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Paul Robeson

Paul Leroy Robeson ( ROHB-sən; April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976) was an American bass baritone concert artist and stage and film actor who became famous both for his cultural accomplishments and for his political activism. Educated at Rutgers College and Columbia University, he was also a star athlete in his youth. He also studied Swahili and linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London in 1934. His political activities began with his involvement with unemployed workers and anti-imperialist students whom he met in Britain and continued with support for the Loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War and his opposition to fascism. In the United States he also became active in the Civil Rights Movement and other social justice campaigns. His sympathies for the Soviet Union and for communism, and his criticism of the United States government and its foreign policies, caused him to be blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

In 1915, Robeson won an academic scholarship to Rutgers College, where he was twice named a consensus All-American in football, and was the class valedictorian. Almost 80 years later, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He received his LL.B. from Columbia Law School while playing in the National Football League (NFL). At Columbia, he sang and acted in off-campus productions. After graduating, he became a figure in the Harlem Renaissance with performances in The Emperor Jones and All God's Chillun Got Wings.

Between 1925 and 1961, Robeson recorded and released some 276 distinct songs, many of which were recorded several times. The first of these were the spirituals "Steal Away" backed with "Were You There" in 1925. Robeson's recorded repertoire spanned many styles, including Americana, popular standards, classical music, European folk songs, political songs, poetry and spoken excerpts from plays.

Robeson performed in Britain in a touring melodrama, Voodoo, in 1922, and in Emperor Jones in 1925, and scored a major success in the London premiere of Show Boat in 1928, settling in London for several years with his wife Eslanda. While continuing to establish himself as a concert artist, Robeson also starred in a London production of Othello, the first of three productions of the play over the course of his career. He also gained attention in the film production of Show Boat (1936) and other films such as Sanders of the River (1935) and The Proud Valley (1940). During this period, Robeson became increasingly attuned to the sufferings of people of other cultures, notably the British working class and the colonized peoples of the British Empire. He advocated for Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War and became active in the Council on African Affairs (CAA).

Returning to the United States in 1939, during World War II Robeson supported the American and Allied war efforts. However, his history of supporting civil rights causes and pro-Soviet policies brought scrutiny from the FBI. After the war ended, the CAA was placed on the Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations and Robeson was investigated during the age of McCarthyism. Due to his decision not to recant his public advocacy, he was denied a passport by the U.S. State Department, and his income, consequently, plummeted. He moved to Harlem and from 1950 to 1955 published a periodical called Freedom which was critical of United States policies. His right to travel was eventually restored as a result of the 1958 United States Supreme Court decision, Kent v. Dulles. In the early 1960s he retired and lived the remaining years of his life privately in Philadelphia.

Birth and Death Data: Born April 9th, 1898 (Princeton), Died January 23rd, 1976 (Philadelphia)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1925 - 1940

Roles Represented in DAHR: bass vocal

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 70 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BVE-32798 10-in. 7/27/1925 Li'l gal Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-32799 10-in. 7/27/1925 I'll hear the trumpet soun' Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-33084 10-in. 7/16/1925 Water boy Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-33085 10-in. 7/16/1925 Bye and bye (I'm goin' to lay down dis heavy load) Lawrence Brown ; Paul Robeson Vocal duet (tenor and bass), with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-33086 10-in. 7/16/1925 Were you there? (When they crucified my Lord) Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-33087 10-in. 7/16/1925 Steal away Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-33088 10-in. 7/16/1925 Joshua fit de battle ob Jericho Lawrence Brown ; Paul Robeson Vocal duet (tenor and bass), with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-33119 10-in. 7/30/1925 Swing low, sweet chariot Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-34077 10-in. 1/7/1926 Sometimes I feel like a motherless child Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-34438 10-in. 1/25/1926 Nobody knows de trouble I've seen Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-34439 10-in. 1/25/1926 On ma journey Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-38414 10-in. 3/30/1927 Down de lover's lane Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-38415 10-in. 3/30/1927 Since you went away Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-38416 10-in. 3/30/1927 I'm goin' to tell God all o' my troubles Lawrence Brown ; Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-38417 10-in. 3/30/1927 I got a home in-a dat rock Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-38418 10-in. 3/30/1927 Deep river Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-38419 10-in. 3/30/1927 Hear, de lam's a-cryin' Lawrence Brown ; Paul Robeson Bass vocal duet, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-38420 10-in. 3/30/1927 Ezekiel saw de wheel Lawrence Brown ; Paul Robeson Bass vocal duet, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BVE-38740 10-in. 5/10/1927 Witness Lawrence Brown ; Paul Robeson Bass vocal duet, with piano vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor CVE-43122 12-in. 3/1/1928 Ol' Man River Paul Whiteman Concert Orchestra ; Paul Robeson Orchestra, with mixed vocal chorus and soloist vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BS-047035 10-in. 2/9/1940 Ballad for Americans American People's Chorus ; Paul Robeson ; Victor Symphony Orchestra Bass vocal solo and mixed vocal chorus, with orchestra vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BS-047036 10-in. 2/9/1940 Ballad for Americans American People's Chorus ; Paul Robeson ; Victor Symphony Orchestra Bass vocal solo and mixed vocal chorus, with orchestra vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BS-047037 10-in. 2/9/1940 Ballad for Americans American People's Chorus ; Paul Robeson ; Victor Symphony Orchestra Bass vocal solo and mixed vocal chorus, with orchestra vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor BS-047038 10-in. 2/9/1940 Ballad for Americans American People's Chorus ; Paul Robeson ; Victor Symphony Orchestra Bass vocal solo and mixed vocal chorus, with orchestra vocalist, bass vocal  
Victor [Trial 1925-04-21-01] 10-in. 4/21/1925 Bye and bye Lawrence Brown ; Paul Robeson Vocal duet (tenor and bass) vocalist, bass vocal  
(Results 1-25 of 70 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Robeson, Paul," accessed July 26, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102809.

Robeson, Paul. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved July 26, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102809.

"Robeson, Paul." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 26 July 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102809

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