Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sunday Top of Pops (?): Late Sixties

My classmate Kavindra Nethsingha sent me this link about the Diamonds, Little Darling
It just evoked an whole host of memories, the Sunday afternoon Radio Ceylon program at around 2 pm on Sunday. This was the late sixties, early seventies no TV at that time and I was a pre teen. The theme song to the program was by the Platters, "To Each his Own" (1959). I recalled it as the "Sun and the Rain" and Jagdish Mirchandani set me right including that it was the Platters who sang the song.

Anyways, 40 years later I still recall these songs and dragged them out from the deep recesses of my memory and see a common theme. The theme being African American singers. At that time I a 9-10 year old did not know who were African Americans. Preconditioning or triggering latent tastes. Then my parents too loved Paul Robeson, all American superstar who was blacklisted by the US govt. I just wonder if my parents knew he was a Black African American. Unhappily for an African American and son of a slave who is known world over, very few contemporary African Americans know his background, even though they may have heard his songs.
Robeson was an All-American athlete, and Phi Beta Kappa Society laureate during his years at Rutgers University. In 1923, Robeson drifted into amateur theater work and within a decade he had become an international star of stage, screen, radio and film. Robeson went on to be a recipient of the NAACP's Spingarn Medal, the Stalin Peace Prize and of honorary memberships in over half a dozen trade unions.[4][5][6][7] James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte have cited Robeson's lead film roles as being the first to display dignity for black actors and pride in African heritage.[8][9] Though one of the most internationally famous people of the 20th century, blacklisting during the Cold War has nearly erased Robeson from mainstream interpretations of history.[6]
Then as a teenager Eric Fernando (and Mahes (?) a lady) just sealed the deal with them playing more of the same. Recall Rose Royce (yes really) among the less well known African American groups being played.

See below, the Platters "To Each his Own" (1959), then Paul Robesons Summertime (1936) and Janis Joplins version of Summertime (1969) and finally Paul Robeson's version of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" from 1926. Paul Robeson's Ole Man River, 1936 as well as Swing Low Sweet Chariot I recall were hits with my father. All other than Janis Joplin used to be played on the Top of the Pops
  • The song dates back to the era of slavery in the United States when it was common practice to sell children of slaves away from their parents. An early performance of the song dates back to the 1870s by the Fisk Jubilee Singers.[1][2] Like many traditional songs, it has many variations and has been recorded widely (see partial lists of choral arrangements and covers below).
Platters: To Each His Own (1959)

Paul Robeson: Summertime (1936)

Janis Joplin: Summertime (1969)

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