I’ve gotta learn to live like you
One of the prettiest Manics tracks. Not beautiful. Pretty. An acoustic anthem for the human rights activist Paul Robeson, complete with a voiceclip and some gospel influence fitting with Robeson’s gospel singing habits. The lyrics are a bit clumsy as Wire’s direct lyrics always are but it never goes fully cringy unlike certain other car crashes (hello Baby Elián) and even contains some great moments such as the chorus that nicely celebrates the man without going overly cheesy, but oh goddd the music is such a sparkling gem. James sings in an angelic fashion, especially in the chorus. Also, the voiceclip in this song is the second best usage of a voice clip on a Manics song (the first prize goes for Ready for Drowning, btw). The frequent usage of Nicky backing vocals (with the “say what you are” part being the best Nicky vocal cameo there is) is also a plus. There’s a wonderful warmth emanating from the song that not only goes well together with the heartwarming tribute that the song essentially is, but it also acts as a sweet golden heart of the otherwise rather madman album it stands in.
The video then failed to completely take advantage of the sweetness. I’ve got nothing against bands not showing up on their own videos but the Robeson video’s decision to just follow a group of young kids doing their ballet routines is… dull. Boring. And then there’s the constant fades of Robeson posters that are showed in your face just to show who the band is talking about. It’s not the worst Manics video (that credit goes to Autumnsong) but it’s in the top 5.
I’d claim Let Robeson Sing is a classic MSP single, but it was released on September 10th 2001 and, well, you can guess what happened with sales in general shortly thereafter. And the video probably didn’t help.
Remix-wise we’re talking about dodgy. The Felix Da Housecat mix is an electro trip that contains barely any elements of the original song, a thing I’ve never understood with remixes. However, the Ian Brown remix is a whole other matter. Musically it’s perfectly fine, keeping the song pretty much intact but adding some additional keyboard parts and changing the instrument sounds. Alright but nothing memorable. Except when you hit the break where you’d normally have the Robeson quote. No quotations this time, it’s Ian Brown rap time. It’s amazing. Truly, truly, amazing. THAT’S RIGHT, PASS DA MIC, JAY DEE BEE IS FLYIN’ DA KITE.
For the single release, the band (or James) covered a Robeson staple “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”.
Sleeve quotes: “The artist must elect to fight for freedom or for slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative” and “We have the power of numbers, the power of organisation and the power of spirit“, both from Paul Robeson himself.