Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Over the last several months when folks were putting together benefit shows dad would call in at some point during the show. So when I had to chance to fill in for dad last week and call in for a show Mick Lane was producing.....I'm not sure what the appropriate phrase is but I was looking forward to calling and talking to the crowd. Alas it didn't work out, there were some technical glitches that made a phone call impossible. So I am posting what I had intended to say. I know it's not the same and a day late but what the hell.

Hello.....I know you all were expecting to hear from Phillips Number one but you'll have to settle for Phillips Number two {cheap attempt at comedy}.

Like a master potter Utah's words and deeds were the potters wheel and over time he gently molded pieces of wet clay into a community a community that he knew in the end would not forget and you haven't....thank you.

Dad had had a line when he opened his shows. He would sit in his chair, lift his favorite Fedora from his head and place it on the back of the chair in a notch he carved for just such a thing, slap his hands on his knees and say "I come to in troubled times".
well I do indeed come to you in troubled times. George bush is still in the white house, were enduring a war with no end and on May 23, we lost one of our great elders. I say we because it was not just a loss for my self and my family but a loss for everyone around the world as well as a loss for the people that did not yet know of Utah or his great works.

Some deaths carry with more significance, they hang heavier in our hearts and linger far longer. Utah's death is one of those.

His heart may have worn out but it never failed him and it will forever beat in the homeless and the poor, it will beat in his fellow workers and the working class, it will beat in those who strive to defeat social injustice and his will forever beat in each and every one of us.

In every well planed civil disobedience there are people waiting in the wings to replace the people on the front lines that are taken away.

It will take more than any one person to replace Utah, it will take all of us.

So I say we take this night to mourn, memorialize and celebrate and when the morning comes we go out into the world and push our selves beyond what is normal.

Thank you and goodnight


Mike Taub said...


I'm going to be performing at a remembrance for Bruce at the Old Songs festival near Albany. I have the honor and pleasure of singing 'Queen of the Rails', and (I still can't believe this, I keep pinching myself) closing the ceremony with 'Ship Gonna Sail'. I'm reciting Bruce's introduction to the song, which is so powerful. I'll paste it here, as I think his words are really really needed in these tough times.

Mike Taub

They were starting a peace center in Nevada City, where Bruce lived. The day after the last presidential election, the Peace organizers came into a general meeting to discuss what went wrong, and they were draggin’ their tails, just so depressed. It was so awful. Some people dissolved into tears. There was a lot of loose talk, I’m gonna go to Canada, I’m gonna go to New Zealand. Bruce just couldn’t let that happen. He thought back on old Fred Thompson, the editor of The Industrial Worker. The man did hard time at San Quentin federal prison as a political prisoner for the IWW. Fred talked about the first World War, and the espionage act and the mass deportations without any due process, and the 5,000 union brothers and sisters in jail, the beatings, the lynchings, he said worse than anything we’re going through right now see, but we still came out of it with the structure of the 8 hour day, mine safety laws, child labor laws, and you roll on up into the Great Depression, grinding oppression, I mean right down on the bottom, but you have the birth of the CIO, and the progressive movement, and what came out of that awful time: Social Security, workmen’s compensation, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, things unheard of anywhere, You come up through the War and into McCarthy times, the Red Scare, Korea and the beginning of the cold war when they tried to destroy the labor movement completely, and we came out of that, we did, and we survived. We came out of that with the civil rights movement that worked, and the largest peace movement that the country has ever seen. So knowing that, I know that we’re going to get through what we’re going through now, and we’re going to come out of it better and stronger and you can count on it.

We’ve got a lot of help, we’ve got a lot of help to do that you know. When you think back down that road, we got people like Sojourner Truth, and Mother Jones, remember Mother Jones? The miner’s mother, lived to be 100. Mother Jones in Philadelphia, speaking at a mill, and they brought little kids to her, the workers with parts of their hands missing, cut off by the machines, scalped, hair caught in the machines that pulled their scalps off. She flew into a rage, went down to the Philadelphia Inquirer and said, “We’ve got to expose this!” and the editor said we can’t do it because the people that own the mill own the paper. Hasn’t changed much has it? Did she write a letter to her congressman? Did she start a petition? No, she got 100 of those kids together and marched with their parents and chaperones, marched overland 100 miles to New York City, caught the ferry across to Long Island, and those kids camped on President Theodore Roosevelt’s lawn to embarrass him into coming out in favor of child labor laws. Direct action gets the goods. And Eugene V. Debs, who founded the Socialist Party of the United States. I love the a man. There was never a man more loved in this country than Eugene V. Debs. There in court, telling the judge as he was on his way to jail for objecting to the First World War as a bosses’ war. He looked at the judge and said, “ While there is a lower class I am in it. While there is a criminal class I am of it. While there is a soul in prison I am not free.” And on up to Maurice Sugar and the sit-down strikes of the 1930’s in Detroit and Flint, Michigan, and on and on.

These people, I see them as building a boat. They were building a ship, and none of them believed that they would ever sail on it, but that was no excuse not to build it. When they got too old, and broken, too tired to build any more on that ship, they passed the tools and the skills on to the younger ones, and they kept building the boat, and now those tools are passed on to our times. They are in our hands, and we keep building that boat. When our turn comes, we’ll pass those tools along, and someday that ship is gonna sail. Some day that ship is gonna sail to a world of economic justice and peace.
You can count on that too.

Anonymous said...


I only learned of your dad's passing yesterday, while reading my current issue of The Progressive. My heart sunk. I wish to thank him for helping to en-lighten all whom he touched in this world. I will keep the faith, and continue to spread it (particularly in my role as a teacher).

I had the opportunity to see Utah perform twice, and treasure both experiences. Thank you for being the change you wish to see in the world, Utah Phillips, and inspiring so many others.

Andy Clarke
Harleysville, PA

terry said...

Good man Utah,,played the washington dc smithsonian festival between him and Jean Ritchie..I liked him. Terry Bigler