By MARC McDONALD
Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.
In 1963, Bob Dylan released the song, "Blowin' in the Wind," on his album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Not longer after, Peter Seeger identified the song's melody as having come from the old Negro spiritual, "No More Auction Block," (a song that was sung by former slaves in Canada after Britain abolished slavery throughout most of the British empire in 1833).
In this version of "No More Auction Block," the great Paul Robeson performs a moving version of this classic song.
A true American musical giant, Robeson was persecuted throughout his career and he was often taken to task for his attacks on U.S. racism and his perceived refusal to condemn Communism during the era of McCarthyism hysteria.
It's ironic that Robeson himself was blacklisted and persecuted in his own country and has since been essentially scrubbed out of U.S. musical history, Stalin-style. But then, the U.S. has always enjoyed lecturing other nations about "human rights" while abusing the rights of its own citizens.
If you're a talented African-American musician in the U.S., it is, of course, possible to find fame and fortune---but it helps greatly if you keep your political opinions to yourself.
Hence, apolitical mediocrities like Michael Jackson can enjoy vast success and riches, while true musical giants like Robeson languish in obscurity. (Of course, it didn't help that Robeson was persecuted by the FBI, the CIA, and the House Un-American Activities Committee, or that he was blacklisted from performing or even from traveling overseas).
Robeson's big "crime" was that he refused to keep his mouth shut and he dared to speak uncomfortable truths that White America would prefer not hear.