Thursday, April 16, 2020

"Like a love affair, in a way"

While the Manics' 'Let Robeson Sing', from their 2001 LP Know Your Enemy, doesn't actually reference the African American star's connections to Wales, it takes its title from a book that certainly does. And for his biography of Robeson, No Way But This, Jeff Sparrow explored the strength and depth of those connections - which blossomed from a chance encounter with striking Valleys miners singing on a London street into an unlikely but long-lasting relationship.

Evidently, the miners not only benefited materially from Robeson's support, but also politically and psychologically. Yet, as Sparrow makes clear, this was a case of mutual affection and admiration. The famous singer and actor - ostracised in his home country as a black man with left-wing sympathies, and equally (if less explicitly) in so-called "respectable" English society - found succour and strength in the companionship, solidarity and resilience of those who earned a living down a pit rather than on a stage.

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