Singer, activist O’Connor to perform at union hall

SEATTLE — Folk singer, poet and labor activist John Paul O’Connor will perform his musical narrative Hold the Fort during a benefit concert at Machinists Union District Lodge 751’s Seattle Union Hall in May.

JohnOConnorPicThe performance will be at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 14 in the union’s Stewards Hall, 9135 15th Place S., Seattle. It  is a benefit for the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association, and a $10 donation is suggested.

Hold the Fort: Stories and Songs of the Wobblies in Washington State is a narrative with songs that depicts the history of the Industrial Workers of the World in Washington during the first two decades of the Twentieth Century.

The IWW –- commonly called “Wobblies” — played a key role in shaping the labor movement in Washington. O’Connor’s performance will touch on historic events including the free speech fight in Seattle, the Everett Massacre, the great lumber strike of 1917, the Seattle General Strike and the Centralia Massacre.

During the show, O’Connor will perform songs by Joe Hill, Ralph Chaplin and T-Bone Slim, as well as his own original music.

O’Connor has been interested in the labor movement since he went to work in a factory in Iowa right after high school. In 1993, he was one of the activists who founded Local 1000 of the American Federation of Musicians, also known as the North American Traveling Musicians Union. It was the first union for traveling acoustic musicians.

O’Connor began his music career in Seattle in 1983, when he landed a contract with Flying Fish Records. He released his first album, Songs For Our Times, in 1984, to much critical acclaim, including album-of-the-year mentions in the Washington Post and several folk music publications.

Since then, he has released three other albums – High Weather, We Ain’t Gonna Give It Back and Unravelin – and six collections of poetry while touring as a labor educator. In 2009, French singer Renaud translated and adapted O’Connor’s song “North by North,” which hit No. 1 on the French charts under the name “Vagabonds.”

O’Connor’s May 14 show is sponsored by District 751 and the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association, and it is presented as part of MayWorks, the Washington State Labor Council’s annual celebration of workers’ arts, culture and history.

Originally formed in 1935 by hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 32,000 working men and women at 53 employers across Washington and California.

To listen to more songs from O’Connor’s Songs for Our Times, click here.


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  1. […] perform his show “Hold The Fort: Stories And Songs Of The Wobblies In Washington State” at the […]

  2. […] perform his show “Hold The Fort: Stories And Songs Of The Wobblies In Washington State” at the […]

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