 2015, 100 years after his execution, 40 concerts were held around the country celebrating his legacy. Shelby Bottom Duo organized and performed at the Nashville concert and performed at the Knoxville concert. Our CD and our Musical History are a continuation of this celebration.
Our Musical History includes live performances of Joe Hill songs recorded on our CD combined with images and a talk about Hill’s life, early labor struggles and the influence of the IWW’s innovative organizing strategies on movements today.