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Old Man River

paul_bustill_robesonPaul Bustill Robeson
Birth: Apr. 9, 1898
Death: Jan. 23, 1976

Social Reformer, Singer, Athlete, and Actor. Considered one of the great American “Renaissance men” and the son of an escaped slave, he was the 1919 valedictorian of Rutgers University, where he also won fifteen varsity letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track & field. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1923, but soon left his practice to pursue a career in the performing arts. He became known as a master of Black Spiritual music, employing his formidable baritone in international tours. His performances brought wide recognition to this uniquely American genre and Robeson would meet with political leaders like Jomo Kenyatta, Jawaharlal Nehru, and several members of the Soviet Politboro. He would also perform in films, both in musical and dramatic roles. His performance of “Old Man River” in James Whale’s 1936 film “Show Boat” became legendary, both for its quality and for Robeson’s purposeful changing of the lyrics “I’m tired of livin’ and ‘feared of dyin’” to the more activist “I must keep fightin’ until I’m dying.” Working in more serious forms, he premiered Earl Robinson’s multi-ethnic cantata “Ballad for Americans” on CBS radio in 1939; he would eventually perform in twenty-five languages. In addition to his creative work, Robeson used his personal prominence to push for social and political reform. He supported the Spanish partisans against Franco’s fascist Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, raised funds for refugees from Hitler’s Germany well before such activities were fashionable, and organized a coalition that challenged President Truman to support an anti-lynching law in 1945. Widely criticized by American conservatives for his sometimes-socialist political views, he was accused of communist activities by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. His passport was revoked in 1950, preventing him from traveling abroad until its restoration in 1958. Undaunted, he continued to perform and work for civil rights causes, singing at Carnegie Hall and publishing his outspoken biography “Here I Stand” in 1960, all while becoming adept at speaking Chinese. When asked by a critic why he did not just stay in the Soviet Union, he replied: “Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here and be part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996, and in 2004 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in his honor.

Old Man River

There’s an ol’ man called
de Mississippi;
That’s the ol’ man I don’t like to be!
Je jeden stařešina zvaný
Mississippi;
Jako tento stařešina nechci být!
What does he care if the world’s got troubles?
What does he care if the land ain’t free.
Zajímá se, zda má svět trable?
Nezajímá se, že zem není svobodná.
Ol’ Man River,
That Ol’ Man River
Řeka – stařešina;
Ta řeka – stařešina
He mus’ know sumpin’
But don’t say nuthin’,
He jes’ keeps rollin’,
He keeps on rollin’ along.
He don’t plant taters,
He don’t plant cotton,
An’ dem dat plants ’em
Is soon forgotten,
Musí přeci něco vědět
Ale nic neříká,
Jen se valí dál,
Jen se dál valí kolem.
Nepěstuje brambory,
Nepěstuje bavlnu,
A ten, kdo je pěstuje
je brzy zapomenut,
But Ol’ Man River,
He jes’ keeps rollin’ along
Ale řeka – stařešina
se prostě valí dál kolem nás
You an’ me, we sweat an’ strain,
Body all achin’ an’ racked wid pain –
Tote that barge and
Lif’ that bale!
You show a little grit and
You lands in jail…
Ty i já se potíme a namáháme,
Celé tělo bolavé a týrané bolestí-
Nes ten náklad a
zvedni ten balík!
Projevíš trochu kuráže,
A přistaneš ve vězení…
But I keeps laffin’ instead of cryin’
I must keep fightin’;
Until I’m dyin’
Já se ale dál směju místo pláče;
musím dál bojovat,
dokud neumírám
And Ol’ Man River,
He just keeps rollin’ along
A řeka – stařešina
se prostě valí dál kolem nás

Zrcadlový text vytvořil Martin Tlustý

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Old Man River by Rostislav Mikulecky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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