wisconsin ballad-making


Every weekday at Madison’s Capitol from noon to one, a growing group of regulars—plus frequent visitors—sing out about the struggle for the progressive soul of our state. Today is Day 116 of the Solidarity Sing Along, and we are just one week away from an historic recall election. On August 9 we plan to stop Scott Walker’s right-wing takeover of Wisconsin.

As I was singing one day recently, I realized I had memorized all of the words in the songbook! For thousands of years, I mused, oral history has been passed down from generation to generation, from memory, through music like ours. Today we are writing and singing the ballads that will help people remember the 2011 Wisconsin Worker’s Revolt: Come on Wisconsin Workers, good news to you I'll tell, Of how the good old union is still alive and well.

They say that in Wisconsin, there are no neutrals there You're either with the workers, or with the Billionaires

Don't believe the Governor, don't listen to his lies Working folks don’t have a chance, unless we organize! -Adapted from the old labor song “Which side are you on?”

I never knew how much I loved Wisconsin till I stood in the capitol dome, Signs on the walls, and drums in the halls, cries of "Freedom!" ringing out all night long. All of us standing together, teachers in red, cops in blue. Hundreds of thousands show people have power, so tell me what are we gonna do? -A new song “Scotty, We're Coming for You!”

I had a dream the other night, the Capitol was still, I thought I heard Republicans a-sneaking through a bill. The law says no, you can’t do that, you have to give us time, To read the bill, and know what’s there, and make you toe the line.

Now fourteen spunky Democrats, to Illinois had fled, To stop the vote, or so they hoped, so quick good-byes they said. When they came home, the people cheered, and heroes they were called. They bought us time to organize, and gather in these halls.

Well, it snowed all day that Saturday, the people didn’t care, Their cause so hot, it kept them warm, and thousands filled the square. Now I come from all Wisconsin with my ballot in my hand, And I say to you Republicans, I’m gonna take a stand! -Sung to the tune of O Susanna!”

Bring back, bring back, Oh bring back Wisconsin to me, to me!

Wisconsin whose motto was “Forward” was populist as it could be, But now the new motto is “Backward”, Oh bring back Wisconsin to me.

Though we may be “God’s frozen people” we bask in the warmth of our plea, Don’t bury my rights in a snowbank, Oh bring back Wisconsin to me

They’re trying to stifle our voices, they’re trying to keep us derailed They’ll find it’s not easy to do though, McCarthy once tried and he failed. -Sung to the tune of My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean”

I went to the Capitol to join the Sing-a-long, State trooper searched my bag, though I’d done nothing wrong, “First amendment, fourth amendment don’t apply to you”, I think I’ll make a call to the A.C.L.U.

They locked all the doors, while voting on a bill, The people stormed the square, climbed over windowsills, Now come on Wisconsin, it’s time to take a stand, Show the nice policeman the court order in your hand.

They tried to push us out but we stood our ground, We filled up the rotunda with our angry sound, Walker wasn’t happy that he lost his privacy, So he tried to lock us out and throw away the key.

We marched in wind and cold, through the rain and snow, The women and the men, the young and the old, Hundred thousand voices raised in solidarity Walker in his hidey-hole pretends he cannot see. - (sung to the tune of “Three Little Fishies”)

NOTE: “Progressive Majority and Grassrooting Productions are launching a grassroots project that will give the next generation inspiring and hopeful protest songs. The labor fights in Wisconsin and across the country, have proven that we need to unite our voices to get our freedoms back. We’re launching this campaign to put the microphone back in your hands. So send us your beats, tunes, lyrics, photos or full-fledge protest songs! When you do, other folks will use your work to riff or create a whole new work.” http://thenationsings.com

Carrie Scherpelz is a freelance graphic designer here in Madison. She's always asking the question: "What motivates people to take action?" Her keen observations of human behavior help her create compelling communication that gets results. As a designer, photographer, and writer, she has an integrated approach that will help you increase your direct marketing response rates.

Contact her for graphic design and copywriting services that will improve the effectiveness of your website, logo, direct mail and other print communications.