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Crete Public Library Hosts Bucky Halker – “Ain’t Got a Dollar: Illinois Workers and Protest Songs, 1865-1965”

Bucky Halker
Bucky Halker. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)

Crete, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Think you’ve got it bad at work? Get some perspective while taking a musical journey back in time through 100 years of songs by Illinois workers. Bucky Halker, historian and folksinger, will present a free performance to the public on Wednesday, April 19 at 7 p.m. at the Crete Public Library.

In the century that followed the Civil War, Illinois businesses made great gains, and the state emerged as a central player in the nation’s economy. These gains were not experienced equally across the population, however. Workers in many sectors felt that their wages, hours, and working conditions were unfair and they repeatedly protested to improve their situation.

Political action, unionization, public education, strikes, and rallies were their tools, but nowhere was their voice more clear and artistic than in song and poetry. Illinois became the center of American working-class protest music, as coal miners, laborers, printers, iron workers, clothing workers, and their allies penned songs and poems for the cause.

Long before Bruce Springsteen took on the working-class struggle, Illinois workers championed their movement in song. The eight-hour day, higher wages, safer working conditions, and union contracts, as well as the horrors of mine accidents, the injustice of company stores, child labor, and police brutality all became subjects for worker bards. Not surprisingly, “Solidarity Forever” was written in Illinois and emerged as the anthem of American labor.

Musician, author, and cultural historian, Bucky Halker (b. 1954) grew up in Ashland, Wisconsin, a blue-collar, iron ore, lumber town on Lake Superior. At age 13, Bucky plugged in his guitar and was performing at teen rock dances. By age 16, he had discovered Woody Guthrie, blues piano, songwriting, and solo gigs.

He skipped town for college in Idaho, learned how to read, and got hooked on caffeine, cigarettes, and history books. Dividing time between gigs and footnotes, Bucky came back to the Midwest in 1976, continued to perform, and earned a Ph.D. in US labor history at the University of Minnesota.

Nowadays, Bucky is the always-busy director of Company of Folk, an organization that promotes folk and ethnic arts in the Upper Midwest through research and public programs, including the Folksongs of Illinois CD series, fieldwork on ethnic and folk artists in Illinois, and music festivals.

Since 2011, Company of Folk has received awards from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Puffin Foundation, Shure Incorporated, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

Learn more at www.buckyhalker.com.

To register for this free program, please call the Crete Public Library at 708-672-8017.

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