Paul Robeson was a singer, actor, athlete, and activist.
Joe Hill was a songwriter, labor activist, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World. An immigrant from Sweden, Hill wrote music that spoke to the experience of itinerant workers across the country. In 1914, a Salt Lake City grocer and his son were shot and killed by two men. Hill was accused of the murder and, after a controversial trial, he was convicted and sentenced to death. The lyrics for this song were composed by the British-born writer Alfred Hayes. They were set to music by Earl Watson in 1936, for a campfire program commemorating Hill's life. The song was later popularized by Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger.
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, Alive as you and me. Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead" "I never died" says he, "I never died" says he. In Salt lake city, Joe says I, in standing by my bed "They framed you on a murder charge" Says Joe "but I ain't dead" Says Joe "but I ain't dead" "The Copper Bosses killed you Joe, They shot you Joe" says I. "Takes more than guns to kill a man" Says Joe "I didn't die" Says Joe "I didn't die" And standing there as big as life And smiling with his eyes. Says Joe "What they can never kill Went on to organize, Went on to organize" From San Diego up to Maine, In every mine and mill, Where workers fight and organize, It's there you find Joe Hill, It's there you find Joe Hill! I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, Alive as you and me. Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead" "I never died" said he, "I never died" said he.