Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Robeson’

One of the very few surviving drawings from the Warsaw Ghetto


“Zog Nit Keynmol (Song of the Warsaw Ghetto)”

Never say that you have reached the very end,
When leaden skies a bitter future may portend;
For sure the hour for which we yearn will yet arrive,
And our marching step will thunder: we survive!

From green palm trees to the land of distant snow,
We are here with our sorrow, our woe,
And wherever our blood was shed in pain,
Our fighting spirits now will resurrect again.

The golden rays of morning sun will dry our tears,
Dispelling bitter agony of yesteryears,
But if the sun and dawn with us will be delayed,
Then let this song ring out to you the call, instead.

Not lead, but blood inscribed this bitter song we sing,
It’s not a caroling of birds upon the wing,
But ’twas a people midst the crashing fires of hell
That sang this song and fought courageous till it fell.

So never say that you have reached the very end
Though leaden skies a bitter future may portend
Because the hour which we yearn for will arrive
And our marching step will thunder: We survive!


I like history and am a fan of World War II movies. Now when I say that, I don’t mean the combat films, though there are many fine examples. My favorites are those that focus on the people who fought as Partisans against the fascist forces of that time. Movies like Hangmen Also Die!, The Seventh Cross and Watch on the Rhine are such examples and favorites of mine. Casablanca, at its core, is also such a film.

There is something in these films that goes beyond the horror and stupidity of war and brings a very human element into the conversation. For me, it is the portrayal of common people fighting for their freedom and dignity in any way they can against brutal and overwhelmingly oppressive forces that I find so appealing. They often band together in covert underground organizations to form a network that attempts to stymie their oppressors expansive desires.

Many of these groups of partisans had rallying songs that they used to unite themselves and to shore up their strength and courage. In Watch on the Rhine, one of my favorite characters in all filmdom, a Resistance leader played to perfection by Paul Lukas, sings a song that he sang as a German soldier returning from WW I that had been adapted as a song of resistance to the Nazis. Very powerful stuff.

The song below (with lyrics above) is such a song. It is Zog Nit Keynmol which is sometimes called The Song of the Partisans or The Song of the Warsaw Ghetto. It was sung during the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto and is still sung today as an anthem of defiance and perseverance.

And survival.

Most versions of this song are in Yiddish or Hebrew but I am sharing the version of this song from the great Paul Robeson that integrates both an English translation along with the original Yiddish lyrics.

If you need to shore up your own courage and strength in the iffy days ahead, give a listen. Powerful stuff, indeed. Have a good day and stay aware.


Read Full Post »

Paul Robeson and Shipyard Workers singing "The Star Spangled Banner" 1942

Paul Robeson and Shipyard Workers singing “The Star Spangled Banner” 1942

It’s a Sunday morning which means a bit of music here on the blog.  I try to have something fitting the day and since we’re in the midst of the Labor Day weekend, I thought I would have something labor related.  It is a holiday celebrating the working classes after all, something we often forget as we rush to get in that last weekend of the summer.  I’ve talked here before about the labor movement and how it transformed the American life.  Almost every right we now take for granted in the workplace was fought for– and I mean fought for— by workers and organizers who banded together to demand better working conditions and higher wages.

There were some important names in the labor movement of the early 20th century but maybe none so polarizing as that of Joe Hill, a Swedish immigrant who came to America in 1902 and soon after, as an itinerant laborer,  became involved with the labor movement.  He joined the Industrial Workers of the World — the Wobblies— and wrote  some of the most memorable labor songs of the time, songs which are still played today– The Preacher and the Slave (Pie in the Sky) and There Is Power In a Union.

Hill was working in the silver mine areas of Utah when he was accused of a double murder.  Many believe that Hill was innocent , that the evidence cited did  not line up with the facts of the case, yet he was found guilty.   Many believed that his labor connections were the deciding factor in the guilty verdict.  He was executed by firing squad in 1915.

Hill did little to help himself, remaining silent about a wound that the prosecution claimed was inflicted on him during the murder.  Hill’s fiance later stated that Hill had wrote her from prison, saying that her former lover had shot him.  But Hill seemed to sense that he meant more to the movement as a martyr.

And that is exactly what he became.  He was cremated and his ashes divided into 600 small packets which were distributed around the world by the Wobblies to be cast to the winds.  He has been celebrated in word and song.  The name Joe Hill when spoken still draws the attention of those who know their history.

This is a song , I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night, written in the 1930’s by Earl Robinson and Alfred Hayes.   It is performed by the great Paul Robeson, one of the most interesting people of the last century.  Robeson was a star athlete, a lead actor and  headlining singer– the bright light in any sky he entered.    But more than that, Robeson was a ceaseless champion of the labor and civil rights movements.  If you don’t know much about Robeson, please look him up.

This is a subject that needs more space and time than I have to give today and for that, I apologize.  But please take a listen to the operatic voice of Paul Robeson as he sing about Joe Hill.  And remember what this holiday really means.

 

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: