Edited by Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore
Working-Class Heroes is an organic melding of history, music, and politics that demonstrates with colorful evidence that workers everywhere will struggle to improve their conditions of life. And among them will be workers who share an insight: in order to better our lot, we must act collectively to change the world. This profusely illustrated treasury of song sheets, lyrics, photographs, histories, and biographical sketches explores the notion that our best hope lies in the capacity of ordinary working people to emancipate ourselves and all of humanity. Featuring more than a dozen songwriters, from Joe Hill to Aunt Molly Jackson, Working-Class Heroes delivers a lyrical deathblow to the myth that so-called political songs of the 20th century were being written by intellectuals in New York. The songs collected here have a striking relevance to current affairs and invite us to explore the historical conditions that inspired their creation: systemic crisis, advancing fascism, and the threat of world war. These working-class songwriters showed courage and heroism that is immortal, and such heroes and their work should be celebrated still today. The heroes featured in this collection include Sarah Ogan Gunning, Ralph Chaplin, Woody Guthrie, Ella May Wiggins, Joe Hill, Paul Robeson, John Handcox, Aunt Molly Jackson, Jim Garland, Alfred Hayes, and Joseph Brandon.
Mat Callahan is a musician and author of five books including The Explosion of Deferred Dreams and A Critical Guide to Intellectual Property. Yvonne Moore is a singer and bandleader. Her exploration of the songs of Sarah Ogan Gunning led to the making of Working-Class Heroes.