The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #143789 Message #3322303
Posted By: Mark Ross
13-Mar-12 - 12:22 PM
Thread Name: Obit: Harry Stamper NW Labor Activist (1944-2012)
Subject: RE: Obit: Harry Stamper Labor Activist 9 March 2012
Here's Harry's obituary
Harry Stamper: Folksinger
"The woods are full of wannabe, wouldbe, and hopetobe songwriters who write songs that will never
be sung because they are no good. I wasn't holding my breath while I waited for Harry Stamper's
cassette. When it arrived and I got around to listening to it, however, I was blown over. Stamper was
good, very good." J Glazer (p261, Labor's Troubador, 2001)
On Friday, March 9th, 2012 folksinger Harry Stamper passed away at his home in Charleston, Oregon. Harry Stanford Stamper, Jr. was born September 20th, 1944 to
Harry and Viola Stamper in Roanoke, Virginia. Harry wrote prolifically on a range of subjects, although he was best known for his labor songs and his work with the ILWU, his union for 37 years. His song, "We Just Come to Work Here, We Don't Come to Die" is considered a classic in labor and folk song circles. The song is
featured on Classic Labor Songs from Smithsonian Folkways and on the album We Just Come to Work Here, We Don't Come to Die: Songs of Health and Safety. Harry's music has been recorded and performed by a wide array of musicians including Anne Feeney, Citizen's Band and General Strike. Stamper's lyrics were featured in Sing Out!
Harry wrote on every subject: The last song he recorded, "God, Guns and Gays" is a perfect example of his political work—no topic is off limits. But Harry had an introspective side (what he called, "self‐probing, old bat ramblings"), as we see in "Song for Cynthia." Harry wrote, "It begins when you discover what you might like to be and it ends when you find out what you are." Here's what Harry had to say
about himself: "I don't consider myself a labor singer, but I think I have written some powerful labor songs. Others have referred to me as a labor songwriter, but I prefer folksinger." Harry was generous with his songs. He was constantly sending CDs in the mail to anyone interested in his music at no charge. Harry said, "Do as you will with my songs. Copy, share change. It's the folk process at work."
Harry was perhaps at his most joyful in the songs he wrote for his grandchildren, like "Rockin' Spider," a rock'n'roll version of the "Itsy Bitsy Spider." Stamper also authored a children's book called, "Kevin Helps the Music Out" for his grandchildren and wrote numerous short stories about life on the docks in Coos Bay. His song,
"Harry Bridges," celebrated the life of the ILWU's famous founder and was one of Bridges' favorite songs in his last years. Stamper played at Bridges' memorial held at Local 10 in San Francisco. Harry also performed at Pete Seeger's Clearwater Revival Folk Festival in New York with Arlo Guthrie and Sweet Honey in the Rock in the early 1980s.
Harry loved his family: his smart, capable wife Holly Hall Stamper, his daughters, Nell Stamper Ero and Anna Stamper Brown and his grandchildren, Kevin, Stephen and Jack. His siblings: Patricia Howard, Tom Stamper, Cynthia Turner, Diane Stamper, and Richard Stamper. His sons‐in‐law, Trevor Clark Brown and Phil Ero.
Harry loved, and is survived by, his mother Viola. He loved his dogs: Roodie, Lilly and Maple. All the cats. Harry loved to feed the fish, birds, Douglas squirrels and other creatures in his back yard. And he loved his union.
Harry began playing music when he was 13 and he wrote and recorded music until the end of his life at 67. He said: "I'm proud of the songs that work and delight in following the muse that suggests a topic or direction. My idea is to create something useful, fun and just as relevant down the road." But most importantly: "Stay cool
and always remember to staple your picket sign to a baseball bat."
By Nathan Moore and Kate Downing
Please feel free to contribute memories, photos or comments about Harry at;
Harry's family has suggested that donations in his memory be made to the ILWU Auxiliary Fund:
2064 Sherman Ave., North Bend, OR 97459 or the Waterfall Clinic: 1890 Waite St, North Bend 97459.
A musical tribute in Harry's honor will be held at the ILWU Local 12 Hiring Hall, 2064 Sherman Ave., North Bend, Oregon on Saturday, March 17th at 2 p.m. The family wishes to make it a party that Harry would have liked to attend. Holly says, "We want to pack the house." So
come on prepared to play, sing and/or tell stories and celebrate a life well lived.