♫ Harry Belafonte — A Tribute ♫

I was truly saddened by the news of Harry Belafonte’s death for he was a great musician, but more than that, he was a great human being, one of a kind.  I know I can’t possibly cover all the things Mr. Belafonte did in his lifetime in a single post, but let me hit just a few highlights, and then you can listen to his voice of silk.

Belafonte almost single-handedly ignited a craze for Caribbean music with hit records like Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) and Jamaica Farewell. His album Calypso, which included both those songs, reached the top of the Billboard album chart shortly after its release in 1956 and stayed there for 31 weeks. It was said to be the first album by a single artist to sell more than a million copies.

Mr. Belafonte was equally successful as a concert attraction: Handsome and charismatic, he held audiences spellbound with dramatic interpretations of a repertoire that encompassed folk traditions from all over the world — rollicking calypsos like Matilda, work songs like Lead Man Holler, tender ballads like Scarlet Ribbons. By 1959 he was the most highly paid Black performer in history, with fat contracts for appearances in Las Vegas, at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and at the Palace in New York.

While his music was his claim to fame, Harry Belafonte’s contributions to the Civil Rights movement were legendary.  From the New York Times

Early in his career, he befriended the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and became not just a lifelong friend but also an ardent supporter of Dr. King and the quest for racial equality he personified. He put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

He provided money to bail Dr. King and other civil rights activists out of jail. He took part in the March on Washington in 1963. His spacious apartment on West End Avenue in Manhattan became Dr. King’s home away from home. And he quietly maintained an insurance policy on Dr. King’s life, with the King family as the beneficiary, and donated his own money to make sure that the family was taken care of after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.

In 1957, he had a role in the movie Island in the Sun, in which his character had a brief romance with a white woman played by Joan Fontaine, to the outrage of the racist South.  A bill was even introduced in the South Carolina Legislature that would have fined any theater showing the film!  Even as late as 1968-1969, his television appearances with white actresses Julie Andrews and Petula Clark drew viewers’ rage.

In the 1980s, he helped organize a cultural boycott of South Africa as well as the Live Aid concert and the all-star recording We Are the World, both of which raised money to fight famine in Africa.  He never stopped his political activism, and became more outspoken as time went by.  In 2013, he referred to the Koch brothers, the wealthy industrialists known for their support of conservative causes, as “white supremacists” and compared them to the Ku Klux Klan.  Fully appropriate in my view.  And when Donald Trump came onto the 2016 stage, Mr. Belafonte called him “feckless and immature.”

“Mr. Trump asks us what we have to lose, and we must answer: Only the dream, only everything.”

I could go on, but instead I suggest you read the full NYT article (link above) and for now let’s listen to some of Harry Belafonte’s music, shall we?

29 thoughts on “♫ Harry Belafonte — A Tribute ♫

  1. I’ve been in love with Harry Belafonte since the first time I heard him. He will be sorely missed by a lot of people and maybe even a few of the idiots. I wish I still had all of those records from way back then, but fortunately YouTube is now available with all of the music I’ve loved for years. And while I love the Calypso songs, Try To Remember is my all time favorite! RIP Harry! We still love you and will always remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As you say, that is one very bright spot in the Internet, that we can listen to almost any music with a click of the mouse! Harry Belafonte will be sorely missed, but we will always have his legacy. Glad you enjoyed the music!!!

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  2. He had a wonderful voice, and my Mum loved him. It was really her music but I did like to hear them when she played his records, though I was accused of heresy when I said I preferred Stan Freberg’s version of the Banana Boat Song! A great man, of the kind the world can ill afford to lose.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I must be of the same generation as your mum, at least as far as my taste in music goes! When I played the “Banana Boat Song” a few times, I included Stan Freberg’s version … his always makes me laugh! Yes, as I said after John Lewis died, the kind the world can ill afford to lose. But alas, we have their legacies.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: ♫ Harry Belafonte — A Tribute ♫ — Filosofa’s Word | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

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