The Peerless Voice of Paul Robeson: The Man They Couldn't Silence

The Peerless Voice of Paul Robeson: The Man They Couldn't Silence

by Paul Robeson


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The Peerless Voice of Paul Robeson: The Man They Couldn't Silence

Paul Robeson's recorded musical legacy has been parceled out over the years on many different LP and CD compilations. Although the liner notes to Rev-Ola's 28-track Robeson sampler emphasize the singer's remarkable social awareness, the song selection reflects his stylistic diversity rather than strictly focusing upon songs of struggle and dissent. An operatic basso who handled spirituals, gospel, protest songs, show tunes, pop melodies, and jazz standards with equal and unwavering facility, Robeson is also remembered as a fearless and outspoken political activist. The son of a slave who escaped captivity and became a minister, Robeson founded the American Crusade Against Lynching in 1948. In the days before his passport was revoked, Robeson went to the Iberian Peninsula during the Spanish Civil War and sang for the people, then protested the Non-Intervention Agreement (a policy that essentially benefited the fascist Generalissimo Franco) in 1937. Robeson was treated with respect when he toured Russia, and like Pablo Neruda made the mistake of initially assuming that his own experience reflected the reality of everyday life in the Stalinist Soviet Union; Neruda later said: "A moment in the darkness does not blind us." Robeson then stubbornly refused to revise his public utterances about the U.S.S.R. in order to avoid aligning himself with U.S. Cold War militarism. Note that during his Russian tour, smack in the middle of one of Stalin's anti-Semitic campaigns, Robeson sang -- in Yiddish -- the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising song, which begins with the words "Zog nit keynmol az du gueist dem letztn veg" ("Never say that you are walking on your last road"). Back home in the U.S.A., Robeson was banned from television at a time when he was a vital force in the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. The rest of his story is progressively sad and heartbreaking. The printed information provided with this disc is most inspiring, particularly Robeson's own epitaph that is carved into his tombstone: "The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative." This is posted on the CD insert beneath a quote from Robeson's eulogy, spoken by Lloyd Brown at the singer's funeral service in 1976: "How fortunate we were to have had Paul Robeson walk the earth among us. As artist and man he was a prophetic vision of how wondrously beautiful the human race may yet become. Now he belongs to the future."

Product Details

Release Date: 08/07/2007
Label: Rev-Ola
UPC: 5013929450820
catalogNumber: 208

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