Sunday, March 9, 2008

`Canada Lee'

They called him Canada Lee
And he was Broadway’s Native Son
He spoke out for human rights
So they took away his acting jobs.

His father came from the Caribbean
In the early twentieth century
And Lee was born in New York
And grew up in the big city
He studied the violin
And performed in the concert hall
But soon he began to notice
How white were their orchestras.

He ran away to a racetrack
And learned to ride a horse
He quickly became a jockey
And won more than he lost
But the era of Black jockeys
Was in the nineteenth century
Only whites were now allowed
To ride in their Kentucky Derby.

So Lee next tried boxing
And fought well in the ring
He won more than he lost
And was renamed “Canada Lee”
Despite his many KOs
They would not give him a title fight
For in the Roaring Twenties
Welterweight champs could be only white.

But boxing can be brutal
And in the head he got hit one night
With a blow that caused bad damage
So in one eye he lost his sight
Retiring from the ring,
He formed himself a band
Yet gigs were hard to find
So he hunted for a new job.

He found the Federal Theatre
In an Uptown Harlem church
They discovered that he could act
If the role was realistic
In `Stevedore’ and `The Big White Fog’
In `Native Son’, his big hit
He earned fame and applause
And much praise from the critics.

For eight years in the forties
On stage, radio or screen
He used his celebrity
In the fight for equality
Ed Sullivan smeared him as a “commie”
For acting in `Body and Soul’
And when he refused to condemn Paul Robeson
They cancelled all his radio shows.

The Canada Lee biographical protest folk song was written a few years ago to remind people how, historically, the U.S. corporate entertainment industry has not been reluctant to discriminate against certain actors and actresses on the basis of their political beliefs.

(You can listen to some of the other protest folk songs I've written by checking out the "Columbia Songs for a Democratic Society" site at the following link:

Next: Obama’s Platitudes vs. National Black Independent Political Party’s 1980 Charter

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