Sept 7, 2021
Michael Smith, lead vocals, guitar
Jamie O’Reilly, harmony vocals
Katrina O’Reilly, piano, harmony vocals
About the song
In the mid-nineties, Michael Smith and I created Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, with direction by Peter Glazer, Katrina O’Reilly joining us on piano and vocals. The folk-caberet and CD recording, written with support of the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, gave homage to the International Brigades who fought the fascists in Spain in the 1930s. “The Good Fight,” as it is called, was a subject aural historian Studs Terkel was passionate about. When we shared the stage with him, as we did several times at commemorations and concerts, Studs introduced us to those within earshot this way: “Michael Smith! Jamie O’Reilly! Spanish Civil War! Freiheit!
“It is more than glorious music they offer us; it is our history that would otherwise be forgotten. At a time when passion is so lacking in our lives, these two artists set our hearts on fire! Viva Jamie and Michael!”Studs Terkel, Aural historian, author, radio host
In fact, along with Annie Laurie, (which I sang), Freiheit, the popular march written for the Thaelman Battalion in the Spanish Civil war, was Studs’ favorite song. Heard in the famous “Six Songs for Democracy” record, and appearing in The People’s Songbook, it stirred him like no other.
In our recording Michael is featured on lead vocals, performing Freiheit with requisite grit, vigor and power. A theatre review of Pasiones referred to our musical pairing as: “Like gentle rain falling on gravel.”
And so it was. Every song we approached was given its due. What a wonderful treasure! The Pasiones songs live on in the historic musical lexicon. The work of Studs and Michael, our Chicago masters, now gone but not forgotten.
Lyrics by Gundrun Kabisch
Music by Paul Dessau
(Who also went by the pseudonyms Peter Daniels and Paul Ernst)
Spaniens Himmel breitet seine Sterne
Über unsre Schützengraben aus;
Und der Morgen grüßt schon aus der Ferne,
Bald geht es zum neuen Kampf hinaus.
Die Heimat ist weit,
Doch wir sind bereit,
Wir kämpfen und siegen für dich:
Dem Faschisten werden wir nicht weichen,
Schickt er auch die Kugeln hageldicht.
Mit uns stehen Kameraden ohne gleichen
Und ein Rückwärts gibt es für uns nicht.
Rührt die Trommel. Fällt die Bajonette.
Vorwärts marsch. Der Sieg ist unser Lohn.
Mit der roten Fahne brecht die Kette.
Auf zum Kampf das Thälmann Bataillon.
Recording is from Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War
Recorded at WFMT Studio, Chicago
© J. O’Reilly Productions
Pasiones poster by Colm O’Reilly and Grace Amandes
Michael alone photo by Marguerite Horberg
Jamie and Michael by Iwona Beidermann
Read about Pasiones here: https://www.jamieoreilly.com/projects/pasiones-songs-of-the-spanish-civil-war/
Read more on the mudcat.org thread:
The song was written as an anthem for the German volunteers who made up the Thälmann Battalion of the International Brigades and was originally named “The Thaelman Column” (“Die Thälmann-Kolonne” or “Spaniens Himmel” (Spanish Skies) in German). Composer Dessau and lyricist Kabisch, husband and wife, composed the song while living in exile in Paris and used the pseudonyms Peter Daniels and Paul Ernst, names that still appear on printed versions of the lyrics.
Musically a march, the lyrics of the song make reference to the struggle of the anti-Franco fighters and to a more general struggle for the idea of “freedom”. The fight in Spain is put in the context of the universal struggle against fascism, with the chorus making direct reference to the situation in Germany during the period of Nazism. The chorus can be paraphrased as “Home is faraway, but we are ready/We fight and win for you: freedom!”
The song was popularized among German fighters in Spain by singer and International Brigades member Ernst Busch and later became something of an unofficial anthem of the GDR. Busch’s recording of the song was later popularized in North America after it was released as a track on the three-record set, “Six Songs for Democracy” by Keynote Records starting in 1938. It was later recorded by Pete Seeger and became part of Seeger’s live repertoire.