Utah Phillips (1935–2008)

Legendary US folk singer and radical labour activist Bruce “U. Utah” Phillips has died.

U. Utah Phillips has passed away in his sleep at 11:30PM PDT on May 23, 2008.

Utah has caught the westbound, and I am at a great loss. For myself and my wife Pam, to Joanna and to all Utah’s family and friends we express our deepest sympathy.

We have lost a truly caring man.

-Chris 05/24/08

See also:

U. Utah Phillips, 1935-2008, Derk Richardson, S.F. Music Examiner
1935-2008: Bruce ‘Utah’ Phillips: Folk artist made name singing of Utah history, Nate Carlisle and Lindsay Whitehurst, The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah Phillips Remembered, The Progressive
“Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Utah Phillips Dead at 73”, Bay Area Indymedia

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2021 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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3 Responses to Utah Phillips (1935–2008)

  1. Kakariki says:

    One of the coolest dudes. ever.

  2. @ndy says:


    Ken Knabb:

    Folksinger and storyteller Utah Phillips, a “national treasure” if there ever was one, died last Friday, May 23.

    His performances featured the songs, jokes and lore of hobos, tramps, cowboys, migrant workers and Wobblies. Although he made a number of fine recordings, he was most truly in his element in live performances, where he knew how to draw the audience into a song or story and would leave us cracking up with laughter at some outrageous punch line that would unexpectedly pop up in the middle of his apparently rambling reminiscences.

    You can get a little taste of this experience from this video of one of his last performances, posted online in eight parts (totaling about an hour) —

    1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wsFmcFMeME
    2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd4yNMo5r14
    3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D07S-m7h9Q
    4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ks-LmHAGouQ
    5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cQMvkDU558
    6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9C93WLtpYc
    7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOscaTfHLFs
    8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZtJdNIUcC4

    Here is his famous “Moose Turd Pie” story —


    A few more video clips can be found here, along with various other performers doing some of his songs —

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=“utah phillips”

  3. @ndy says:

    Utah Phillips – singer, songwriter, activist, raconteur and unionist
    Aidin Vaziri
    San Francisco Chronicle
    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Bruce “U. Utah” Phillips, the Grammy-nominated folk singer known for his bushy white beard, tireless tour schedule and equally tireless work for social justice, died of congestive heart failure Friday at his home in Nevada City. He was 73 and had been having health problems in recent years.

    Mr. Phillips rose to prominence on the folk scene with the single “Moose Turd Pie,” a song from his 1973 debut album “Good Though!” That song was about serving moose feces to fellow laborers during the time Mr. Phillips worked as a cook in a railroad gang. With a career that lasted four decades, the songwriter most recently collaborated with Ani DiFranco on the 1999 album “Fellow Workers.” The two were nominated for a Grammy in 2000 for best contemporary folk album.

    Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 15, 1935, Mr. Phillips ran away from home as a teenager. He took the name U. Utah Phillips in tribute to musician T. Texas Tyler, and spent several years living as a stowaway on trains, an experience he documented in many of his songs. He settled in Nevada City 21 years ago.

    Family spokesman Jordan Fisher Smith told the Associated Press that Mr. Phillips had been suffering from chronic heart disease since 2004. His health forced him to cut back on roadwork after nearly 40 years of extensive touring. But the singer stayed close to his fans through a folk music radio show, podcasts and blog posts by his son, Duncan.

    While an irrepressible comedian onstage, Mr. Phillips took his social commitments seriously. A brief stint in the Army that included a tour of Korea in 1956 inspired his work with the peace movement. For a while, Mr. Phillips was a railroad tramp, drinking heavily and ending up in a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City operated by an anarchist.

    The son of labor organizers, he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate from Utah on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket in 1968. He also made a run for the presidency in 1976. Later, he founded the Peace and Justice Center in Nevada City and helped start the Hospitality House, a local homeless shelter.

    “He was a man who was amazingly funny,” Smith said. “And what I saw in the last two years of his life was a human being even more beautiful than he was in performance.”

    Mr. Phillips is survived by his wife, Joanna Robinson, three children of his own and two stepsons.

    Funeral arrangements will be announced.

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