Si Kahn Receives Joe Hill Award

Honored at Great Labor Arts Exchange

Si leading a union rally in St. John’s, Newfoundland in singing “Solidarity Forever.” Spring 2018

Thursday night, June 20th, at the Great Labor Arts Exchange in Washington, DC, the Labor Heritage Foundation honored Si Kahn with the Joe Hill Award. The Foundation presents the award, named for the legendary Wobbly songwriter, as a lifetime achievement award for contributions to the labor movement and to working-class culture.

“We are presenting the Joe Hill Award tonight to one of the greatest songwriters of this generation or any generation, Si Kahn,” Labor Heritage Foundation board chair Saul Schniderman said in presenting Kahn with the Award. “So it is fitting that he receive an award in the name of Joe Hill, the famous IWW songwriter who gave his life for the cause. And because 2019 is Si Kahn’s 75th birthday, all the more reason to celebrate.

“Tonight we praise you for your musical and artistic contributions to the working class and to the labor movement.  For your creative songs which tell the stories of unions, of people of color, of immigrants, of everyone struggling for human rights.  For your hundreds of compositions such as ‘Aragon Mill,’ ‘Gone Gonna Rise Again,’ ‘Mississippi Summer,’ ‘Crossing the Border,’ ‘They All Sang Bread and Roses,’ and ‘People Like You. ‘

“For your many sound recordings such as New Wood, We’re Still Here, I Have Seen Freedom, Carry it On, Bristol Bay, Courage, and recently It’s a Dog’s Life with The Looping Brothers.  For your playwriting, your innovative musical theater presentations which tell Labor’s Untold Story – such as Joe Hill’s Last Will, Mother Jones in Heaven, Some Sweet Day and Precious Memories. For the numerous folk and bluegrass music awards you have received, for your concerts, songbooks, and publications promoting people’s music, and for spreading the gospel of social justice through music and drama.  For all these past years you have Carried it On!”

“This past week I was in Silver Spring, Maryland for the 40th anniversary of the Labor Heritage Foundation’s annual Great Labor Arts Exchange, at which they presented me with their Joe Hill Lifetime Achievement Award, a great honor,” Si wrote. “Among the things I learned from Joe Hill were that one of the best ways to make sure a political message really gets heard is to use humor and satire, and that people pay the most attention to songs when they can sing along. “

The Foundation has previously presented the Joe Hill Award to Cesar Chavez, Anne Feeney, John McCutcheon, Hazel Dickens, Charlie King, Utah Phillips, Archie Green, Joe Glazer, Faith Petric, Guy & Candie Carawan, Pete Seeger, and Anne Romaine. The Foundation began presenting the Joe Hill Award in 1989, ten years after Glazer founded the organization.

According to its website, “The Joe Hill Award honors leaders and artists who have contributed to the successful integration of arts and culture in the labor movement. Every year at the Great Labor Arts Exchange, the Labor Heritage Foundation gives the award to individuals based on their dedication, participation, and promotion of labor, labor arts, culture, organizing, and/or history. The Labor Heritage Foundation has presented this annual lifetime achievement award for work in the field of labor culture since 1989.”

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