Morning Music: Utah Phillips

Utah PhillipsIn the early part of the 20th century, members of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) were in conflict with the Salvation Army, which they referred to as the “Starvation Army.” It used to be a very big thing among Christians to say that we didn’t need to worry about earthly possessions because God would reward us in the afterlife. Well, the Wobblies weren’t too keen on that. They had this thing about eating.

So in 1911, Joe Hill wrote another of his songs, “The Preacher and the Slave” — often referred to as the refrain, “Pie in the Sky.” It is a parody of the hymn “In the Sweet By-and-By.” Here is the great Utah Phillips doing the song live. “Folk music belongs to everybody…” That’s no lie!

2 thoughts on “Morning Music: Utah Phillips

  1. Interesting that the religious songs were repurposed this way. Of course that goes back and forth a lot. Most of the songs I remember fondly from church (Catholics have pretty boring songs, Lutherans better, Baptists the worst) weren’t specifically Christian at all; “Let The River Run,” “Morning Has Broken,” a few from “Fiddler On The Roof.” Maybe our church’s musical director was trying to open us up to new things, or maybe she/he just found most Catholic songs boring.

    (Now, when it comes to Christmas songs, the Christians have the title by far; it’s like 85-15 in their favor. But they’ve had many more years to practice writing ’em.)

    Hill sounds like an interesting guy. According to Wiki, Sweden put his face on a stamp in 1980 — a stamp that represented the cost of airmail to the US. Now, that’s clever. And while Hill was executed for his politics, the only evidence against him was a gunshot he received over an unrelated argument about a girlfriend. Which is the classic bluesman way to die, I guess.

    • I didn’t know that about the stamp. That’s brilliant! We need a song for Sweden that’s like “Finland.”

      Good point about the gunshot wound. It does have a certain Robert Johnson element to his death.

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