Utah Phillips

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Utah Phillips speaking at Waldheim Cemetery, Forest Park (outside Chicago) in May 1986

Bruce "Utah" Phillips (May 15, 1935May 23, 2008) was a labor organizer, folk singer, storyteller, poet and self-described "Golden Voice of the Great Southwest". He described the struggles of labor unions and the power of direct action. He often promoted the Industrial Workers of the World in his music, actions, and words.


  • I'm here to change the world, and if I am not, I am probably wasting my time.
    • Kupfer, David, "Utah Phillips", The Progressive. September 2003. Web. August 6, 2013.
  • As I have said so often before, the long memory is the most radical idea in America…."
    • on a CD called The Long Memory (1996)
  • We, the American People, are enormously wealthy. You know that? Who owns all of those trees in the national forests? (This is not a rhetorical question.) We do! Who owns all of that off-shore oil you read about in the newspaper, huh? We do! Who owns all of those minerals under the federal lands? We do! It’s public property, you know. But we elect people to go to Washington—who are those assholes?—what have we gotten ourselves into now?—they go to Washington, they lease off what we own, public property, to private companies to sell us back our own stuff for the sake of a greasy buck. That’s dumb.
    • The Past Didn't Go Anywhere, Righteous Babe Records (1996)
  • You are about to be told one more time that you are America's most valuable natural resource. Have you seen what they do to valuable natural resources?! Have you seen a strip mine? Have you seen a clear cut in the forest? Have you seen a polluted river? Don't ever let them call you a valuable natural resource! They're going to strip mine your soul. They're going to clear cut your best thoughts for the sake of profit unless you learn to resist, because the profit system follows the path of least resistance and following the path of least resistance is what makes the river crooked!
    • The Past Didn't Go Anywhere, Righteous Babe Records (1996)
  • But they lived those extraordinary lives that can never be lived again. And in the living of them, they gave me a history that is more profound, more beautiful, more powerful, more passionate, and ultimately more useful, than the best damn history book I ever read.
    • Track 13: "The Long Memory." Fellow Workers, Righteous Babe Records (1999)
  • I coulda got mad. But then I had to stop and think, well, what did he get in school? What did he get in his work experience? What did he get even from his own union, that gave him some tools to understand what he was seeing on that television?
    • From the intro to Track 15: "There is Power in a Union." Don't Mourn — Organize!: Songs of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (1990).
  • Talking to a conservative is like talking to your refrigerator... You know, the light goes on, the light goes off; it's not going to do anything that isn't built into it... And I'm not going to talk to a conservative anymore than I talk to my damn refrigerator.
    • Track 5: "Candidacy" The Past Didn't go Anywhere, Righteous Babe Records (1996)


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