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Alfred Hayes/Earl Robinson: Joe Hill

“I never died, says he”—and thus Paul Robeson sings of the union organizer Joe Hill, a man who did die for his cause. Perhaps today, as so much is said about dark times we live in, it is critical to remember there were much darker. And the society grew through such struggles, and eventually grew that much stronger. Progress is never inevitable. But music, when in the service of protest against injustice—meaning in the service of progress—cuts to our heart, as this song does. Quicker, more effective than many speeches and declamations, it tells us that ideals never die. And that, with sacrifice, human spirit does—inevitably—find its way to truth.

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