What a great pleasure it was hearing Harry Belafonte on Radio Four on Saturday morning. What a wonderful spirit. The singer, philanthropist and civil rights icon was talking about his chosen inheritance tracks. The segment was a bit squidged in at the end but nonetheless was the highlight of the show. Amazing stuff.
His chosen tracks included Bruce Springsteen’s Jack of All Trades and Belafonte paid tribute to Springsteen quite rightly as the inheritor of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, a special songwriter that continues that American folk tradition, celebrating the magic of ordinary people and the idea of the common good...
However, Belafonte also paid a warm tribute to Paul Robeson’s The House I Live In, clearly an important inspiration for Belafonte, that was especially moving...
He said of The House I Live In:
“It talks to the human condition and the brotherhood of mankind...
“The house that I live in is part of a street I live on that is part of a neighbourhood and the lyric celebrated the diversity not only of colour and race and language but the diversity of occupation.
“It was a homage to the workers of America...
“The house that I live in is a house for all people. We come together as a human family and share in the joy of each other and we share the difference of each other...”
The House I Live In talks to America but is an amazing song celebrating peace and solidarity that could be about any country, any place, it’s a universal...
You can still hear the whole Saturday Live Belafonte piece.
Belafonte also talked about the importance of living a life with no regrets and making a difference. It was powerful stuff.
Here’s Robeson's The House I Live In:
Here’s a few lyrics from The House I Live In:
The friends that I have found,
The folks beyond the railroad
and the people all around,
The worker and the farmer,
the sailor on the sea,
The men who built this country,
that's America to me.
The house I live in,
my neighbours white and black,
the people who just came here
or from generations back,
the town hall and the soapbox,
the torch of liberty,
a home for all God's children,
that's America to me.
No wonder one commentator on YouTube refers to it as their national anthem.
Fantastic. A record and a vision of how things can be. We need that passion and inspiration today.