Paul Robeson was born in 1898 in the USA and is best remembered today for his magnificent singing voice - an extraordinarily rich bass. He was also an athlete in his early days, and trained as a lawyer; his campaigns for civil and trades union rights made him a victim of racism and persecution, and of the McCarthyite 'anti-reds' scare of the 1940s and 1950s - his passport was revoked for eight years during the 1950s and he remained under FBI and MI5 surveillance for the rest of his life.
He was the first black actor of the 20th century to portray Othello, on Broadway in 1943: I saw him perform it at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon in 1959. He also appeared in a number of films, notably the 1936 Show Boat and, less fortunately, in the British film Sanders of the River (1935) which he hated as it was recut after shooting to appear to justify British colonial rule in Africa.
He made a large number of recordings - a few in America but after 1928 mostly in Britain. Many of them are Negro Spirituals, often accompanied by his regular pianist, Lawrence Brown, and a range of lightweight songs which often presented a slightly sentimentalized view of black culture. He died in 1976. (Mouse over the list for notes.)
MAH LINDY LOU (Strickland) (with orchestra directed by Ray Noble) HMV B4309 recorded 20 October 1932
I GOT A HOME IN DAT ROCK (arr. Brown) accompanied by Lawrence Brown (piano) HMV B2727 recorded 10 May 1927
DOWN DE LOVERS' LANE (Cook) (with orchestra directed by Carroll Gibbons) HMV B2777 recorded 15 June 1928
HAMMER SONG / LIL' DAVID (arr. Brown) (with Lawrence Brown, singing and accompaniment) HMV B8550 recorded 27 January 1937
WAGON WHEELS (Hill & de Rose) (with orchestra directed by Ray Noble) HMV B8135 recorded 16 February 1934
PLANTATION SONGS (with chorus & orchestra directed by Carroll Gibbons) HMV C1585 (2 sides) recorded 2 October 1928
EZEKIEL SAW DE WHEEL (arr. Brown) (with Lawrence Brown, singing and accompaniment) HMV B2838 recorded 30 March 1927
IN A NARROW STREET (Warren & Berwick) (with orchestra directed by Ray Noble) HMV B4499 recorded 2 May 1933