Labor's Troubadour

Labor's Troubadour

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Spiced with colorful anecdotes, leavened with humor, and rich with compassion for the struggles of the rank-and-file worker, "Labor's Troubadour" traces the life and work of labor balladeer Joe Glazer. For more than half a century, armed only with his guitar, reams of songs, and conviction, Glazer has marshaled the power of music to fight for union representation in mills, mines, factories, and offices all over the country. A performer, educator, and "musical agitator for all good causes," Glazer has sung on picket lines, in worn-out union halls, and at elegant dinners, using humor, irony, and pathos to drive home the message of unionism. With the ease and lan of a seasoned storyteller, Glazer tells of sharing platforms with political powerhouses including Harry Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey, Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Ladybird Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.With sparks of humor, he describes his encounters with Jackie Kennedy, Rudolf Serkin, and other celebrities, as well as his relationships with Walter Reuther, George Meany, Cesar Chavez, Philip Murray, John Sweeney, and other outstanding leaders of the labor movement. During half a lifetime of rubbing shoulders with the powerful, however, Glazer's focus has never wavered from supporting workers' efforts to secure fair wages and decent working conditions. His reward has been to see his music bring unity out of discord, galvanize union support, and lift the spirits of striking workers who were running low on every resource except a shared faith in the strength of unity. In a career that has taken him all over the world to sing, write, and collect songs about the common human condition of working, Glazer has seen songs about the battle for the eight-hour day give way to songs about automation and cheap imports, with a constant refrain of union busters, scabs, solidarity, plant safety, and retirement benefits. Seventy of these songs are included in the book. An enthusiastic recruiter and promoter of new talent, Glazer has also drawn a number of new labor balladeers into the limelight, some of whom he profiles here. A lively and moving testament of "sticking to the union," "Labor's Troubadour" reveals the powerful role music can play in the serious business of changing the world.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 154.94 x 226.06 x 30.48mm | 680.39g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252026128
  • 9780252026126

Review quote

"Glazer's aptly titled volume captures well his six-decade career as a labor performer and organizer... Highly recommended for libraries with an interest in musical history particularly in the context of recent social, labor, political, and cultural issues. " -- Choice "Makes you feel like you're there -- singing the songs and struggling for justice, dignity and respect." -- Solidarity ADVANCE PRAISE "In the years since Joe Glazer got his first mail-order guitar for $5.95, he's been singing the music of working people--everywhere from picket lines in the snow to giant union picnics to the White House lawn. In Labor's Troubadour Joe tells his own fascinating life story, which is both a great adventure and a journey for justice." -- John J. Sweeney, president, AFL-CIO "I've known Joe Glazer for fifty years. He's done an extraordinary job in his life, not letting people forget the great union songs." -- Pete Seeger "There is no better way to experience the excitement of the American labor movement, its victories and its defeats, than by reading Joe Glazer's Labor's Troubadour. It is a serious book; you relive labor and political history while turning its pages. But it is highly entertaining, a joy to read." -- Douglas Fraser, president emeritus, United Auto Workers "Joe Glazer has left a legacy of lasting value to the labor movement through his own songs and his recordings of union classics. In this book he shows how the songs came out of specific historical conditions and yet how they continue to express the aspirations and emotions of working men and women today. His story is unique and heartwarming, and he tells it with zest and brilliance in Labor's Troubadour. This is a major contribution to the musical folklore of the labor movement." -- Archie Green, labor folklorist "I first heard Joe Glazer perform his musical magic in 1944 when he began working for the Textile Workers Union of America. As a teacher, lecturer, and musician, he has been an inspiration to thousands of working people, blue collar and white collar alike. This book ... should be read by every trade union leader and made available to all local union officers." -- Sol Stetin, president emeritus, Textile Workers Union of America "Joe Glazer's memoir vividly recalls many of the central labor struggles of the last half-century and brings the reader to a renewed appreciation of the role of music in building social movements. Glazer's two chapters on younger singers shows the varied ways the generations that followed him are carrying on that tradition. An informative and engaging read!" -- Nick Salvatore, author of Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist "Although there are plenty of musicians who are performing labor songs, Joe Glazer is the only person around who worked within the mainstream union structure and kept music at the forefront of his work. The story of his life as a labor songsmith is absorbing and important." -- Bucky Halker, author of For Democracy, Workers, and God: Labor Song-Poems and Labor Protest, 1865-95show more

Table of contents

Introduction -- Textile North -- Textile South -- The United Rubber Workers -- The United Automobile Workers -- The AFL-CIO -- Coal -- Politics -- Campaigning in presidential elections -- Working for the Foreign Service -- Living and working in Mexico --Labor advisor to the U.S. Information Agency -- Singing overseas -- New voices, part 1 -- New voices, part 2 -- Wrapping up.show more