The Last Lincoln Veteran

They were old when I was young
Now they’re all but passed away
Now it’s just a second hand
Memory of the day
When from all around the world
They sailed off to Spain
Where they fought against the fascists
Where so many men were slain
Who will recall the days
When they all stood side by side
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died

Beside Martin Luther King
Or in a Veterans Parade
You could see the men who made the journey
To join the Fifteenth Brigade
When men of many nations
Of most every creed and hue
Catholics and Protestants
Atheists and Jews
Joined together in the trenches
To turn back the fascist tide
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died

The working class of many countries
Joined in a desperate bid
With what weapons they could find
They fought to save Madrid
From Brussels and Berlin
Galway and London town
Who will recall the Brigadistas
Who tried to take the fascists down
There beside the Spanish people
Even the figs and olives cried
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died

The Republic had the people
But the fascists had the tanks
Il Duce and Der Fuhrer
Deserve only some of Franco’s thanks
‘Cause the fuel to move the armor
Came from the USA
And the men that they gunned down
Were from New York and Frisco Bay
Uncle Sam said he was neutral
Who will remember how he lied
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died

Some say people get conservative
The older that they age
They say that being radical
Is just a youthful stage
But the finest communist I’ve known
Lived to 95
And he spent his whole life fighting
For humanity to thrive
To forget these fallen heroes
Is something I cannot abide
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died

There’s a valley in Spain called Jarama
It’s a place that we all know so well
It was there that we gave of our manhood
Where so many of our brave comrades fell

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Sheet music:
Last Lincoln Veteran

“The Last Lincoln Veteran” originally appeared on the Soundclick album, Ten New Songs (2010).  Then it appeared on Troubadour:  People’s History in Song (CD, 2010) and the following year on Big Red Sessions (CD, 2011).

As I write this (December 2015) there is actually one Lincoln Battalion member still alive.  So when I wrote the song, it wasn’t literal.  It’s a song I wrote for my dear friend and Spanish Civil War veteran, Robert Steck.  Bob grew up on the Iowa-Illinois border, and spent most of his adult life in the New York City area, teaching history in a high school, and for many years as Director of Activities at Camp Unity — a summer camp for people of all ages run by communists like Bob, at which people like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and playwright Clifford Odets hung out and worked on skits together.  But certainly the seminal moment in Bob’s life was Spain, and participating in the International Brigades.