Photograph: Paul Robeson: A Biography by Martin Bauml Duberman
Had a bit of a confusing/harassing day yesterday due to all sorts of things but managed to relax with music and watching the Tour de France. A good friend sent some lovely music and links and before I went to bed I was playing some of my favourite songs by Paul Robeson - which has inspired this personal blog about another hero of mine. Clicking on the title above will takes one to a site which gives some biographical details about him.
However a very important piece of Robeson's past [for me]not shown on that site is his involvement with the Welsh Hunger Marchers in the 1930s. Robeson met unemployed Welsh miners in London in 1929, visited them in Wales and during the early 1930s became involved with their struggle. He sang at Caernarfon, Wrexham, Neath and many other smaller towns and in Mountain Ash in 1938 and the Rhondda in 1939.
The following has been taken from the website [details shown here] which is a very interesting read: http://bit.ly/db1mcE
At the Mountain Ash Memorial Concert to the Welshmen who died fighting fascism in Spain he said,
‘I have waited a long time to come down to Wales – because I know there are friends here…..I am here tonight because as I have said many times before, I feel that in the struggle we are waging for a better life an artist must do his part. I am here because I know that these fellows not only died for Spain but for me and the whole world. I feel it is my duty to be here.’
The 1939 film "Proud Valley" showed the struggles of Welsh miners and was also a lot about Robeson himself although he played a fictional character.
In 1957 the Welsh miners tried to repay some of their debt to Robeson. He was 'trapped' in America by having had his passport taken away during the McCarthy witch hunt. Robeson was reported to be very depressed and there is a very moving account in the biography shown above that he had been invited to sing at a Welsh Eistedfodd but could not leave the US. So it was arranged that he should attend a New York recording studio and a 'phone link was set up so that a Welsh miners' choir could sing a song in tribute to him, which re-invigorated him.
In 1958 Robeson had his passport restored and left the US, arriving in Wales for the National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale as Nye Bevan's guest.
I always knew that my late father admired Paul Robeson and I had assumed - as a child does - that this admiration was based on Robeson's wonderful singing voice. It wasn't until I was doing some political research many years after my father died that the truth began to dawn. My father was amongst those Welsh Hunger Marchers and possibly met Robeson in the 1930s. He came from near Neath - did he hear Robeson sing there? I will never know! As my father was a political activist I can only assume that he would have admired whole heartedly Robeson's political stance. By the time of the Spanish Civil War, f'r instance, my father was living in England and his fiancee [later to become my mother!] and her family had Spanish refugees living with them.
My mother used to sing me a lullaby in the 1950s and sang it again to all my children. I always assumed it was an old East End song, until I heard it again on one of the many Paul Robeson CD collections which I now own!
In the 1950s my father attended many Eistedfodd as a journalist. I do wish I knew if he was in Ebbw Vale in 1958!
This is the lullaby my mother used to sing to me and my children:
To bring the story up into the 21st century the Manic Street Preachers sang 'Let Robeson Sing' and a link for it is here:
This blog is dedicated to Michael and Yvonne [they know why] who knew the first Elizannie