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. Click the album cover to hear the song "Nothing Moves but the Tide."
The Story Behind the Music
Rob Rosenthal discussed the making of Seattle 1919 and played two songs in this presentation commemorating the 90th anniversary of the General Strike at the Seattle Labor Temple, February 7, 2009.
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.
The FUSE: (left to right) Billy Bowne, Stephen Molle, Terry Neal Barham, Rob Rosenthal, Jonathan Paulk, Diane Matsinger, Michael Ledbetter.
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]
Here are the lyrics of three songs as they appear on the album
The double album rock opera can be purchased from Fuse Music, 14 Red Glen Road, Middletown, CT 06459 (email: Rob Rosenthal email@example.com).