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RIP Anne Feeney, Legendary Labor Songwriter, Whose Favorite Place to Sing Was on a Picket Line

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Image Credit: Facebook: Anne Feeney

Anne Feeney, the legendary Pittsburgh folk singer-songwriter and self-described rabble-rouser, has died of COVID at age 69. Her death comes a decade after she joined in the Wisconsin uprising against a draconian anti-union bill and “sang its solidarity song,” remembers The Nation’s John Nichols, who covered the protests and is based in Madison.

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AMY GOODMAN: And speaking of legendary figures, as we wrap up, John, I wanted to ask you about Anne Feeney, the legendary Pittsburgh folk singer-songwriter, self-described rabble-rouser, who has died of COVID-19 at age 69, surrounded by family and friends. John, you’ve written about her — you knew her — in a piece titled “The Wisconsin uprising was glorious, and Anne Feeney sang its solidarity song.” This is a clip of her singing.

ANNE FEENEY: [singing] Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
For the union makes us strong

It is we who plowed the prairies, built the cities where they trade
Built the mines and built the factories, endless miles of railroad laid
Now we stand outcast and starving ’midst the wonders we have made

AMY GOODMAN: What we are listening to and watching is Anne Feeney singing in the Wisconsin state Capitol building during the Wisconsin uprising 10 years ago. John, we just have about 30 seconds. If you could talk about the significance of Anne Feeney’s life, music and art?

JOHN NICHOLS: I think it was summed up in that clip. The Wisconsin uprising began 10 years ago today, on February 11, 2011. You were there for much of it, Amy. And Anne Feeney, who was the great, passionate labor songwriter, came as quickly as she could to be there at the Capitol and to lead the crowds in singing what really was the theme song of that uprising, “Solidarity Forever.” She was a remarkable figure and said that her favorite place to sing was on a picket line.

And I’ll just remind you that two great figures from the Wisconsin uprising, Anne Feeney and Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, both passed away in the last few days. And we remember them because the Wisconsin uprising saw so much brilliant solidarity, and I think both Anne and Karen were embodiments of that.

AMY GOODMAN: And people can go to our website at democracynow.org to see our interviews with Karen Lewis, the late, great head of the Chicago Teachers Union.

John Nichols, thanks so much for being with us, The Nation’s national affairs correspondent, host of the podcast Next Left.

And next up for us, we go to India, where farmworkers continue to protest new agricultural laws and authorities have raided the offices of the progressive news site NewsClick. Stay with us.

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