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Obit: Joe Glazer (1918-2006)

19 Sep 06 - 07:10 PM (#1838693)
Subject: Obit: Joe Glazer
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko

Sad news as reported by the Labor Heritage newsgroup:

Joe Glazer, Labor's Troubadour, and Chairman of the Labor Heritage Foundation, passed away this afternoon. Joe was a giant in the labor movement, and he will be missed. I was with Joe and Mildred yesterday afternoon. He could not speak, other than to mouth the word "Joe" when Mildred asked him if he knew who was there to see him. We shook hands, and all I could think about was what an unbelievably full life he lived, and what an incredible contribution he made to the labor movement, and to progressive politics, public dialogue, and to making this world a better place for us all.

I will work tonight on a more fitting obituary, but wanted to let everyone know. Fred Barbash is writing an obituary for the Washington Post, which may run tomorrow, perhaps the next day. A memorial tribute is being planned.

As the wave washes on the shore, the water returns to the sea; and so it is with life.
The beat does go on, and Joe Glazer's beat will continue on forever though the people he touched and influenced.

Our love and best wishes go to his family and many friends.


Joe Uehlein music website

19 Sep 06 - 07:21 PM (#1838699)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer
From: Charley Noble

Thanks for posting this notice.

Joe certainly had a long rich life, and we should be grateful for his considerable contribution to what we know of labor music.

Yours in struggle,
Charley Noble

19 Sep 06 - 08:35 PM (#1838726)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Joe Offer

It feels like an era has passed.
May he rest in peace. I think it's appropriate to say that his was a life well-lived.
-Joe Offer-
Here's the obituary from the Washington Post

19 Sep 06 - 11:02 PM (#1838787)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko

Joe Glazer bought his first guitar through mailorder for $5.95. His
guitar became a tool that he used on picket lines, union halls, concert halls and the lawn of the White House. Hefought for workers rights to a decent wage and safe workingconditions. He shared stages and sang for Eleanor Roosevelt,Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lydon Johnson, Jimmy Carter,Bill Clinton and others. He worked alongside Waler Reuther,Ceasar Chavez, George Meany and other leaders of the labormovement. He taught us the importance of song as he wrote,
collected and shared music of the labor movement.

Along with Edith Fowke, Joe Glazer was the co-author of "Songs of Work and Protest" and recorded numerous albums on his own Collector Records label, which recently became part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection, insuring that future generations will benefit from his work.

Recently, Joe became the subject of a documentary film called "Labor's Troubadour", also the title of his autobiography that was published in 2001 by the University of Illinois Press.

Joe wrote many songs, and one of the most memorable was "The Mill Was Made of Marble", a song that he wrote around 1947 after recalling the first eight lines from an old union newspaper, yet years later he could not locate that source. However the song came to him, it will always be sung.


20 Sep 06 - 12:30 AM (#1838817)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Big Mick

A true hero of mine. I am at a loss for words.


20 Sep 06 - 02:33 AM (#1838854)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Little Robyn

His songbook was one of the first I ever bought, back in the 60s.
Farewell Joe, and thanks.

20 Sep 06 - 03:18 AM (#1838873)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Severn

My oldest sister, who introduced me to folk music, had an LP on Washington Records of Joe's when I was a kid that I still prize the scratchy copy of I ended up with when she died. The sidemen were Charlie Byrd and Mike Seeger. I loved that record. (Byrd later recorded a Jazz improvisation on "Which Side Are You On" on a live album as a result). I still know most of those songs from memory.

I remember seeing a political documentary in high school and hearing Joe's unmistakable voice singing "I'm Gonna Vote For Hubert Humphrey, He's Good Enough For Me" to the tune of "Old Time
Religion" and thinking "Wow! That's Joe!" and then thinking, "Ahhh, nobody would know who I was talking about."

I remember coming to the University of Maryland when another sister was taking a Folklore course and sitting in to hear him do a guest lecture, which it turned out, he did yearly for a while.

I remember WETA's Mary Cliff doing a special interview program about him a few years ago on her Saturday night folk radio show, which I hope she repeats some of on Saturday or soon.

I own five or six records from his Collector Label, all good, him, Lou Killen, Magpie and others.

I heard him a lot in the last few years, often backed by Joe Uehlein and once in a joint apearence with Oscar Brand singing polital and election songs. He was still in good voice and getting it done. He will be missed.

20 Sep 06 - 03:42 AM (#1838878)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: skipy

20 Sep 06 - 07:03 AM (#1839017)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Janice in NJ

Oh my goodness. Joe Glazer was one of the giants, and he is right up there with Sis Cunningham, Florence Reece, Aunt Molly Jackson, Woody Guthrie, and Joe Hill. Rest in peace, brother.

20 Sep 06 - 07:37 AM (#1839028)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Deckman

Another man done gone. RIP Bob

20 Sep 06 - 10:47 AM (#1839163)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: voyager

I Dreamed I Saw Joe Glazer Last Night, Alive As You or Me

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to listen in these last few
years to the Voice and Songs of the American Labor movement.

God Bless Joe Glazer


20 Sep 06 - 11:47 AM (#1839212)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Bill D

Joe was special....he was generous and approachable and he taught us for 50 years+ about some of the important parts of our history.

I think maybe a Getaway workshop on Labor songs dedicated to him might be an idea....

20 Sep 06 - 12:02 PM (#1839227)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Genie

Good idea, Bill D. Wish I could be there for that dedicated workshop.

Another good one has crossed over.

(I can't help thinking of the line from "Harry Pollitt" that goes:

"He organized the angels and he led them out on strike."

20 Sep 06 - 01:26 PM (#1839317)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko

I will pay tribute to Joe on my show this coming Sunday. ) )

Back in 1980 when WFDU started to offer folk music, I wrote to Joe and he sent me a batch of LP's from Collector's Records. I am glad that Joe lived to see his record label incorporated into the Smithsonian Folkways archive. It must have provided some comfort to realize that his work would be available to future generations.

20 Sep 06 - 01:55 PM (#1839333)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Fidjit

Met Joe in when he visited a factory I was working in in Oslo in early 70's Always be a loss though well remembered. Big man. Big voice.


20 Sep 06 - 05:49 PM (#1839518)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: GUEST,Dan Schatz at work

This is a tremendous loss. Bill's term "generous" is exactly right. Joe was one of the kindest, most thoughtful musicians I've ever known. He would take time to connect with anyone, and supported a host of other musicians. His songs represent a style and approach to labor music that we don't see enough anymore - not just "The Mill Was Made of Marble," but "Automation" and "Too Old to Work and Too Young To Die," among others.

The Getaway workshop is a great idea.

We'll miss you, Joe.

Dan Schatz

20 Sep 06 - 08:11 PM (#1839623)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: GUEST,Kenny Winfree

It's a shame all of you didn't know Joe as well as I. To record on his label, for Joe to be a great friend as he was. Cancer silenced what the establishment could not. To Mildred and all of the Glazer family, I will never forget you. All of the many folksingers, including myself, will make sure his songs and legacy never fail. Goodby to a great friend.

21 Sep 06 - 01:22 AM (#1839720)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)

Washington Post Obit
Joe Glazer; Music Set Tone for Labor Movement

By Fred Barbash
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, September 20, 2006; B07

Joe Glazer, the troubadour of the U.S. labor movement who performed, composed and collected the songs of work and protest for 60 years around the globe, died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma Sept. 19 at his home in Chevy Chase. He was 88.

Mr. Glazer performed over a lifetime at countless union rallies and conventions, at civil rights marches, at campaign rallies for Democratic Party candidates at all levels and at hundreds of civic events in the Washington area, where he lived most of his adult life.

His songs were meant to rouse, and they did. With his booming baritone voice, a thumping guitar, a broad infectious smile and a natural exuberance, Mr. Glazer intended to light up the hall, and he did. He was in constant demand well into his eighties and found it hard to turn down an invitation, whether for a crowd of thousands or a gathering of friends, for anniversaries or, in later years, for memorial services.

Mr. Glazer wrote three songs that became labor classics: "Automation," "The Mill Was Made of Marble" and "Too Old to Work." He recorded more than 30 albums and became a leading collector, publisher and historian of labor and protest songs, helping establish the Labor Heritage Foundation in Washington.

His recordings, along with those of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and the Almanac Singers, among others, are now included in the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Mr. Glazer made his living as a labor educator for two trade unions and the U.S. Information Agency, which dispatched him to Mexico during the administration of President John F. Kennedy. But these were his "day jobs," as he said. His fame came from his life in music, which began incongruously on Manhattan's Lower East Side when the son of Jewish immigrants developed a love for the cowboy music he heard on 1940s radio, which inspired him to order a $5 guitar from a Sears catalog and learn to play and sing.

He would become an accomplished guitarist, performing with jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd, among others.

After graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Mr. Glazer used his ability to sing and play to help land a job with the Textile Workers Union of America, which was looking for someone to boost the morale of striking millworkers on picket lines across the South and New England.

The workers, in turn, inspired his song writing. On the lines and at union rallies, particularly in the Bible Belt, he heard the tunes of traditional Christian hymns converted into labor anthems just by substituting a few lyrics. "We are climbing Jacob's ladder" became "We are building a strong union," for example. "Jesus is my captain, I shall not be moved" became "The union is behind us, we shall not be moved."

In his memoir, Mr. Glazer described leading the strikers around a giant Pepperell textile mill singing those songs. They were "basically one-line verses that could be quickly changed" to suit any situation, he said.

"I led nearly a thousand strikers in verse after verse," he wrote of one strike. "We're fighting for a contract. We shall not be moved. . . . We're fighting for our future. . . . We're fighting for our freedom. . . . We shall not be moved.

"We sang and we sang," he wrote in his autobiography. "We must have gone on for an hour or more on a picket line that seemed to stretch for miles around the plant. I would sing out each new verse, and the strikers closest to me would pick it up. The new verse would roll like a wave through hundreds of others further down the line. . . ."

Another hymn identified with Mr. Glazer in the 1950s was the union version of "We Shall Overcome," derived from Charles Tindley's 1900 hymn, "I'll Overcome Some Day," which, by the 1960s, became the anthem of the U.S. civil rights movement.

Over the next seven decades, Mr. Glazer's singing and his songs would become staples of the labor repertoire. His compositions reflected labor issues of the '50s and '60s that went beyond union recognition and basic organizing.

"Automation" reflected worker fears of being supplanted by machines. "The Mill Was Made of Marble" was a commentary on the dreams of textile workers for a cleaner, safer mill.

"Too Old to Work" came out of the early and ultimately successful efforts by unions to secure pension benefits.

"You work in the factory all of your life," Mr. Glazer wrote in "Too Old to Work."

"Try to provide for your kids and your wife. When you get too old to produce anymore, they hand you your hat and they show you the door. Too old to work, too old to work, when you're too old to work and you're too young to die.

"Who will take care of you, how'll you get by when you're too old to work and you're too young to die?"

Mr. Glazer was among a generation of intellectuals attracted to the mid-20th-century industrial unionism exemplified by the Congress of Industrial Organizations as the most promising hope for social justice for working men and women in the United States. Like Mr. Glazer, many of these activists grew up in immigrant working-class families committed to socialism and unionism in a way that many other Americans regarded as radical and even dangerous.

"We didn't talk much about politics or trade unions," Mr. Glazer wrote of his upbringing in New York, where his father was a garment worker. "It didn't seem necessary. It was an act of faith that unions were a good thing for working men and women."

Mr. Glazer graduated from Brooklyn College, the first of his family to finish college. (His brother, Nathan Glazer, co-author of the classic book "The Lonely Crowd," is a renowned sociologist.) Joe Glazer began working towards an advanced degree in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where his wife, Mildred, was pursuing a degree in labor economics in the university's program of labor and industrial relations. Her assigned books, he recalled in a WETA retrospective, seemed exciting while his math texts seemed a bore, so he switched majors to labor economics.

He had met Mildred when both were counselors at a camp in Upstate New York. "I led a strike of counselors," he recalled in a recent interview. "They had us plucking chickens. I said, 'Hey, that's not part of the job. What kind of deal is this?' and led a walkout."

A lifelong liberal Democrat, Glazer ultimately branched out into political satire, with a collection of songs at the expense of various Republicans, from Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy through President Ronald Reagan ("Jellybean Blues").

After working for the Textile Workers and the United Rubber Workers, Mr. Glazer, in 1961, joined the Foreign Service staff of the USIA, then headed by Edward R. Murrow, and was sent to Mexico as labor information officer. He transferred to the State Department in Washington as a labor adviser in 1965.

Survivors include his wife, of Chevy Chase; three children, Emily Glazer of Silver Spring, Patti Glazer of Asheville, N.C., and Daniel Glazer of Northbrook, Ill.; and four grandchildren.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

21 Sep 06 - 10:04 AM (#1839984)
Subject: RE: Joe Glazer is gravely ill
From: GUEST,Mel - Columbia, SC

And, we've lost another one.

Thanks to all who helped Joe through the years and in these last years.

I did not know him, personally, but would like to think his life of dedication has had influence on me. It is clear that it has for many others.

We will try to keep those ideals moving.

Thanks and goodbye.

Message transferred.

21 Sep 06 - 11:03 AM (#1840044)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Nancy King

I am so very sad to hear this. Joe was a wonderful and giving person, and responsible for LOTS of songs celebrating labor's heritage. I remember hearing him and his songs from the early 1960s (when I was first aware of folk music and the labor movement) and right up to the present. What a loss.

We'll sing one for you, Joe.


21 Sep 06 - 04:04 PM (#1840256)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Dan Schatz

Terry Gross played a clip from Joe's song "Automation" at the tail end of today's Fresh Air on National Public Radio.

Dan Schatz

21 Sep 06 - 06:35 PM (#1840350)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Big Mick

I hope very much that we do something at The Getaway to honor Joe. I think the workshop is a fine idea.


21 Sep 06 - 09:46 PM (#1840449)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Nancy King

Well, as I am one-third of the Getaway Program Committee, and I think it's a fine idea, I expect it will be done. Jeez, it's the very LEAST we can do for such an important figure.


22 Sep 06 - 01:01 AM (#1840532)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: Desert Dancer

Joe Glazer, 88, a Singer and Songwriter for Labor, Dies
By Douglas Martin
New York Times, September 21, 2006

Joe Glazer, the singer-songwriter known as Labor's Troubador, who played cowboy tunes on a $5.95 mail-order guitar as a boy in the Bronx, then sang songs of solidarity on picket lines and union halls and once on the White House lawn, died on Tuesday at his home in Chevy Chase, Md. He was 88.

The cause was non-Hodgkins lymphoma, his wife, Mildred, said.

First an employee of the textile workers union, then the rubber workers union, Mr. Glazer, a burly, affable man, marshaled his booming baritone and thumping guitar to rally union loyalists and sympathizers in almost every state and 60 countries.

Mr. Glazer, who called himself "an agitator for all good causes," recorded more than 30 albums, wrote a book about labor music, recorded the songs of others and helped recruit a new generation of protest singers.

In 1950, Mr. Glazer and the Elm City Four were the first to record a version of the anthem of the civil rights movement, "We Shall Overcome," according to many sources. His version of the song (originally a folk song and then a Baptist hymn before he helped popularize it as a labor union theme) began "I Will Overcome," Mrs. Glazer said.

Other sources maintain that Mr. Glazer used the more familiar title, or something close to it, in the recording, made for a two-record 78-r.p.m. set called "Eight New Songs for Labor." It was financed by the Congress of Industrial Organizations before it merged with the American Federation of Labor to form the A.F.L.-C.I.O. in 1955.

He wrote his own best-known song, "The Mills Weren�t Made of Marble," in 1947. In waltz tempo, it tells of a millworker�s dream of a happy heaven where "nobody ever got tired and nobody ever grew old." It became so familiar a piece of Americana that in 1992, The New York Times called it an "old folk song" in an editorial about a museum�s depiction of the harsh lives of textile workers in the 1800�s.

Mr. Glazer responded with a letter saying that usually a song is not deemed a folk song until long after the composer's death. He thanked the paper for "a nice Labor Day present."

Joseph Glazer was born in Manhattan on June 19, 1918, the son of a tailor in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Growing up in the Bronx, he adored cowboy crooners like Gene Autry, and imitated them with his guitar.

He graduated from Brooklyn College and was hired as a civilian radio instructor by the Army Air Corps after failing his draft physical. In 1942 he married Mildred Krauss, whom he had met at a camp in the Catskills where both were counselors. She said she was impressed by his leading the counselors in a strike.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Glazer, who was not related to the folk singer Tom Glazer, is survived by his brother, Nathan, the sociologist, of Cambridge, Mass.; his sister, Gail Klebanoss of Verona, N.J.; his son, Daniel, of Northbrook, Ill.; his daughters Emily Glazer of Silver Spring, Md., and Patti Glazer of Asheville, N.C.; and four grandchildren.

The newlyweds settled in Madison, Wis., where Mr. Glazer worked at a military airfield and did graduate work on statistical probability. He found his wife's labor economics courses more captivating, and switched to that field.

Mr. Glazer joined the textile workers as an assistant education director and seized upon his boss�s suggestion to use a guitar to rally workers. He traveled widely and picked up the early version of "We Shall Overcome" from the celebrated Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn. It had borrowed the song from black tobacco union workers who sang it on a picket line in 1946.

Mr. Glazer used it in organizing mainly white workers, in a film he made in 1950 called "Unions at Work" and on a record of his that year. The song�s current version was written by Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan, Pete Seeger and Zilphia Horton and was adopted by demonstrators in the early days of the civil rights sit-ins in 1960 and 1961.

Mr. Glazer moved on to the rubber workers union in Akron, Ohio, where he was education director. He also performed for many liberal politicians, particularly Hubert H. Humphrey, then a Minnesota senator. In 1980 President Jimmy Carter invited him to play at the White House.

He joined the Kennedy administration in 1961 as a labor information officer for the United States Information Agency, partly because he admired its head, Edward R. Murrow. In addition to explaining America's current events to foreigners, he was frequently sent to foreign countries to sing protest songs.

Mr. Glazer resigned from the agency after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan and soon began composing songs, like "Jellybean Blues," satirizing the new president.

"Protest songs use humor, they tell about terrible conditions, but you still have to be able to laugh and sing and tell a joke," he told The Times in 1981. "You know, that's a very important thing — life goes on."

22 Sep 06 - 10:56 AM (#1840843)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: GUEST,Donna

The most important way we can honor Joe is by remembering what he stood for and keeping up the fight.   

Is there any information yet about a memorial service?

22 Sep 06 - 11:16 AM (#1840862)
Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Glazer (19 Sep 06)
From: dick greenhaus

The catalog of Joe's record company, "Collector Records", is available as custom CDs from Smithsonian Folkways. (Or, for a couple of bucks less, from CAMSCO Music)