There’s a Better Life and You Think About It Don’t You?

Live event, 2019

Featuring Tayo Aluko, Brooklyn Women’s Chorus, the New York City Labor Chorus, the Sing in Solidarity Chorus, and Lynn Marie Smith “aka” The Motown Diva, hosted by Morgan Bassichis

There’s a better life and you think about it, don’t you? was an evening of political song featuring vocal and choral performances to coincide with Ruth Ewan’s High Line commission Silent Agitator. Installed on the High Line at 24th Street, Ewan’s commission was a giant clock based on an illustration originally produced for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) labour union by the North American writer and labour activist Ralph Chaplin that reads “What time is it? Time to organize!”

Chaplin composed many of the galvanising songs for the labor movement of the early 20th century, including the famous “Solidarity Forever” for the Paint Creek–Cabin Creek coal miner strike of 1912 in Kanawha County, West Virginia. Celebration and song have always played key roles in the efforts of the Industrial Workers of the World, which has come to be known as the “singing union.”

Building on this history, the performers in There’s a better life and you think about it, don’t you? use music to relieve the fatigue of organising and celebrate labor rights victories, activists, and historical movements. For this event, Tayo Aluko performed excerpts from his one-person show, Call Mr. Robeson, about the life and times of the singer and activist Paul Robeson; the Sing in Solidarity Chorus sung a selection of their original choral arrangements for lyrics from the IWW’s Little Red Songbook; Lynn Marie Smith brought her energetic covers of pop songs recast with labor organising lyrics; NYC Labor Chorus performed selections from their repertoire developed over the last 28 years of singing together; and Brooklyn Women’s Chorus sung works including “We Were There” that speak to the central role of women in labor organising. Morgan Bassichis hosted the evening. Additionally, there was silk-screening of IWW graphics available on-site, provided by Shoestring Press.

Borrowing its title from Dolly Parton’s hit “9 to 5,” There’s a better life and you think about it, don’t you? recognises the uplifting significance of song in the workplace and in the exhausting job of labour organising. This evening of fun, lively performances invited musicians and organisers from across the city—and the world—to come together in affirmation that the time we have together need not be all work and no play.

A short video of the event can be viewed here.