We know Joe Hill as a labor songwriter whose biting lyrics educate and agitate his fellow workers to join the One Big Union.
That isn’t the whole story, though.
Joe Hill also wrote songs about more mundane topics, like love.
That’s right! Joe Hill love songs.
We know the lyrics to two of Joe Hill’s love songs because the Salt Lake Tribune published them June 21, 1914, after interviewing him the day before. The police found the lyrics in a search of the house where he was living in Murray.
What subversion did they find? “Oh Please Let Me Dance This Waltz with You” and “Come and Take a Joy-ride in My Aeroplane.”
“There are many defects in the harmony of my compositions, but that is because of my lack of technical training,” he said. “I am a man of little education and my modest accomplishments are due to a natural taste and some native talent in that direction.” Joe Hill, June 21, 1914, Salt Lake Tribune.
After reading these lyrics while Joe Hill was in jail during his trial in Salt Lake City, Utah, prominent local citizen, Virginia Snow Stephen (daughter of LDS church President, Lorenzo Snow) was convinced of Joe Hill’s innocence. Joe Hill’s trial had been going for a few days. It may have been because of her comments that the Salt Lake Tribune chose to interview Joe Hill about his songwriting and publish these two songs that may seem—to those of us who know his political songs—to be uncharacteristic.
We don’t know if Joe Hill wrote music for these lyrics or whether he used popular tunes. They are just poems to us.
Joe Hill Songwriting Contest
Rolf Hägglund, the grand-nephew of Joe Hill (Joel Hägglund), recently visited Salt Lake City from Sweden for the Joe Hill Centennial Celebration. The Hägglund family continue to be musical. Rolf’s niece Lovisa Samuelsson was a featured performer at the Celebration in Sugar House Park. Rolf claims not to play music much anymore, but he is a guitar maker.
Rolf wants to see these two Joe Hill songs set to music. He has launched a songwriting contest to set Joe Hill’s love songs to music. To make it worth a songwriter’s time, Rolf is offering a gorgeous handmade guitar as a prize.
Would you like to see your name next to Joe Hill’s as a songwriter? Here is your chance.
See Songwriting Contest Rules for details.
Joe Hill’s Love Songs
For your song submission, choose one of these two poems.
“Come and Take a Joy-ride in My Aeroplane,” Joe Hill, 1914.
“Oh, Please Let Me Dance This Waltz with You,” Joe Hill, 1914.
More on Joe Hill as a songwriter.
In Joe Hill’s four prolific years of songwriting, he wrote most of the songs we now know him by. Lori Taylor, “Joe Hill Songs,” May 2015.
For historical and contemporary material on Joe Hill as a songwriter, see Jeremy Harmon, “The Defiant Power of Song,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 30 August 2015.