The Execution of Sacco and Vanzetti: Two Good Arms

sacco vanzetti

On August 23, 1927, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair. The execution of the Italian-born anarchists drew worldwide protests from people who believed the two men were innocent of the murder charges against them. Many today still debate whether or not the two were guilty of the crime, but most agree that anti-immigrant sentiment and other factors affected the fairness of their trial.

The saga of Sacco and Vanzetti has inspired various forms of art, including songs. Chimesfreedom previously addressed the songs that Woody Guthrie wrote about the case. Additionally, folksinger Charlie King wrote an excellent song about the case called “Two Good Arms,” and I have seen him perform it on several occasions. King, who grew up in Massachusetts and has been performing for fifty years, is not as well known as he should be. But artists like Pete Seeger have recognized his talent.

While there does not seem to be a video of King singing “Two Good Arms,” here is Holly Near covering his song at the 1987 Philadelphia Folk Festival. And you may hear King’s original version on his webpage.

King took much of the lyrics of “Two Good Arms” directly from the speech that Vanzetti made at his sentencing. It is interesting how he recognized the poetry in Vanzetti’s own words, even as the native Italian speaker presented his plea in English: “That I am not only innocent of these two crimes, but in all my life I have never stolen and I have never killed and I have never spilled blood. . . . Not only am I innocent of these two crimes, not only in all my life I have never stolen, never killed, never spilled blood, but I have struggled all my life, since I began to reason, to eliminate crime from the earth. Everybody that knows these two arms knows very well that I did not need to go into the streets and kill a man or try to take money. I can live by my two hands and live well.”

The fate of Sacco and Vanzetti remains relevant today, as many debate whether states have executed innocent people in recent years. A new book, The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, recounts how Texas may have executed an innocent man when it executed Carlos DeLuna. Others claim that other executed men like Cameron Todd Willingham were innocent.

It is difficult to prove innocence to everyone’s satisfaction after someone has been executed, but these and other cases certainly raise questions about the justice system, as any system run by humans is bound to make mistakes at some point. Thus, one may wonder whether society should execute people rather than holding them in prison. These ongoing risks make it important that we answer the opening question of Charlie King’s song with an affirmation that we all will remember past injustices and work to prevent them in the future.

Photo of Vanzetti (left) and Sacco (right) via public domain.

Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The Beatles’ “Black Album” from “Boyhood”

    Sometimes I hate the invasiveness of new technology into our lives, but other times I figure we are pretty lucky. One of those times was when after watching Enemy (2013) I realized I could immediately seek help from the Internet in decoding what Jake Gyllenhaal saw. And recently, while watching Boyhood (2014), there was a scene with a mix CD where I thought, “I bet I’ll be able to find the track listings for the pretend CD on the Internet.” And, of course, I did.

    Boyhood BeatlesIn Boyhood, there is a scene where Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) gives his son Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) a mix CD he made, called The Beatles’ Black Album. The father explains that it is a compilation of the post-Beatles solo work by George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr. He tells how the music fits perfectly together, illustrating what albums we might have heard had the Beatles never broken up, continuing to work together in their mature years. We get a glimpse of the track list in the movie, and I then spent the next several minutes missing what was happening in the film because I was wondering what is on the CD.

    The CD, however, was not created just for the movie. Ethan Hawke first made The Black Album for his daughter, even writing liner notes explaining his choices and why he made the album. Fortunately for us curious folks, he reworked the notes a little bit more and released them to the world via the Internet, along with the track listings. For the touching liner notes, which are worth reading, head over to Buzzfeed. You can catch the track listings from the three CDs of The Black Album below.

    Disc 1:
    1. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Band on the Run”; 2. George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord”; 3. John Lennon feat. The Flux Fiddlers & the Plastic Ono Band, “Jealous Guy”; 4. Ringo Starr, “Photograph”; 5. John Lennon, “How?”; 6. Paul McCartney, “Every Night”; 7. George Harrison, “Blow Away”; 8. Paul McCartney, “Maybe I’m Amazed”; 9. John Lennon, “Woman”; 10.Paul McCartney & Wings, “Jet”; 11. John Lennon, “Stand by Me”; 12. Ringo Starr, “No No Song”; 13. Paul McCartney, “Junk”; 14. John Lennon, “Love”; 15. Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney, “The Back Seat of My Car”; 16. John Lennon, “Watching the Wheels”; 17. John Lennon, “Mind Games”; 18. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Bluebird”; 19. John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”; 20. George Harrison, “What Is Life”

    Disc 2:
    1. John Lennon, “God”; 2. Wings, “Listen to What the Man Said”; 3. John Lennon, “Crippled Inside”; 4. Ringo Starr, “You’re Sixteen You’re Beautiful (And You’re Mine)”; 5. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Let Me Roll It”; 6. John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band, “Power to the People”; 7. Paul McCartney, “Another Day”; 8. George Harrison, “If Not For You (2001 Digital Remaster)”; 9. John Lennon, “(Just Like) Starting Over”; 10. Wings, “Let ‘Em In”; 11. John Lennon, “Mother”; 12. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Helen Wheels”; 13. John Lennon, “I Found Out”; 14. Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney, “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey”; 15. John Lennon, Yoko Ono & The Plastic Ono Band, “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)”; 15. George Harrison, “Not Guilty (2004 Digital Remaster)”; 16. Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney, “Heart of the Country”; 17. John Lennon, “Oh Yoko!”; 18. Wings, “Mull of Kintyre”; 19. Ringo Starr, “It Don’t Come Easy”

    Disc 3:
    1. John Lennon, “Grow Old With Me (2010 Remaster)”; 2. Wings, “Silly Love Songs”; 3. The Beatles, “Real Love”; 4. Paul McCartney & Wings, “My Love”; 5. John Lennon, “Oh My Love”; 6. George Harrison, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”; 7. Paul McCartney, “Pipes of Peace”; 8. John Lennon, “Imagine”; 9. Paul McCartney, “Here Today”; 10. George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass”; 11. Paul McCartney, “And I Love Her (Live on MTV Unplugged)”

    Regarding the movie Boyhood, it is a fun experience seeing how director Richard Linklater filmed the story over twelve years so that the characters, and in particular the young man at the center of the story, age just like the actors. It is worth checking out for that reason alone. Be prepared that the movie is a little long and there is not a lot of plot. But the movie captures real life, which is pretty great for a film. So you should check it out.

    As for the Black Album, the CD is a great idea, and while I might make some different choices, it is pretty cool to sit back and just enjoy the list and think “what if?”

    What songs would you change on your Beatles’ “Black Album”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Marty Brown’s New Video for “God’s Dance Floor”

    Country singer-songwriter Marty Brown just released a new video for his original song, “God’s Dance Floor.” The love song praises the act of dancing out under the open sky. Check it out.

    Brown continues to tour and release great new original songs since his run on America’s Got Talent, showing he still has the talent he showed in the early 1990s. Other recent song releases include the catchy “Crackerjack” and the wonderful “Whatever Makes You Smile.” We look forward to whatever he does next.

    What do you think of “God’s Dance Floor”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” in Sign Language

    Students at Camp Mark Seven’s Deaf Film Camp put together their own video of Pharell Williams’s catchy hit song “Happy.” There’s rarely a song that makes people so . . . happy, and this video is further proof. Check it out.

    Camp Mark Seven, located in upstate New York, started in 1981. Last year, the camp added film-making training to deaf and hard-of-hearing youths. From the look of their video, they are doing a great job.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Willie Nelson Does a Card Trick

    Willie Nelson Bobbie

    We already knew that Willie Nelson is full of magic, but this week he released a video of himself doing a card trick. It is a long trick, but it is fun to see Nelson at work.

    In the video, Willie Nelson, who recently appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, shows his sister Bobbie Nelson his latest trick while telling a story about a porter. Check it out.

    The name of the card trick is “Sam the Bellhop,” although Willie turns it into a story about a porter. Reportedly, the basis for the card trick was created by Rufus Steele, and then around 1994 Bill Malone built on the trick, adding cuts. You may watch Malone do the trick in this video. But if you prefer to see how “Sam the Bellhop” is done, check this video, or you can read about it at ehow.

    Hopefully, you will not need those links explaining “Sam the Bellhop” and, like me, will just go on believing in the magic of Willie Nelson.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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