Paul Robeson sings for the workers at the Sydney Opera House.
So this happened. One of my favourite voices (seriously that voice) with radical politics to boot performing on the Opera House construction site.
I had never come across this before today, but a little quick googling says this, the first unofficial concert at the Sydney Opera House, was given during the workers’ lunchbreak on November 9, 1960. Robeson was touring Australia and New Zealand not only performing but promoting international peace, workers’ rights, and gender and racial equality, at a time when he and his wife (who also gave political speeches on similar subjects while in Oz) were persecuted for their politics in the US and even monitored by ASIO in Australia (how to know you’re doin’ it right). (x)
At the invitation of the Building Workers’ Industrial Union, Robeson performed two signature tunes and favourites of mine - showtune-turned-protest song ‘Ol’ Man River’ (of which this is my fave performance because of his face), and union song ‘Joe Hill’.
"Upon the backs of my people was developed the primary wealth of America." (x) (bonus points for stickin’ the theft of Aboriginal land in their faces)
"The artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative." (x)