portrait of singer Paul Robeson

Who should sing "Ol' Man River"?


What can the history of one Broadway song reveal about American race relations? In his book Who Should Sing Ol' Man River?: The Lives of an American Song, musicologist Todd Decker explores how one show tune has been shaped and reshaped over time. Decker joined Hold That Thought to share how "Ol' Man River" transformed from a Broadway ballad into a dance ditty, an activist anthem, and more.



"Ol' Man River": Cher, 1966; Tito Rodriguez, 1958; Frank Sinatra, 1963; Ravens, 1947; Paul Robeson, 1932Kenn Sisson Orchestra, 1927.