Tim Pigott-Smith obituary

Stage and screen actor best known for his role in the TV series The Jewel in the Crown

The only unexpected thing about the wonderful actor Tim Pigott-Smith, who has died aged 70, was that he never played Iago or, indeed, Richard III. Having marked out a special line in sadistic villainy as Ronald Merrick in his career-defining, Bafta award-winning performance in The Jewel in the Crown (1984), Granada TVs adaptation for ITV of Paul Scotts Raj Quartet novels, he built a portfolio of characters both good and bad who were invariably presented with layers of technical accomplishment and emotional complexity.

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Tim Pigott-Smith in the title role of Mike Bartletts King Charles III at the Almeida theatre in 2014. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

He emerged as a genuine leading actor in Shakespeare, contemporary plays by Michael Frayn in Frayns Benefactors (1984) he was a malicious, Iago-like journalist undermining a neighbouring college chums ambitions as an architect and Stephen Poliakoff, American classics by Eugene ONeill and Edward Albee, and as a go-to screen embodiment of high-ranking police officers and politicians, usually served with a twist of lemon and a side order of menace and sarcasm.

He played a highly respectable King Lear at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2011, but that performance was eclipsed, three years later, by his subtle, affecting and principled turn in the title role of Mike Bartletts King Charles III (soon to be seen in a television version) at the Almeida, in the West End and on Broadway, for which he received nominations in both the Olivier and Tony awards. The play, written in Shakespearean iambics, was set in a futuristic limbo, before the coronation, when Charles refuses to grant his royal assent to a Labour prime ministers press regulation bill.

The interregnum cliffhanger quality to the show was ideal for Pigott-Smiths ability to simultaneously project the spine and the jelly of a character, and he brilliantly suggested an accurate portrait of the future king without cheapening his portrayal of him. Although not primarily a physical actor, like Laurence Olivier, he was aware of his attributes, once saying that the camera does something to my eyes, particularly on my left side in profile, something to do with the eye being quite low and being able to see some white underneath the pupil. It was this physical accident, not necessarily any skill, he modestly maintained, which gave him a menacing look on film and television, as if I am thinking more than one thing.

Born in Rugby, Tim was the only child of Harry Pigott-Smith, a journalist, and his wife Margaret (nee Goodman), a keen amateur actor, and was educated at Wyggeston boys school in Leicester and when his father was appointed to the editorship of the Herald in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1962 King Edward VI grammar school, where Shakespeare was a pupil. Attending the Royal Shakespeare theatre, he was transfixed by John Barton and Peter Halls Wars of the Roses production, and the actors: Peggy Ashcroft, with whom he would one day appear in The Jewel in the Crown, Ian Holm and David Warner. He took a parttime job in the RSCs paint shop.

At Bristol University he gained a degree in English, French and drama (1967), and at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school he graduated from the training course (1969) alongside Jeremy Irons and Christopher Biggins as acting stage managers in the Bristol Old Vic company. He joined the Prospect touring company as Balthazar in Much Ado with John Neville and Sylvia Syms and then as the Player King and, later, Laertes to Ian McKellens febrile Hamlet. Back with the RSC he played Posthumus in Bartons fine 1974 production of Cymbeline and Dr Watson in William Gillettes Sherlock Holmes, opposite John Woods definitive detective, at the Aldwych and on Broadway. He further established himself in repertory at Birmingham, Cambridge and Nottingham.

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Tim Pigott-Smith as the avuncular businessman Ken Lay in Lucy Prebbles Enron at the Minerva theatre, Chichester, in 2009. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

He was busy in television from 1970, appearing in two Doctor Who sagas, The Claws of Axos (1971) and The Masque of Mandragora (1976), as well as in the first of the BBCs adaptations of Elizabeth Gaskells North and South (1975, as Frederick Hale; in the second, in 2004, he played Hales father, Richard). His first films were Jack Golds Aces High (1976), adapted by Howard Barker from RC Sherriffs Journeys End, and Tony Richardsons Joseph Andrews (1977). His first Shakespeare leads were in the BBCs Shakespeare series Angelo in Measure for Measure and Hotspur in Henry IV Part One (both 1979).

A long association with Hall began at the National Theatre in 1987, when he played a coruscating half-hour interrogation scene with Maggie Smith in Halls production of Coming in to Land by Poliakoff; he was a Dostoeyvskyan immigration officer, Smith a desperate, and despairing, Polish immigrant. In Halls farewell season of Shakespeares late romances in 1988, he led the company alongside Michael Bryant and Eileen Atkins, playing a clenched and possessed Leontes in The Winters Tale; an Italianate, jesting Iachimo in Cymbeline; and a gloriously drunken Trinculo in The Tempest (he played Prospero for Adrian Noble at the Theatre Royal, Bath, in 2012).

The Falstaff on television when he played Hotspur was Anthony Quayle, and he succeeded this great actor, whom he much admired as director of the touring Compass Theatre in 1989, playing Brutus in Julius Caesar and Salieri in Peter Shaffers Amadeus. When the Arts Council cut funding to Compass, he extended his rogues gallery with a sulphurous Rochester in Fay Weldons adaptation of Jane Eyre, on tour and at the Playhouse, in a phantasmagorical production by Helena Kaut-Howson, with Alexandra Mathie as Jane (1993); and, back at the NT, as a magnificent, treacherous Leicester in Howard Davies remarkable revival of Schillers Mary Stuart (1996) with Isabelle Huppert as a sensual Mary and Anna Massey a bitterly prim Elizabeth.

In that same National season, he teamed with Simon Callow (as Face) and Josie Lawrence (as Doll Common) in a co-production by Bill Alexander for the Birmingham Rep of Ben Jonsons trickstering, two-faced masterpiece The Alchemist; he was a comically pious Subtle in sackcloth and sandals. He pulled himself together as a wryly observant Larry Slade in one of the landmark productions of the past 20 years: ONeills The Iceman Cometh at the Almeida in 1998, transferring to the Old Vic, and to Broadway, with Kevin Spacey as the salesman Hickey revisiting the last chance saloon where Pigott-Smith propped up the bar with Rupert Graves, Mark Strong and Clarke Peters in Davies great production.

He and Davies combined again, with Helen Mirren and Eve Best, in a monumental NT revival (designed by Bob Crowley) of ONeills epic Mourning Becomes Electra in 2003. Pigott-Smith recycled his ersatz Agamemnon role of the returning civil war hero, Ezra Mannon, as the real Agamemnon, fiercely sarcastic while measuring a dollop of decency against weasel expediency, in Euripides Hecuba at the Donmar Warehouse in 2004. In complete contrast, his controlled but hilarious Bishop of Lax in Douglas Hodges 2006 revival of Philip Kings See How They Run at the Duchess suggested he had done far too little outright comedy in his career.

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Tim Pigott-Smith as King Lear at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2011. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Television roles after The Jewel in the Crown included the titular chief constable, John Stafford, in The Chief (1990-93) and the much sleazier chief inspector Frank Vickers in The Vice (2001-03). On film, he showed up in The Remains of the Day (1993); Paul Greengrasss Bloody Sunday (2002), a harrowing documentary reconstruction of the protest and massacre in Derry in 1972; as Pegasus, head of MI7, in Rowan Atkinsons Johnny English (2003) and the foreign secretary in the Bond movie Quantum of Solace (2008).

In the last decade of his life he achieved an amazing roster of stage performances, including a superb Henry Higgins, directed by Hall, in Pygmalion (2008); the avuncular, golf-loving entrepreneur Ken Lay in Lucy Prebbles extraordinary Enron (2009), a play that proved there was no business like big business; the placatory Tobias, opposite Penelope Wilton, in Albees A Delicate Balance at the Almeida in 2011; and the humiliated George, opposite his Hecuba, Clare Higgins, in Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf, at Bath.

At the start of this year he was appointed OBE. His last television appearance came as Mr Sniggs, the junior dean of Scone College, in Evelyn Waughs Decline and Fall, starring Jack Whitehall. He had been due to open as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in Northampton prior to a long tour.

Pigott-Smith was a keen sportsman, loved the countryside and wrote four short books, three of them for children.

In 1972 he married the actor Pamela Miles. She survives him, along with their son, Tom, a violinist, and two grandchildren, Imogen and Gabriel.

Timothy Peter Pigott-Smith, actor, born 13 May 1946; died 7 April 2017

  • This article was amended on 10 April 2017. Tim Pigott-Smiths early performance as Balthazar in Much Ado About Nothing was with the Prospect touring company rather than with the Bristol Old Vic.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/apr/09/tim-pigott-smith-obituary

The destruction of Hillary Clinton: sexism, Sanders, and the millennial feminists | Susan Bordo

In this extract from her book, Susan Bordo asks how the most qualified candidate ever to run for president lost the seemingly unloseable election

Many books have been written about the way racial differences among feminists both divided and pushed feminist thinking and practice forward over the past several decades. In the 2016 election, however, it was not race but generation that was the dynamic factor among left-leaning women. Women like me, who experienced many cultural battles in the gender wars firsthand from the first scornful comments that journalists had heaped on womens libbers, to the public shaming of Anita Hill, to the renewed threats to bodily rights that we thought we had won decades earlier brought to the 2016 campaign a personal knowledge of the fragility of feminist accomplishments and an identification with Hillary that was deeper and longer than any current headlines.

We may have winced as I did when Madeleine Albright quoted a coffee-cup version of feminism or Hillary said deal me in. But we understood that behind every seeming appeal to sisterhood was the history of what was indeed a revolution and one that was far from over. We knew the role Hillary had played in that revolution, and the price she had paid for it. Many of us, too, had followed Clinton through the course of her public career, had read her autobiography, and knew very well that the accusation that she had come to issues concerning racial and economic justice late and for political purposes was among the most extraordinary fabrications of the campaign.

Many younger women, on the other hand no less feminist, no less committed to gender equality had formed their ideas about the Clintons, as Savannah Barker reminds us, in the shadow of 20 years of relentless personal and political attacks. Few of them as I know from decades of teaching courses on feminism, gender issues, and the social movements of the 60s were aware of the living history (to borrow Hillarys phrase) that shaped the woman herself.

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Former US secretary of state Madeleine with Clinton at a campaign stop.
Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

These young women werent around when the GOP, appalled that liberals like the Clintons had somehow grabbed political power, began a series of witchhunts that have never ended. (Hillary was correct: it has been a vast rightwing conspiracy, from the Spectatormagazines Arkansas Project, designed specifically to take Bill Clinton down, to Kenneth Starrs relentless digging into Bills private life, to the Benghazi and email investigations.)

They hadnt experienced a decade of culture wars in which feminists efforts to bring histories of gender and race struggle into the educational curriculum were reduced to a species of political correctness. They didnt witness the complicated story of how the 1994 crime bill came to be passed or the origins of the super-predator label (not coined by Hillary and not referring to black youth, but rather to powerful, older drug dealers).

It isnt necessary, of course, to have firsthand knowledge of history in order to have an informed idea of events and issues. When it came to Hillary Clinton, however, sorting out fact from politically motivated fiction was a difficult task, particularly if ones knowledge was filtered through the medium of election-year battles.

The 2016 election was no academically rigorous history course; it was dominated by versions of Hillary Clinton constructed by her political opponents and transmitted by reporters who usually dont see offering context as their job and dont have the time (or, for some, the inclination) to sort fact from fiction. And then, too, after decades of harsh schooling in the ways of politics and the media, Hillary herself was no longer the outspoken feminist who chastised reporters when they questioned her life choices, but a cautious campaigner who measured her words with care.

I knew just what one of my graduate students meant when I asked her how millennial feminists saw Hillary and she said a white lady. A white woman herself, she wasnt referring to the colour of Hillarys skin, or even her racial politics, but rather what was perceived as her membership in the dominant class, all cleaned up and normalised, aligned with establishment power rather than the forces of resistance, and stylistically coded (her tightly coiffed hair; her neat, boring pantsuits; her circumspection) with her membership in that class. When I looked at Hillary, I saw someone very different but I understood the basis for my students perception.

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Hillary Clinton urges voters to combat Trump policies: ‘Resist, insist, persist and enlist’ video

Any rift between feminist generations, however, would almost certainly have been healed by Donald Trumps outrageous comments and behavior, had younger progressives not become bonded, during the primary, to a Democratic male hero who both supported the issues they were most passionate about and offered young women independence from the stale and, in their view, defunct feminist past. These young women werent going to rush to order a plastic woman card for a candidate that had been portrayed by their hero as a hack of the establishment. They didnt believe in sisterhood a relic of a time when, as they had been told (often in womens studies courses) privileged, white feminists clasped hands in imagined gender solidarity, ignoring racial injustice and the problems of the working class.

They didnt want to be dealt any cards at a bridge game organised by Gloria Steinem or Madeleine Albright or Hillary Clinton. They wanted Bernie Sanders.

Sanders brands Hillary as establishment

Before I go any further, let me put my own cards on the table. The destruction of Hillary Clinton, I firmly believe, while propelled by a perfect storm of sexism, partisan politics and media madness, was bookended by two immensely powerful assaults. One was the inappropriate, inaccurate and inflammatory interference in the general election by FBI director James Comey. The other occurred much earlier, during the primaries, but its consequences are felt even today. I know I will make some of my younger feminist colleagues (and other left leaners) furious, which was distressing to me then, and still is.

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Clinton and Sanders in the first official Democratic debate. He had said he was sick of hearing about the damned emails. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

These people, in so many ways, are my natural colleagues, and most are as upset as I am by Trumps victory. But they played a big role in the thin edge (not a landslide, as Trump would have us believe) that gave Trump the election. For while Trump supporters hooted and cheered for their candidate, forgiving him every lie, every crime, every bit of disgusting behaviour, too many young Democrats made it very clear (in newspaper and internet interviews, in polls, and in the mainstream media) that they were only voting for Hillary Clinton as the lesser of two evils, holding their noses, tears still streaming down their faces over the primary defeat of the person they felt truly deserved their votes. Some didnt vote at all. And as much as I am in agreement with many of his ideas, Bernie Sanders splintered and ultimately sabotaged the Democratic party not because he chose to run against Hillary Clinton, but because of howhe ran against her.

Sanders often boasted about the importance of the issues rather than individuals, of not playing dirty politics or running nasty ads in his campaign. And its certainly true that he didnt slime Hillary by bringing Bills sexual accusers forward or by recommending that she be put in jail, as Trump did. He also seemed, at the beginning of the primary season, to be refreshingly dismissive about the email scandal: Enough already about the damned emails! he shouted at the first debate, and I remember thinking Good man, Bernie! Way to go! But within months, taking advantage of justified frustration with politics as usual (a frustration more appropriately aimed at GOP stonewalling of Democratic legislation), Sanders was taking Hillary down in a different way: as an establishment tool and creature of Wall Street.

I think, frankly, he said in January, campaigning in New Hampshire, its hard to be a real progressive and to take on the establishment in a way that I think [it] has to be taken on, when you come as dependent as she has through her super PAC and in other ways on Wall Street and drug-company money.

Progressive. Its a term with a long, twisty history. In the 19th century, it was associated with those who argued for the moral cleansing of the nation. A century ago, both racist Southern Democrats and the founders of the NAACP claimed it for their purposes. The Communist party has described itself as progressive. By the time Sanders argued that Clinton was not a true progressive, the word was not very useful descriptively one can be progressive in some ways and not so progressive in others, and no politician that I know of has ever struck every progressive chord. Context matters, too. As Jonathan Cohn wrote, in May: If Sanders is the standard by which youre going to decide whether a politician is a progressive, then almost nobody from the Democratic party would qualify. Take Sanders out of the equation, and suddenly Clinton looks an awful lot like a mainstream progressive.

For Sanders supporters, however, progressive wasnt an ill-defined, historically malleable label, but rather a badge of honor, a magical talisman for those who considered themselves anti-establishment. It may have been a fallback identifier for pretty much anyone The Nationand its journalistic kin smiled upon (as Michael Kazin described it), but it was an identifier with a great deal of potency, particularly for a younger generation longing for lives organised around something other than job hunting. When Sanders denied that badge of honour to Clinton he wasnt distinguishing his agenda from hers (their positions on most issues were, in reality, pretty similar), he was excluding her from the company of the good and pure and in the process, limiting what counted as progressive causes, too. His list didnt include the struggle for reproductive rights or affordable child care. Nor, at the beginning of his campaign, was there much emphasis on racial justice.

***

As I watched Sanders enchant the crowds, it was something of a deja vu experience to see a charismatic male politician on stage telling women which issues are and arent progressive. Cultural histories of the 60s rarely acknowledge what a sexist decade it was. We imagine that breaking through the suburban 50s fantasy meant that old-fashioned gender roles and attitudes had been discarded. Far from it.

Supporter
Sanders supporter holds placard outside Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

In fact, in many ways the decade was more male-centric than the 50s; it just privileged a different sort of male. Those men loved having us as uninhibited sexual partners and helpers in their political protests, but they never let us forget who was in charge of creating the platforms or who belonged in the political spotlight.

Working in the south for voting rights, young activists such as Casey Hayden and Mary King had gained sophisticated organising experience and found strong female role models they could respect in the older black women who were such a central part of the civil rights movement. But by the mid-60s, as black nationalism, the student movement and antiwar protests moved to the centre of cultural prominence, white activist women found themselves both unwelcome within black identity politics and demoted within the other movements.

Charged with making coffee while the male politicos speechified, shouted down and humiliated for daring to bring up the issue of gender inequality during rallies and leftist gatherings, their early calls for sexual equality were seen as trivial, hormonally inspired, and counter-revolutionary. Inspired by the Black Panthers to look to their own oppression, women began to speak up about what came to be known as personal politics. But unlike the Panthers, women were told over and over that they had to subordinate their demands to larger causes in the interests of the movement. They found themselves simmering and stewing as boyfriends and husbands defined what was revolutionary, what was worthy, and what was progressive.

It was both an exhilarating and a frustrating time to be an activist woman. Some, like me, dropped out of the fight for a time. Others became more violently countercultural and joined the Weather Underground. Others still became leaders of the emerging womens movement. In 2016, however, many activists saw that movement as part of establishment politics and no longer requiring their revolutionary fervour. As one Sanders supporter wrote:

Yes, equal rights for women and minorities are critically important. To consider these ideals progressive, however, seems pass. At this point, its more fair to suggest they are traditional. Gender and civil rights and equality may remain under attack from the right, but these ideals are positively engrained in two generations of Americans. Progressive voters, at this stage in our young countrys political history, want to challenge corrupt systems. The prison-industrial complex, the military-industrial complex, the financial-industrial complex, and the other lobbies that control our politicians and our government, for example.

Im fairly certain that Sanders himself doesnt see equal rights for women and minorities as so firmly inscribed in our culture as to be traditional or pass. Nonetheless, Sanders gave Clinton no credit for her longstanding progressivism in these areas, while identifying her with the corruption he was dedicated to cleaning up. Organising against the abuses that he made his signature causes was indeed a worthy progressive agenda. Portraying Clinton as the enemy of systemic change, on the other hand, was not only factually incorrect, but proved politically disastrous in the general election.

Sanders was the perfect vehicle to revive political passion both among the older left, revitalised by being on the side of the revolution again, and a younger generation who had yet to experience the sense of rightness, community, and belief in the possibility of radical change that nourished us in the 60s. Here was this guy who had lived through it all, who looked like a grandfather but spoke like a union organiser, who was making it seem possible again but in terms that spoke to the present, to their issues. He was fierce, he was uncompromising, and he wasnt afraid to call out clear enemies, which revolutions always need to rally around. Wall Street. Greed. Big Money. Super PACS. The establishment.

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Donald Trump greets Clinton following his inauguration. Photograph: Molly Riley/AFP/Getty Images

***

Initially, I liked Bernie Sanders a lot, and identified with him. In terms of class, geography, and religion, I actually have much more in common with him than I do with Hillary Clinton, whose background was solidly middle class, Methodist, and Midwestern. Sanders and I share the same immigrant, working-class Jewish roots. The neighborhood he grew up in in Brooklyn looked very much like the one Id grown up in in Newark, New Jersey. Although Sanders was a few years older than me, we had belonged to the same leftwing groups Sanders while in college, I while in high school. We even went to the same college University of Chicago and I sometimes wondered whether Id seen him on campus when I was a freshman and he a senior. As his campaign took off, and despite my support for Hillary, it made me smile to hear someone who sounded like he could have been a relative deliver speeches to mass audiences.

Sanderss branding of Hillary as establishment, however, seemed vastly unjust and corrosively divisive to me, especially when delivered to a generation that knew very little about her beyond what Bernie told them. Like progressive, establishment is a pretty meaningless term, particularly when lobbed at one Washington politician by another. Neither Sanders nor Clinton had been working outside the system.

Appearances to the contrary, Sanders was not a union organizer, but rather a longtime member of the Senate. And if Clinton had more support from the Democratic party, that was due in large part to the relationships she had cultivated over the years, working with others something Sanders was not particularly good at. Nonetheless, for weeks during the early months of the primary, I listened to 19-year-olds and media pundits alike lavish praise on Bernie Sanders for his bold, revolutionary message, and scorn Hillary for being a part of the establishment.

They described him as heart and her as head a bitter irony for those of us familiar with the long history of philosophical, religious, and medical diatribes disqualifying women from leadership positions on the basis of our less-disciplined emotions. He was seen as authentic in his progressivism while she was pushed to the left by political expediency as though a lifetime of fighting for equality and childrens rights meant nothing. He was the champion of the working class (conveniently ignoring that black and white women were members, and that their issues were also working class issues), but her longstanding commitments to universal health care, child care, paid sick leave, racial justice, the repeal of the Hyde amendment, and narrowing the wage gap between working men and women apparently evaporated because shed accepted well-paid invitations to speak at Goldman Sachs.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2017/apr/03/the-destruction-of-hillary-clinton-sexism-sanders-and-the-millennial-feminists

The Salesman wins best foreign language Oscar

Protest vote against Donald Trumps travel ban suspected to be partly behind Iranian director Asghar Farhadis surprise victory

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has won the best foreign language Oscar in Los Angeles, for a second time, for domestic drama The Salesman. Farhadi, 44, did not attend the ceremony because he said that the conditions that would be attached to a potential entry visa were unacceptable.

The director had originally planned to travel to Hollywood for the prize-giving to highlight the unjust circumstances that have arisen for the immigrants and travellers of several countries to the United States.

The surge in votes for his film was thought by some to be a registration by Oscar voters of a protest against Donald Trumps travel ban, which aimed to prevent people coming to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries. On Sunday evening in London, a free screening of The Salesman was introduced by London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Until the ramifications of the ban for film-makers such as Farhadi became clear, Germanys Toni Erdmann had been the strong favourite to take the prize. The other nominees were Land of Mine (Denmark), Tanna (Australia) and A Man Called Ove (Sweden).

The Salesman premiered at Cannes last May, where it won best actor for Shahab Hosseini and best screenplay for Farhadi despite moderate notices from critics. The film follows a couple in Tehran involved in an amateur dramatic production of Arthur Millers The Salesman, who are forced to move apartments following an earthquake. But the flat into which they move has an unhappy history, compounded by an unwelcome intruder.

Farhadi won Irans first Oscar for his film A Separation in 2012. This second award puts him in an elite category of double-winners in the category, including Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman.

Irans first person in space, Anousheh Ansari, read out a statement from Farhadi at the podium: My absence is out of respect for the people of my country, and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/feb/27/the-salesman-wins-best-foreign-language-oscar-asghar-farhadi

Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump | Jeff Sparrow

The great American radical showed how ordinary people mattered more than stars a lesson todays celebrities could do with learning

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/feb/20/paul-robesons-songs-and-deeds-shine-a-light-for-the-fight-against-trump