Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Which side are you on?

A recent MySpace bulletin by a LA-based "Indie / Pop / Rock" (their appelation) band proudly advertises their CD for sale on walmart.com. With so many other sales channels, why would any self-respecting musician "sell out" to Wal-Mart?

For a limited time, our full length album, "(title withheld to protect the scabs)" is ON SALE for only $7 (or $0.94 a song!) at Walmart. com.
Wouldn't it be ironic if one of the songs were...

Which Side Are You On?
by Florence Reese

Come all of you good workers
Good news to you I'll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner
And I'm a miner's son
And I'll stick with the union
Till every battle's won

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You'll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair

Oh, workers can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Don't scab for the bosses
Don't listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven't got a chance
Unless we organize

...but I guess any artist who sells out to Wal-Mart would not be inclined to cover "Which Side Are You On?"

From Wikipedia

"Which Side Are You On?" was a song written by Florence Reece in 1931. She was the wife of a union organizer for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky. In 1931 the miners of that region were locked in a bitter and violent struggle with the mine owners. In an attempt to intimidate the Reece family, deputies hired by the mining company illegally entered and searched the Reece family home. Sam Reece had been warned in advance and escaped, but Florence and their children were terrorized in his place. That night, after the men had gone, Florence wrote the lyrics to "Which Side Are You On?" on a calendar that hung in the kitchen of her home. She took the melody from a traditional Baptist hymn, "Lay the Lily Low", or the traditional ballad "Jack Munro". Florence recorded the song and it can be heard on the CD Coal Mining Women.

Versions by other artists

The Almanac Singers - The Original Talking Union with the Almanac Singers & Other Union Songs with Pete Seeger and Chorus, in 1941, and on the remastered version in 1973.
Dick Gaughan - True and Bold, in 1985.
Billy Bragg - Back to Basics, in 1987, albeit with different lyrics altogether.
Deacon Blue - Riches & More, in 1997.
Ella Jenkins - Ella Jenkins and a Union of Friends Pulling Together, in 1999.
Dropkick Murphys - Sing Loud, Sing Proud!, in 2001, and, subsequently Live on St. Patrick's Day from Boston, MA, in 2002.
Anne Feeney - Union Maid, in 2003.
Natalie Merchant - The House Carpenter's Daughter, in 2003.
Marnie Niemi - Karaoke Union Songs 2006

Edited 1/13: Read about "Springsteen's "Wal-Mart Exclusive" CD" here.

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