Paul Robeson

 

Although this song is about the actual labor organizer, Joe Hill, it is appropriate in a discussion of Paul Robeson. Robesonís rendition is inspirational. It also illustrates much about his own life. Persecuted throughout his life for standing up for equal rights and human liberty for all, in song and action he is inspirational. Robesonís voice is still heard and can never be silenced. ĎOld Man Riverí is Robesonís signature song, which also expresses the human search for freedom and the resistance to suppression. Robeson expressed through variations in the song, his relentless search for freedom and the pursuit of happiness for all. In later life the words changed reflecting a growing frustration but undaunting refusal to bow to pressure.

From about 10 years old I found comfort in the voice, words and action of this man. This is a man who inspires people to nobleness. From this scholar, athlete, singer, actor and human rights activist there is much to learn. I found comfort in the warmth of the voice and discovered an inner courage as a child. When I would walk by myself afraid of bullies or a barking dog, or even just the dark, I would sing one of the song's I knew as a Robeson song. I would sing aloud or to myself but always I heard his voice singing with me. The warmth and strength of his voice banished the fears. Heroes are important to children. They appear bigger than life and teach us values to live our lives by. Robeson certainly fit the role, physically large, strong deep bass voice and willing to give everything to his belief in equality and humanity. He taught me to take youthful anger and turn it to my benefit. As a role model he reinforced my growing beliefs in tolerance and respect of my fellow man. I would encourage young people to read about Paul Robesonís life and learn from it. For a man born over a century ago, there is much we can learn from him. This great manís message is timeless.

Joe Hill

Song by Alfred Hayes
Music by Earl Robinson, ©1938 by Bob Miller, Inc.

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, But Joe, you're ten years dead
I never died, says he
I never died, says he

In Salt Lake, Joe, says I to him
Him standing by my bed
They framed you on a murder charge
Says Joe, But I ain't dead
Says Joe, But I ain't dead

The copper bosses killed you, Joe
They shot you, Joe, says I
Takes more than guns to kill a man
Says Joe, I didn't die
Says Joe, I didn't die

And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Joe says, What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize
Went on to organize

Joe Hill ain't dead, he says to me
Joe Hill ain't never died
Where working men are out on strike
Joe Hill is at their side
Joe Hill is at their side

From San Diego up to Maine
In every mine and mill
Where workers strike and organize
Says he, You'll find Joe Hill
Says he, You'll find Joe Hill

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, But Joe, you're ten years dead
I never died, says he
I never died, says he

 

There is a movement to have a stamp issued to honor Paul Robeson. I think this would be a very fitting way to honor a man who in the face of adversity stood firm for America and Mankind. Check out the web page on Afro American Stamps and help by printing and sending the petition.



Click Stamps to Visit a site dedicated to Having the Paul Robeson Commemerative stamp issued.

Paul Robeson Petition (click the bar below)

(Once you get to the petition, click the print button on your tool bar)

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