Music and Literary Legacy of Harry S. Stamper Jr. Celebrated Sat., August 10

Harry S. Stamper Jr.A celebration of the musical and literary legacy of acclaimed songwriter, folksinger, longshoreman, and community and labor activist Harry S. Stamper Jr. will be held Saturday, August 10, 2013, at 7:30 p.m., at the Wesley Center, 1236 Kincaid St., Eugene.

The event will feature

  • A screening of We Just Come to Work Here: The Music of Harry Stamper, a short documentary film by Nathan Moore
  • Performances of Harry S. Stamper Jr.’s songs by local musicians David Rogers, Late For Dinner and Low Tide Drifters
  • Guest speakers and readings
  • A public opening and exhibit of the Harry S. Stamper Jr. Papers, recently acquired by the University of Oregon’s Special Collections and University Archives, UO Libraries

Beginning in the late 1970s until his death in March 2012, Harry S. Stamper Jr. wrote many highly regarded songs about labor struggles, the importance of protecting the environment and national and regional politics. In the tradition of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and other socially conscious folksingers, he championed the power of ordinary people to create positive change in their workplaces and in their communities.

His song “We Just Come To Work Here (We Don’t Come To Die)” became the unofficial anthem of the occupational health and safety movement, and it was designated a “classic labor song” by the Smithsonian Folkways record label. A number of musicians, including popular folksinger Anne Feeney, performed and recorded the song, and it has been used in television segments and radio programs about labor issues.

During his career, Stamper, who was from Coos Bay, Oregon, shared the stage with Country Joe McDonald, Molly Ivins, and other popular figures. He performed at the Great Hudson River Revival, the Highlander Center, and the San Francisco memorial for legendary labor leader Harry Bridges. His work caught the attention of renowned folk musician Pete Seeger, influential folklorist Archie Green and a host of other journalists, documentary filmmakers, scholars and union activists. In the true spirit of folk music, he gave away his recordings to anyone who wanted them, and he encouraged other musicians to freely share and adapt his songs.

The testament of Stamper’s legacy is contained in the Harry S. Stamper Jr. Papers, which are part of the collections of the UO’ Special Collections and University Archives, housed in Knight Library. The papers comprise six linear feet of materials dating from 1955 to 2012 and include rare recordings, written and graphic documents and moving images. For scholars and members of the public with an interest in folk music, labor organizing, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, environmentalism and Oregon politics, the Harry S. Stamper, Jr. Papers is an invaluable resource.

“We Just Come To Work Here”: Celebrating the Legacy of Harry S. Stamper Jr. is sponsored by the University of Oregon Folklore Program, UO Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives, UO School of Music and Dance, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 12, and Randall V. Mills Archives of Northwest Folklore.