Sunday, May 25, 2008

Good morning from Nevada City.
Thank you everyone for your heartfelt , kind words of support and love

The house is filled with family and friends, the deep sense of family and community washes over like a varnish forever binding us together. We spent the day telling stories weeping, telling more stories and weep again.

Dad remains in his bed in a state of rest so family and friends have the opportunity to say goodbye. Myself, I choose not to view him in such a state. The last time I saw and spoke with him in his home before I left to go back to Salt Lake was perfect.

Utah's wish was to not be embalmed and laid to rest in a plain, hand made wooden coffin to expedite his return to the earth, which we will honor. He will be laid to rest in the cemetery down the road from his home in Nevada City .

The tentative date for the funeral is Thursday May 29 with a memorial service on the following Sunday . I will keep you posted when the arrangements are finalized.


silk purse maker said...

I turned on KPFA this morning and heard Robbie Osman playing a Utah Phillips song early into the show. I knew something was not quite right.

I first discovered Utah Phillips in 1980 or thereabouts. I lived and worked in the San Jose area and listened to the very iconoclastic radio station KFAT. We ‘FATheads’ were fed a daily dose of Moose Turd Pie. To this day, I know every word by heart.

Seeing Utah Phillips perform live was always high up on my bucket list. I was able to scratch this off my list about six years ago, when I traveled to Fresno to see Utah perform at the Underground Gardens, an ‘earthy’ venue to say the least, a cross between an art farm on steroids and the catacombs of Europe. Although a physical condition prevented him from paying his guitar most of the night, just hearing the guy tell his endless stories was well worth the admission price.I first discovered Utah Phillips in 1980 or thereabouts. I lived and worked in the San Jose area and listened to the very iconoclastic radio station KFAT. We ‘FATheads’ were fed a daily dose of Phillips’ Moose Turd Pie, a hilarious retelling of his times as a cook while working on the railroad. To this day, I know every word by heart.

Being a ‘foamer’, I also enjoyed Utah’s train songs! Seeing Utah Phillips perform live was always high up on my bucket list. I was able to scratch this off my list about six years ago, when I traveled to Fresno to see Utah perform at the Forestieer Underground Gardens, an ‘earthy’ venue to say the least, a cross between an art farm on steroids and the catacombs of Europe. Although a physical condition prevented him from paying his guitar most of the night, just hearing the guy tell his endless stories was well worth the admission price.

I've always considered Utah to be a National Treasure. He will be missed, by I'm glad he was on this planet!

Don Morrison said...

So sorry to hear of Utah's passing.
Will always remember the kind words he had for Kate Wolf as he filled in for her on a tour. Glad I was able to meet him and collect some tapes and CDs. My thoughts go out to Joanna and the family.

Bill Griffin said...

My favorite moment at Kate Wolf's memorial service, besides Wavy Gravy arriving in full clown regalia, was when Utah addressed the crowd thus: "Kate was the kind of person who was always one step ahead of the rest of us... and she still is." It somehow lightened the mood in just the right way - thank you Mr. Phillips - I'm thinking the same about you...

Adam said...

All my best to you, Duncan, to your brother and sister, and to Joanna. Utah was always so giving of himself to one of my favorite places in Portland, Sisters of the Road Cafe, and I will never forget that.

Go to sleep you weary hobo
Let the towns drift slowly by
Listen to the steel rails hummin'
That's the hobo's lullaby

-Woody Guthrie

Aurélien said...

Oh my god. Sadness's just invading my heart and tears start flowing.
I was at a friend's birthday wedding last saturday, and they played the whole "Past didn't go anywhere" album while we were there. I didn't know the sad news then...
Somewhere in France, it seems a tribute was being paid to him on that gloomy day.
I am immensely sad but so blessed I got the chance to hear and learn a lot from Utah's voice and thoughts even though we're so far from the states.
I wish all his family and friends lots of strength and power.
Look up and keep smiling at life, just like he would have wanted to.
Unlimited Love to all of you,

Mike Boraski said...

Just wanted to offer my condolences, and a quick word. Utah's music resonated with me, as I grew up blue-collar, and travelled across Canada growing up. I first heard of Utah Phillips a few years ago, and had the honour of meeting him and seeing him perform at the Vancouver Folk Festival. He seemed like a down-home, average guy, until he got on stage. That was the magic that he had.
He will be deeply missed, but his music and lyrics will carry on and continue to resonate!!

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about Utah a lot Saturday, and found out why quick on Sunday. I gathered musicians here on the north coast of california Sunday, and we held a eulogy over the Pacific -- pulling out all the songs we knew of his, and telling good stories. Times we'd seen him, inspirations he'd given. Digging into it, I know he's been a guiding star for my own journey -- which has taken me through blue-collar ramblings and aboard many a train -- into labor songs and poetry for my own fellow workers, the commercial fishing industry. I've played his songs for workers on trains, I've played them out busking in many a downtown. I've performed with folks who claimed they never would have been doing their gig, if it wasn't for Utah tellin' em that they could. Giving them permission to be a folk singer, ya know? Saying and showing that storyteller is a right way to be. This star of his helped lead me out onto stages to speak for both people and places of the West and Alaska. This star of his keeps trailing embers all over the real homeland of his kindred people, his fellow workers, their vibrant soils. My hearty congratulations, myth-maker, on a life glowing large -- over and with and FOR so many.

Joannie said...

Bruce's passing reminds me of how fragile and mysterious this thing called Life is...

I remember talking with Bruce when our friend Dave van Ronk passed--
He told me that the deaths of friends didn't make him as sad as give him the determination to "keep on doing"

So in that spirit,
May we love each other a little more,
continue to do the things that help the world be a kinder and more compassionate place,
walk lighter on the earth,
and be glad to have known Bruce "U. Utah" Phillips.

Tickledrop said...

Listening to a radio show for a long time creates a closeness. Utah's listeners and comrades were brought his words and ideas and became quite enveloped with the wisdom and sincerity that he lived with in life. Goodbye Mr. Phillips and thanks for sharing so much. You taught us well!


The Rail Song
By Adrian Belew

I recall as a boy we would hop the freights
wasn't nothin' but a kick back then
there was no better thrill for my anxious heart
than a long flatcar
headin' out of the yard

and I knew even then she was in my blood
like the time when I first hired on
and the fireman laughed at my bony nose
but he tossed me a cap
said GM&O
and I was a man...

I gave her my best years
well, what can you do but laugh
I don't expect she'll ever be coming back

When we climbed up the great Appalachians
her engines would be raging like hell
then we'd come back down to the rising towns
where the cattle stare
in the frozen air

For me there nothing more sacred
than the beautiful sound she'd make
her long blue signal blowin' deep in the night,
it would get to me there,
it would get to me there
Now I'm afraid...

Afraid of these silent hours
awake underneath my old cap
I don't expect she'll ever be coming back

Well, I watched the beginning of the end for her
when I saw my first jet airplane
flying high overhead like a bird of prey
while the mighty fell
in the land of the brave
Now I'm alone.

Chad from Kansas said...

I too was thinking about Utah on Saturday. Remembering the time i stood next to him at a urinal in Marysville, KS before his set. At that point in my life and maybe even still he was my only hero. Teaching me through his songs and his tapes.

I had been out of touch with what is going on with him. By chance i had to run out yesterday to pick something up. I won't go into it but really it was by sheer chance i forgot my ipod and so turned to the local NPR station. It was a Utah Phillips song playing and I thought what luck! Then the DJ came on and told me the news. I am devastated.

I sent a text message to my best friend and ship builder up in Seattle that said:
Utah Phillips died on Friday.
God Speed Fellow Worker.
His Reply:
This makes me very sad.
My Reply:
Me Too.

I had not really realized how sad this made me until i started writing this. My solace will be a rediscovery of Utah and his values. Something I have long since left behind out of the ignorance of youth.

My life is better because this man lived.

I am sure he would tell us all:

Don't Mourn, Organize!

God Speed Fellow Worker....

Anonymous said...

U. Utah Phillips, anarchist, wobbly,
hobo, railroader, folksinger, activist, great iconoclast, husband,
father and and all around homeless commie america hating scumbag.

good riddence.

Anonymous said...

Hey I did not know they would let George W post an entry. Seems it is the only bad one. Shows you worked on them Utah!!! Keith B

Ciaran said...

I have only recently discovered utah phillips... few months ago. But even in that short time i have found him to be such an intelligent, witty, inspirational character. I had aimed to see him live one day. wherever and whenever possible, but i guess it's never going to happen.

my heart goes out to all friends and family, as i'm sure a character like Utah will always be sorely missed.

by the way i am 17 years old, and i live in south west ireland, so Utah's music can definately reach people of all ages and nationality. how utah's wonderful music and stories reached me was a complete fluke, but i'm glad they did. And i will continue to spread his recordings among friends etc. to help keep his spirit alive. be it halfway across the world.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous, I quote Utah, quoting Ammon Hennacy: "First thing he said, after he got to know me, he said: "You know you love the
country. You love it. You come in and out of town on those trains singin' songs about different places and beautiful people. You know you love the country; you just can't stand the government. Get it straight." He quoted Mark Twain to me: "Loyalty to the country always; loyalty to the government when it deserves it." It was an essential distinction I had been neglecting."

Anonymous said...

I want to thank you, Utah's family, for so kindly sharing him with all of us. Utah's words and stories enriched my life, strenthened my character, and gave me heart. And he always, always, always made me think.

I am thankful for my memories of Utah as a performer, singing with Kate Wolf, sharing his stories in concerts and festivals and tiny little rooms across America. His manner and openness made me feel connected as a friend, also, and I'm thankful for that too.

Rest in Peace, Utah Phillips. You will be sorely missed.

Anonymous said...

I was just leaving church yesterday after the Memorial Sunday service when my cell phone went off. It was my old Fellow Worker Penny Pixler from Chicago. No offense to Penny, but it usually isn’t good news to get a phone call from her. It almost always means that one of Wobblies has died. This time it was Bruce Philips, better known to the world as U. Utah Philips, Golden Voice of the Great Southwest.

Utah belongs to that small, select club of those who have been affiliated over their lives with both Unitarian Universalism and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW.) I’m another. Although legendary for his association with the IWW and his seemingly bottomless bag of labor folklore collected from the lips of hobos, agitators, organizers, and home guard heroes and heroines alike, most UU’s were not aware of his long connections. That despite the fact that he must, like any touring folk musician, have performed at scores of UU churches and events over the years and even recorded a live album at a Unitarian Universalists for a Just Ecconomic Community (UUJEC)—Making Speech Free event.

He told me once that some of the first songs he ever wrote were intended for a Unitarian hymnal at the Salt Lake congregation in the 1950’s. He was always good for a hilarious string of Unitarian jokes poking fun at our sometimes wishy-washy liberalism. For the last 14 years he was an active member of the UU Community of the Mountains near his beloved Nevada City, California.

I first met Fellow Worker Philips just about the time he first album came out, the absolutely wonderful Good Though. He came through Chicago on tour and we set up a IWW benefit performance at the old Quite Knight when it was still on Wells Street. I was a wet-behind-the-ears 23 year old General Secretary Treasurer of the One Big Union. I had him over for a stroganoff dinner and we spent hour trading stories—his were more interesting and numerous and songs. I heard him perform many times since then. The last time was at the 100th anniversary concert for the IWW held, fittingly, at People’s Church in 2005.

Penny pointed out that Utah, like the late Carlos Cortez and a handful of others he was one of the few of the generation in between the Old Timer veterans of the union’s tumultuous early days and punks like me emerging from the New Left and the Vietnam protest movement. He was the transmitter of the wisdom from the Old Timers like Herb Edwards, Art Nurse, Frank Cederval and many others first to us and then subsequent generations. I was privileged to have known some of the surviving old timers myself and know what a treasure they were.

A few years ago punk folk artist Ani DiFranco introduced Utah to my daughter Maureen’s generation on the albums The Past Didn't Go Anywhere and Fellow Workers. Utah’s songs and stories have been responcible for influencing generations of rebels, rabble rousers and radicals. He was in the direct tradition of Joe Hill, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seger. Seger was one of many folk musicians organizing benefits for Utah’s medical expences when Bruce died.

Farewell, Fellow Worker, I'll miss you.

Anonymous said...

I saw Mr. Phillips perform in Kansas City about seven years ago. We were from out of town, had driven five hours to go to the concert, and the folks putting it on invited us to a barbecue the night before the concert. I got to speak to Utah, tell him how important his work was to me and sing with him around a campfire. That was one of the best nights of my life. I am so sad at his passing, and offer my deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Chris Lehmann said...

Thank you, Utah Phillips. You have touched many, many lives. You taught us to always remember that the thing that made America great were the working men and women who inhabit it.

You will be sorely, sorely missed.

George said...

Duncan, Joanna, and Family: Julius and I send our love and share in your sorrow. Hope that you are comforted by the tremendous outpouring of love and admiration for Utah and his work. Thanks for all the hard work you did to keep him with us.


dave said...

Just heard the news today and wanted to send my prayers to the family. My thoughts turn to the little piece of heaven that Utah brought to me each year at the Vancouver Folk Fest. I started my adult life there in 1988 and have gone for the last 20 year. He was my hero full stop, he held the spirit of our deep history as "the left" writ large.
I hope heaven is ready to get organized, ready to weep a bit for a sense of how caring a human heart can be, cause his spirit is no doubt up there straigting it out so that they too can remember, like we did when we listen to Utah, that we are all in this together...
So with that I send the family my love, a stranger in one way, a brother in another.
I will miss him dearly.
David Stevenson of Victoria BC.

Mike Taub said...


Bruce has left before the ship is finished. The ship's gonna sail someday,

It's up to us to keep building it.

Thanks Bruce.

Mike Taub

E said...

I don't remember when I first heard Utah Philips, he was just part of the sound track to my growing up with all the other great radical folkies. But I only remember hearing him play live once in my home town of Cambridge Ma at Club Passim in 2004 or 5. During his intermission he told folks he'ld like to talk to folks if they wanted, the only ones to approach him were the folks I organized the protests at the 2004 DNC with. We chatted about politics, how we all knew eachother from organizing and why no one but us was willing to approch him. He the most approchable and friendly person I've ever spoken too who I'ld never met before. He offering advice and letting us know that he appreciated young activists and young folks. He gave us a push and motivation to keep trucking which i felt we all needed still being a bit burned out after the DNC. I treasure the chance I had to speak to him and the openness he expresssed toward us. If there is a person who emboddied what I think my generation likes to picture Joe Hill, Clara Lemlich, Emma Goldman and Woody Guthrie and that whole free spirited afinity group of the past as I think Utah Philips is it and the world is smaller for the One Big Union in the sky being bigger.

I thoughts and hugs to his family, particularly his daughter who I spent my 8 hours in jail at the RNC 2004 with. Know that across the country and world folks have you in their thoughts.

Maya said...

My father, who died in late '06, introduced me to the songs of U. Utah Phillips. I was lucky enough to see him live when I was a teenager. I absorbed a lot of my political leanings through folk music, and I'm glad of it.

I recently rediscovered his songs, and have been enjoying them as much as ever. And as my younger two sons are at the age where they're asking me, "mom, what is this song about?" fairly often, I've been making sure to play a LOT of U. Utah Phillips' songs when they're around.

And it's nice to imagine that my dad might run into Utah "out there" and have a good old-timey story tellin' and memory-swappin' time...

James Mouritsen said...

Much love to the family and legion of friends of the legendary U. Utah Phillips, from a fellow worker and part-time activist who has, and continues to, draw much inspiration from his wisdom and wit and storytelling spirit. I accidentally discovered his music when I picked up a used cassette tape at a small record store in the Pike Place Market in Seattle ten years ago. I had the great fortune to see him perform in SLC, Utah in 2005, and got a moment to chat with him at the IWW table where I was helping to spread the word and raise some funds with the sale of books, CDs, bumper stickers and pins. What a voice, what an adventurer, what a life! Thanks to my friend Duncan for helping to bring his dad's music to the people, and for being an admirable human being in his own right!

Jo said...

Utah Phillips was as inspiration. I initially discovered him through his collaboration with Ani DiFranco, but my love for him grew much beyond that over the past several years. The world will surely have a great big hole in it now that he's gone.

I posted my own comments on my blog.

My condolences to all of his family and friends.

John Otterness said...

I was introduced to Utah by George and Wanda Rice when we all worked for the Navy at China Lake and learned folk songs together - his songs and others eventually had an effect and I became a school teacher - no more weapons!! I saw him in Port Townsend and Nevada City and he made the world - if not better - at least more understandable - I think better, too. His life was an inspiration and it's up to us to carry on the remembering. Peace.
John Otterness