Healy and Juravich: Tangled in our dreams

About Tom Juravich


Tom Juravich grew up in upstate New York, the son of a factory worker. He was in his first band, “The Strikers” at 13 and played guitar and sang his way through high school and college. By the late 1970s, he was working the folk circuit in New England, playing in places like the Iron Horse, the Folkway and Club Passim. In 1980 Juravich went back to his roots during a bitter strike in Massachusetts. The United Auto Workers (UAW) recorded a song he wrote about the strike, and later released his album Rise Again which sold 10,000 copies. The title cut which has been called “labor’s new anthem” was included in Pete Seeger’s Carry It On, Rise Up Singing and Sing Out Magazine, and is sung throughout the world in many languages.

Juravich went on to record A World to Win on Flying Fish/Rounder Records. Sing Out Magazine called it an album of "finely sketched cameos." Edward Clark, from the clothing workers’ union who helped sponsor the album wrote, "Your songs smell to me like thread, cloth, factory machine oil, social justice and creative genius."

Also on Flying Fish/Rounder, his album Out of Darkness: The Mine Workers Story, became the soundtrack for a film about the coal-miners’ union. According to the film’s producer, Academy-award winner Barbara Kopple, “Tom Juravich has put together an album that stirs the soul and shakes the body. A wonderful soundtrack for any struggle…that deals with the human condition." A reviewer in Dirty Linen wrote that “Tom Juravich is first and foremost a storyteller. He has been traveling the country, hearing and retelling the stories of American sweat and struggle for a long time.”

Juravich has also pursued an academic career exploring issues of work and labor. He worked in a factory for a year as a mechanic while researching his Ph.D. in Sociology, and this experience formed the basis of his first book Chaos on the Shop Floor. Tom, who is Professor of Labor Studies and Director of the Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts, co-authored a history of labor Commonwealth of Toil, and an ethnography of a bitter strike in West Virginia, Ravenswood: The Steelworkers’ Victory and the Revival of American Labor.

After his recovery from cancer, Tom leaned into his research and song-writing. In 2002 he began an intensive four-year project interviewing workers in a variety of occupations to document the degradation of work in the United States. More than 100 interviews form the core of a book Juravich is completing, and he drew on them for a series of songs he wrote for his new album, Altar of the Bottom Line. He is in the studio putting the finishing touches on the recording, due out in early 2007. Recorded with an all-star band of Dave Mattacks (drums), Duke Levine (guitars) and Richard Gates (bass), it features songs about twelve-hour days, plant shut-downs, work in the service sector, and the struggles of immigrant workers.

As a singer, songwriter and interpreter of songs, Tom Juravich gives us music that grabs hold of real life, focuses on the things that matter and gives them back to us through the stories of people we can't help but know. At the core of Juravich’s music is his voice. Rich and sure, it resonates through songs he sings, filling them out and making them his own. As Pete Seeger put it, "I was impressed by your wide variety of material and frankly, jealous of your wonderful voice."