Lot 75: Rare Signed Photograph of the Composer of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," Known as the "Negro National Anthem"
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Rare Signed Photograph of the Composer of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Known as the “Negro National Anthem” ********** JOHNSON, J. ROSAMUND. (1873-1954). American composer best remembered for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the “Negro National Anthem.” SP (“J. Rosamond Johnson”) with an AMusQ. 1p. 4to. N.p., N.d. Inscribed to “my good friend” Lionel Aucoin, a prominent collector of musical quotations. A black-and-white image signed by photographer, “Miss White, K.C.,” depicting Johnson casually seated in profile and wearing a dark suit. Johnson has penned a three-measure quotation from “Lazy Moon” in the upper right margin with additional lyrics written out vertically below a blank music staff in the right margin. ********** Trained at the New England Conservatory, Johnson came to prominence as a composer during the Harlem Renaissance. In 1900, he set to music “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a poem composed by his brother, lawyer, writer and Civil Rights activist, James Weldon Johnson. First performed at a Jacksonville, Florida, birthday celebration for Abraham Lincoln to honor Booker T. Washington, the song increased in popularity, and was dubbed “the Negro National Anthem” by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons in 1919. ********** Active on the Vaudeville Circuit as well as in London, Johnson also made a name for himself with lighter works such as “The Evolution of Ragtime” and “Under the Bamboo Tree.” With his song-writing partner, Bob Cole, he produced several popular operettas including Shoo-Fly Regiment and Red Moon. “Lazy Moon” was composed by Johnson and Cole in 1906. In 1931, Oliver Hardy performed “Lazy Moon,” in blackface in the 1931 film Pardon Us, and it was also recorded in 1973 by singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson. ********** In addition to his work as a composer, Johnson originated the role of Frazier in the premier of Porgy and Bess and compiled several volumes of negro spirituals and folksongs. ********** Johnson has drawn an additional music staff across the dark upper right portion of the image, which has been left blank. Lower right corner of the image suffers from damp staining and some paper loss. The staining affects about six words of the lyrics. With a few small creases not affecting the inscription or quotation. In good condition and very rare!