Posts Tagged ‘Florence Reece’

Broccoli Fields Forever ...

Broccoli Fields Forever …

The consummate union song, “Which Side Are You On?”, was written by Florence Reece in 1931. Reece was the wife of Sam Reece, 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, Sheriff J. H. Blair and his men (hired by the mining company) illegally entered their family home in search of Sam Reece. Sam 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”.  (Mostly extracted from Wikipedia, so who knows if any of it is accurate; but it makes for a nice blog intro.)

The first first studio release of “Which Side Are You On?” was recorded in 1941 by The Almanac Singers. The Almanac Singers was a politically and socially progressive folk band founded by Millard Lampell, Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie. The group’s line-up often expanded and contracted as new members, as well as Woody, came and went regularly. Woody once famously referred to The Almanac Singers as “the only group in the world that rehearsed on stage.”

Over the years “Which Side Are You On?” has been a staple for union organizing as well as worker demonstrations and strikes. The song has been covered by many and the lyrics have often been revised to reflect current political, economic and social issues.

The Original

The Almanac Singers:

Florence Reese:

This is surely one woman not to be trifled with!

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The Cover Songs Competition

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Billy Bragg vs. Dropkick Murphys

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Billy Bragg:

Dropkick Murphys:

Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. Only one cover tune will live to play another day and it is your solemn responsibility to decide which one prevails. So tell me … Which Side Are You On?!!?

Also, keep in mind that if you should spontaneously self-actualize while playing a cover then you could – and probably should – nominate it for Top 10 (i.e. “Impeccable”) consideration.

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