Help me learn union/protest songs on the guitar
March 28, 2011 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Help me learn some union/protest/solidarity songs, please.

Mp3s, album suggestions, tabs, chords, books, links, and comps are all welcome.

I'm teaching myself guitar and can now play about half a dozen chords reliably so I figure it's about time I got my folk on. Instead of teaching myself Dylan or the Kinks, I'd like to learn some union songs.

Bonus points for any resources with lyrics and chords. My ear isn't so good, yet.

In solidarity,
posted by willie11 to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The one that comes to mind is Solidarity Forever. Chords also seem to be available on youtube, but it shouldn't be hard to find other versions, as the tune is the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
posted by ldthomps at 10:10 AM on March 28, 2011

Rise Up Singing which is a classic chord book of songs, has a whole section of labor/union songs.

Also, this.
posted by bondcliff at 10:10 AM on March 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

Not a union song per se, but a favourite of mine in the theme of solidarity is "Pulling Hard Against the Stream", by Harry Clifton. This site should give you lots of options for variations in the lyrics, as well as the guitar chords.
posted by LN at 10:17 AM on March 28, 2011

Best answer: No chords on most of these, alas - however, many of them are set to hymns and fairly famous songs so the chords are out there (probably on the internet):

The Big Red Songbook, which is all the IWW songs old and new.

Also, here are the lyrics to all the older songs. I was surprised by how dark some of them are...I knew most of the uplifting ones, but "Dollar Alarm Clock" and so on are extremely bitter.
posted by Frowner at 10:20 AM on March 28, 2011

Pete Seeger's "Songs of Hope and Struggle."

Most very playable for guitar + one voice.

Oh, you can't scare me, I'm stickin' to the union ... I'm stickin' to the union ...
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:21 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Which Side Are You On, found on
posted by essexjan at 10:26 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bread and Roses - the version I know is by Utah Phillips.
posted by aniola at 10:28 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, here are (apparently; I'm not a guitarist) the chords to one of my favorite hard-times songs, The Panic Is On.

It's a song from the great depression, covered beautifully by Anne Hills.

"What this country's coming to/I sure would like to know./If they don't do something bye and bye/The rich will live and the poor will die"
posted by Frowner at 10:30 AM on March 28, 2011

There's a lot of songs and stories from Utah Phillips that can be found on Fellow Workers and The Past Didn't Go Anywhere. (Especially Fellow Workers, natch.) Paying attention to the stories he tells will clue you in to other artists and songs and movements.
posted by wg at 10:31 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Er, here
posted by Frowner at 10:31 AM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: Of course, songs of struggle, hard times, smashing capitalism, etc are all welcome.
posted by willie11 at 10:32 AM on March 28, 2011

billy bragg - there is power in a union (listen here)
posted by nadawi at 10:41 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Minutemen - This Ain't No Picnic, lyrics, tabs.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:59 AM on March 28, 2011

Not technically a union song, but along the lines is 16 Tons

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don't you call me, 'cause I can't go;
I owe my soul to the company store...

Also interesting (but maybe no guitar?) is the Depression-era Brother Can You Spare a Dime
posted by jander03 at 11:11 AM on March 28, 2011

Hille, Waldemar. The People's Songbook. New York: Boni and Gaer, 1948. Reprint edition, New York: People's Artists, 1956. "Union Songs," pp. 66-96. Via. A classic. I'll post contents if I can find my copy.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:05 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Woody Guthrie songs on Chordie. These are pretty easy to figure out on your own - like many folk songs, in their simplest form they are just the I-IV-V chords.
posted by chez shoes at 12:09 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Scroll down here until you hit the entry for "The People's Song Book." The contents list is what you're looking for. A sample:

Roll the Union On
'Round and 'Round the Picket Line
Scabs Crawl In, The
Union Maid
Union Man, The
Union Train, The
Union Way, The
United Front

If you use this list as your starting point, you won't be disappointed.

Also, can a girl get some love for Steve Earle around here? From "Harlan Man":

"I'm a union man
Just like my daddy and all my kin
I took a union stand
No matter what the company said
I got me two good hands
And just as long as I'm able I won't give in
‘Cause I'm a Harlan Man
A coal minin' mother ‘til the day I'm dead"

posted by MonkeyToes at 12:30 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

We have the power (okay, this is substantially less serious than most of the above, but substantially easier to play, until you get to the Classical Gas part)
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 1:10 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I talk about this album from Smithsonian Folkways because I love it so.
posted by elmer benson at 1:16 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pete Seeger's version of Banks of Marble.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 1:57 PM on March 28, 2011

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