A Raised Fist & A Helping Hand

Joe Solo – WSO Interview #22

joe“We need a coordinated night all over the country of musical protest. Let’s pick a date.” So we did. And ‘We Shall Overcome’ was born.

Joe needs no introduction. If We Shall Overcome was a band then Joe would be our glorious frontman, with his foot on the monitor and his fist in the air, leading the audience in a sing along. His energy has pushed the movement forward and whilst it has been a collective effort, it’s also fair to say none of this would have happened without Joe.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’ve written and performed my own songs since 1987, either as a solo musician or fronting a band called Lithium Joe. I’ve released 13 Joe Solo albums since 2004, and have two in the making. I host a weekly show on Radio Scarborough, run an on-going project commemorating the lads who died fighting with the Hull Pals in the First World War; I’ve written books and had books written about me….and I mend washing machines to pay the bills. Other than that I’m just a boring old middle-aged man with a wife, two kids and a mortgage.

Tell us how you got involved?

After the election I figured I had two choices- sit around typing bitterness into social media threads, or get up and do something about it. I started casting around for inspiration and posted a quote from a speech made by Clydeside union activist Jimmy Reid in 1971. Stephen Goodall commented on the thread:

“We need a coordinated night all over the country of musical protest. Let’s pick a date.”

So we did. And so ‘We Shall Overcome’ was born. A simple idea, but then the best ones usually are. It was as if it had always been waiting to happen and just needed a little help off the blocks. The reaction has been incredible.
People are just tired of being kicked, tired of the old politics were one side snipes at the other and nothing ever changes. WSO has tapped into a need to make things better, to try and help other people instead of always putting them down and is the embodiment of something I’ve felt for a long time, that it is no use people on the Left sitting in dusty rooms quoting Marx at each other while the Right destroy society as we know it, you have to put away the text books and remember why they were written in the first place- to make the world a fairer and more compassionate place for EVERYONE.

To me WSO is natural politics, an idea that exists not for glory or profit, but simply to help. It is everything I’ve spent my life singing about, why WOULDN’T I want to get involved?

What inspires you or makes you hopeful?

The passion, energy and devotion of others; the words of those who walked this road before us; the selflessness of those with the least to give. Since WSO began I have seen so much unfolding before my eyes and I am inspired daily by the good work done by hundreds of people up and down the country. It fills me full of love and pride that we have played a part in starting something so incredible, and the messages I receive from people we have re-energised, who were down and beaten when those results came in, but who are now back up and at ’em, in turn reignite me.

What are you most looking forward to about October 2-4?

Being on stage and knowing hundreds of other gigs are all fighting the for same cause at exactly the same time will be an incredible feeling. If we can restore the link between music and politics it will go some way to claiming our cultural independence back from those who would prefer to dictate it to us; and who knows, maybe music will be all the stronger for it and start to matter again.

Above all I just want to get WSO over the line, put smiles on thousands of faces, raise enough to get the hardest hit through the worst of the winter, and stand up to the bastards who did this to us. We SHALL overcome. And never forget it.



Author: Matt Hill Songwriter

Storytelling singer-songwriter and community artist who offers a British take on folk and Americana. Formerly known by the stage name Quiet Loner. Recent projects include a songwriting residency in a museum, an album co-written with people at a homeless project and a stint as a resident musician in a prison.

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