Tune: "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary" (HARRY WILLIAMS) (1912/1914)

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While Hill was in jail in Salt Lake City, he received a letter from Sam Murray in San Francisco requesting a song about the souplines created by the depressed economic conditions existing simultaneously with the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Murray suggested that Hill use the music of the song "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary." Hill replied:
No, I have not heard that song about "Tipperary" but if you send it as you said you would I might try to dope something out about that Frisco Fair. I am not familiar with the actual conditions of Frisco at present; and when I make a song I always try to picture things as they really are. Of course a little pepper and salt is allowed in order to bring out the facts more clearly.

If you send me that sheet music and give me some of the pecularities and ridiculous points about the conditions in general on or about the fair ground, I'll try to do the best I can. Yours for the OBU.*

Joe Hill54
The result was "It's a Long Way Down to the Soupline."...

Two months later, Hill wrote Murray again:

I see you made a big thing out of the Tipperary song. [Murray had inserted in his letter, "We secured nearly fifty dollars by selling it for five cents for the Joe Hill defense."] In fact, a whole lot more than I ever expected, I don't suppose that it would sell very well outside of Frisco, though by the way I got a letter from Swasey in N. Y. and he told me that "Casey Jones" made quite a hit in London and "Casey Jones," he was an Angeleno you know, and I never expected that he would leave Los Angeles at all.56
The "soupline" song did spread beyond "Frisco," however, when with Hill's permission, it was adapted by Charles Ashleigh to fit conditions then existing in New York City. In a letter to Sam Murray dated March 22, 1915, Hill commented on its popularity.
Yes, that Tipperary song is spreading like the smallpox they say. Sec. 69 [Secretary of Local 69] tells me that there is a steady stream of silver from 'Frisco on account of it. The unemployed all over the country have adopted it as a marching song in their parades, and in New York City they changed it to some extent, so as to fit the brand of soup dished out in N. Y. 57

*"One Big Union"
54Hill to Sam Murray, 2 December 1914, in "The Last Letters of Joe Hill," Industrial Pioneer, December 1923, p. 53; also in Foner, Letters of Joe Hill, p. 18.
56Hill to Murray, 13 February 1915, in "The Last Letters of Joe Hill," Industrial Pioneer, December 1923, p. 54; also in Foner, Letters of Joe Hill, p. 26.
57Hill to Murray, 22 March 1915, in "The Last Letters of Joe Hill," Industrial Pioneer, December 1923, p. 54; also in Foner, Letters of Joe Hill, p. 32.

Gibbs M. Smith, Labor Martyr Joe Hill, New York, NY, 1969, pp. 26-28.

First published in the twenty-fifth edition of the Industrial Worker "Little Red Songbook," 1933.

Bill Brown was just a working man Iike others of his kind.
He lost his job and tramped the streets when work was hard to find.
The landlord put him on the stem, the bankers kept his dough,
And Bill heard everybody sing, no matter where he'd go:
It's a long way down to the soupline,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way down to the soupline,
And the soup is thin I know.
Good bye, good old pork chops,
Farewell, beefsteak rare;
It's a long way down to the soupline,
But my soup is there.
So Bill and sixteen million men responded to the call
To force the hours of labor down and thus make jobs for all.
They picketed the industries and won the four-hour day
And organized a General Strike so men don't have to say:

The workers own the factories now, where jobs were once destroyed
By big machines that filled the world with hungry unemployed.
They all own homes, they're living well, they're happy, free and strong,
But millionaires wear overalls and sing this little song:


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