John Heartfield & Big John

by Steven McCabe

When I was a boy the radio played a country music song called Big John.

A song about a large miner. He was both ominous and mysterious.

He did not spend decades designing for the theatre.

One day deep underground Big John saved many miners when timbers collapsed.

Through the dust and the smoke of this man made hell
Walked a giant of a man that the miners knew well
Grabbed a saggin’ timber, gave out with a groan
And like a giant Oak tree, he just stood there alone, Big John

He did not save himself.

Like a giant oak tree he stood there alone.

Singer songwriter Jimmy Dean performs Big John on live TV. Note the social realism stage design.

Big John was popular when the folk music revival was reaching its crescendo.

Country music and folk music both express blue collar or working class themes.

Nobody confused Big John with anti-fascist, anti-war German Dada artist & creator of photomontage, John Heartfield.

Heartfield survived the war and spent decades designing for the theatre.

Stage Set Design for David Berg’s ‘Mother Riba’ (Berlin, 1955)

The website is both exhibition and biographical historical document.

Heartfield moved through artistic phases and spent decades designing for the theatre.

Heartfield Art. Dada To Graphic Design To Anti-Fascist Antiwar Images To Theater Set Design

John Heartfield was never a miner. He did not work in a mine.

He did not create the stage design when Jimmy Dean performed Big John on live TV.

He spent decades designing for the theatre.