The 1919 Seattle General Strike
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Seattle 1919 - Musical Documentary

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The story of the Seattle General Strike has been told in many ways, but none more unique than the rock opera, Seattle 1919, recorded by The Fuse in 1985. Composed by Rob Rosenthal and produced by Mike Rawson and Rob Rosenthal, the album tells the story in 21 songs of a young Midwesterner, Peter Rinearson, who rides the rails to Seattle looking for work in the World War I shipyards. As the songs narrate his fictional but historically plausible tale, Peter explores working-class Seattle, meeting gamblers, sailors, and Wobblies and developing a friendship with Anna Louise Strong. He becomes involved first in the life of Seattle's Skid Road, then in the labor movement, joining in the great strike that shuts down the shipyards and the city. When the strike fails, Anna Louise Strong leaves Seattle while Peter stays on. He bids her goodbye and contemplates the future in the final song ('Til the High Tide Comes Again) : The Songs


Sometimes you stand and fight them
And sometimes you have to bend
But hold on to your sweet dreams
'til the high tide comes again
'til the high tide comes again.

 

 

The double album rock opera can be purchased from Fuse Music, 14 Red Glen Road, Middletown, CT 06459 (email: Rob Rosenthal rrosenthal@mail.wesleyan.edu). CDs are $12; tapes $10, vinyl $7.50

 

The Story Behind the Music

Band Lineup
The FUSE: (left to right) Billy Bowne, Stephen Molle, Terry Neal Barham, Rob Rosenthal, Jonathan Paulk, Diane Matsinger, Michael Ledbetter.

Seattle 1919 grew out of research that Rob Rosenthal had undertaken for an MA thesis in Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Completed in 1980, "After the Deluge: The Seattle General Strike of 1919 and its Aftermath" explores the legacy of the great strike. Rosenthal went on to complete his PhD and currently is a Professor of Sociology at Wesleyan University.

But in the early 1980s he decided to create a musical documentary of the strike. Here he tells the story of how the songs were written and the album produced:

"I began thinking about the Strike as a topic for songs almost from the moment I first read about it while in college. I was academically and politically interested in working-class struggles, and general strikes in particular, and so completely taken by the SGS as the most successful general strike in US history. It seemed to embody the (best) qualities I found in rock 'n' roll: defiance, excitement, rebellion, etc. [more]

The Songs
Here are the lyrics of three songs as they appear on the album

Lyrics Lyrics

Lyrics

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