Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Joe Glazer 1918 - 2006

This was sent from AFSCME Local 2910 President Saul Schniderman:

Farewell Labor's Troubadour, Joe Glazer

During the Great Depression, Joe Glazer learned how to play the guitar from an out-of-work musician on the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In 1944 he began writing songs for textile workers and, from 1944-1950, Joe served as assistant education director for the Textile Workers of America where he wrote "The Mill was Made of Marble." In 1951 he started work with the Rubber Workers where he continued to play and sing and write songs such as "Too Old to Work."

Over the years Joe Glazer has written over 100 labor and protest songs. He has performed at union conventions, rallies and on picketlines, too numerous to mention. He sang at the historic merger of the AFL and CIO; he sang at Walter Reuther's funeral. He sang at the United Mine Workers of America conventions in 1964 and 1968 where he called John Henry Blair - the infamous antiunion sheriff mentioned in the song "Which Side Are You On?" - a "no good S.O.B.". Of the coal miners Joe said: "I like singing for the miners, because of their solidarity and tradition."

These two powerful words - solidarity and tradition - define Joe Glazer's life and work. In many ways Joe followed in the steps of George Korson, the post World War II folklorist of the coal miners, who Joe looked up to and admired. (If you want to know more about the early influences on Joe Glazer's life and career read Minstrels of the Mine Patch or Coal Dust on the Fiddle by George Korson. Or listen to Joe Glazer's album, "Down in a Coal Mine")

In 1973 Joe wrote "Songs of Work and Protest" with Edith Fowke , one of the most significant labor history songbooks ever written. Joe founded and directed Collector Records which, over the past 30 years, has distributed over 30,000 sound recordings featuring the songs of steelworkers, textile workers, public employees, miners, teachers and other occupations. Says Archie Green, America's leading folklorist: "most of Joe's songs have been union songs which distinguishes his work." Folksinger Pete Seeger praises Joe for "not letting people forget the great union songs."

In 1979 Joe Glazer founded the Great Labor Arts Exchange at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, now the National Labor College. In 1984 he helped found the Labor Heritage Foundation, a non-profit arts and culture organization which assists the labor movement by promoting artistic expression and labor history.

In many ways Joe Glazer WAS the Labor Heritage Foundation, an organization whose meetings he chaired and whose activities he participated in. Joe Glazer loved the labor movement and he loved the Labor Heritage Foundation.

In 1981 the Rocky Mountain News wrote a bio of Joe and praised him for the "biting political satire" found in his songs. In an interview with that paper, Joe said: "I use songs as weapons in my arsenal. It's not Beethoven, it's more like a political cartoon." Referring to the late, not-so-great president, Ronald Reagan, Joe sang, "if you got it you can flaunt it from your head to your Gucci shoes, but if you're working for a living you're singing those jellybean blues."

Today Joe Glazer, Labor's Troubadour, died.
September 19, 2006.

"I dreamed that I had died
And gone to my reward
A job in heaven's textile plant
On a golden boulevard.

The mill was made of marble
The machines were made of gold
And nobody every got tired
And nobody every grew old."

From: The Mill was Made of Marble
Words and Music by Joe Glazer, 1918-2006
AFL-CIO Songbook, rev. 1974
Tenth Printing