For your Saturday night, Louis Armstrong in Copenhagen, either 1933 or 1934 (sources use different dates). This has to be one of the first recordings of live music on film. Sound is pretty good too.
Do you ever wonder what your LGM writers do on Friday evenings, scouring the internet to entertain you? Well this, your daily World War II musical artifact, is pretty much what I do. It goes well with a negroni. As does everything else.
…A film in the same series, “Yankee Doodler” is just a bit more problematic, as music, as racism, and as propaganda. But hey, it stars Fred from I Love Lucy.
Others may have their own choice for the year’s best song, but I don’t know that I’ve heard a song as powerful as Jason Isbell’s “Elephant.” Note: this is not a song that will make you feel happy. It is about cancer. Be warned.
An appropriate song to end this exploration of labor and song is this piece on deindustrialization, Tom Russell’s “U.S. Steel.” I hope you enjoyed this set of labor music.
Sure it might be a cliche, but Charlie Haden at least believes that the people united will never be defeated. Besides, we need more leftist jazz.
Talib Kweli on what working people have to do to get by.
Richard Thompson on love and strikes.
Run-DMC reminds us of the hard economic times of African-Americans during the Reagan years.
The legendary cowboy singer Glenn Ohrlin with a comedic song about the very unpleasant work of castrating farm animals.
Blind Willie McTell on the perils of agricultural work and nature in the American South.
This fine Labor Day, I want to run a series of posts remembering the great history of work and the lack thereof in American music. For the first post, here’s some Dave Alvin. A former member of The Blasters and X, Alvin has a long history of writing about unions and work in song during his long solo career. Here’s an early example, “Brother on the Line.”
Also from his first solo album is “Jubilee Train,” a good example of remembering how great the New Deal was for the American working-class.
During the Bush years, he wrote “Out of Control,” which he would dedicate live to the Dick Cheney economy:
Finally, on his latest album, Alvin wrote one of the best songs about working people in the last several years, “Gary, Indiana 1959″ about the 1959 steel strike:
It’s also worth remembering that today is anniversary of the Rock Springs Massacre, so this is a good time to remember that the history of American work is very much also the history of immigration and racial oppression.