OMG! Was Gene Autry, the “singing cowboy” on TV and in the movies, really a radical?
I just discovered this Autry recording of the pro-labor song “The Death of Mother Jones,” about the great radical union organizer — Mary Harris Jones, sometimes called the “most dangerous woman in America” by her enemies — who died at 100 in 1930. Autry recorded the song in February 1931 during the Great Depression. It is so obviously pro-union that there’s no way Autry couldn’t have known what it meant.
Like many baby-boomers, I grew up watching Autry in his cowboy films and his popular television show. He was famous for singing cowboy songs like “Back in the Saddle” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” as well as popular hits like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, he was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.