Legendary balladeer Utah Phillips is hospitalized | TheUnion.com

Legendary balladeer Utah Phillips is hospitalized

Bruce “Utah” Phillips, known for his advocacy for the homeless and for his ballads and stories in defiance of injustice and in favor of a good laugh, has been hospitalized with a serious heart condition, according to a report from his son, Duncan Phillips.

The legendary balladeer was in San Francisco on Feb. 1 to be honored for his inclusion in a book titled “Americans Who Tell the Truth.” He had scheduled hospital tests for a long-standing heart condition to be done during his visit, according to Steve Baker, program manager for radio station KVMR, who has been in contact with the musician’s family.

“Doctors decided he shouldn’t go, and his wife, Joanna Robinson, went (to the ceremony) and spoke on his behalf,” Baker said Friday.

Phillips checked into California Pacific Hospital, where he was in the coronary care unit until he was moved into a private room Friday, according to Duncan Phillips’ blog, utahphillips.blogspot.com.

Phillips’ heart problems have caused the kidneys to retain water, increasing the pressure on his heart, Duncan Phillips wrote.

On Wednesday, after consulting with doctors about the possibility of a heart transplant, the elder Phillips decided against surgery.

“(Wednesday) was a day of extreme honesty with myself,” Baker quotes Utah Phillips as saying. “The time I’m going to go home and have is my time, and I’ll try to use it as well as I can. I have songs in me and stories in me. I’m not done yet, so stick with me.”

“The doctors are confident (that), with the right combo of medication, he will do well at home,” Duncan Phillips added Friday. “Whatever the outcome, he feels he has made the decision that is best for himself, and we all agree. …

“Hopefully, he will be resting and recuperating at home by the week’s end,” the younger Phillips wrote.

Phillips toured on a limited schedule due to his health problems until last summer, when his condition forced him to retire from the road entirely, Baker said.

Last week’s reception for the book was part of a portrait gallery of people whose “relentless quest for truth have shaped the country,” organizers said.

Those recognized include abolitionist Frederick Douglas, Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, labor organizer Emma Goldman, Chicano organizer Cesar Chavez, and Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers about the American military involvement in Vietnam.

In a visit to The Union recently, Phillips submitted these words that accompanied his portrait:

“Kids don’t have a little brother working in the coal mine, they don’t have a little sister coughing her lungs out in the looms of the big mill towns. … We organized; we broke the back of the sweatshops in this country; we have child labor laws. Those were not benevolent gifts from enlightened management. They were fought for, they were bled for, they were died for by working people, by people like us. … That’s why I sing these songs.”

Phillips is podcasting from his hospital bed at http://www.utahphillips.org.


To contact Prospector Editor Pam Jung, e-mail pjung@theunion.com or call 477-4232. To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail tkleist@theunion.com or call 477-4230.

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