Union Songs

The Big Joe Blues

A Poem by Pete Seeger©Pete Seeger 2007

I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe,
He ruled with an iron hand
He put an end to the dreams
Of so many in every land
He had a chance to make
A brand new start for the human race
Instead he set it back
Right in the same nasty place

I got the Big Joe Blues
(Keep your mouth shut or you will die fast)
I got the Big Joe Blues
(Do this job, no questions asked)
I got the Big Joe Blues.


Pete Seeger wrote this song about Stalin. This is how it was reported in the Chicago Tribune 31 Aug 2007

Pete Seeger has the Joe Stalin blues

Decades after drifting away from the Communist Party, the 88-year-old banjo-picker has written a song about the Soviet leader that's as scathing as any tune in the folk legend's long career.

"I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe. He ruled with an iron hand. He put an end to the dreams of so many in every land," Seeger wrote in "The Big Joe Blues."

Seeger said he left the Communist Party around 1950 and apologized years ago for not recognizing that Josef Stalin was a "very cruel misleader." But he told The Associated Press on Friday that the song he finally finished this year is a first for him, despite three visits to the Soviet Union beginning in the '60s.

"It's the first overt song about the Soviet Union," Seeger said during a phone interview from his Hudson Valley home in Beacon. "I think I should have though, when I was in the Soviet Union -- I should have asked, 'Can I see one of the old gulags?'"

More about Pete Seeger in this collection

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