The best recordings of Paul Robeson

A guide to the best example of the great American bass on disc

Paul Robeson

There are plenty of Paul Robeson compilation albums to choose from, and you can find him both as a singer and as an actor on disc. Try The Essential Paul Robeson, a generous collection featuring highlights of his performances for Vanguard Records.

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You could also head to the recordings he made for his own Othello label in the 1950s. On my journey, a blend of spirituals and folk song, was reissued by the Smithsonian’s African American Legacy Recordings series in 2007, with a 34-page booklet featuring historical photos.

For a landmark in Robeson’s life, turn to Live at Carnegie Hall – May 9, 1958 (Era, 1992). This captured his sell-out penultimate concert at the legendary venue, almost 30 years after he had first performed there.

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In 2013, the Digital Gramophone Company brought to light two rare LPS from the archive, releasing them as Paul Robeson Greatest Rarities Archive 56-57 on the major download platforms. One of the LPs, from 1957, features the transatlantic exchange between Robeson and The Miners’ Eisteddfod at Porthcawl.