Monday, July 11, 2011

Harry Belafonte

The May 2011 issue of Zoomer [my parents get it & pass it on to me] has a great article on Harry Belafonte.

Belafonte started his career in music as a club singer in New York, to pay for his acting classes. The first time he appeared in front of an audience he was backed by the Charlie Parker band, which included Charlie Parker himself, Max Roach, and Miles Davis - not a bad back up band for a new comer!

His first widely–released single, which went on to become his "signature" song with audience participation in virtually all his live performances, was "Matilda", [originally written by King Radio from Trinidad]. His breakthrough album Calypso (1956) became the first LP to sell over 1 million copies.

Here's his 1st appearance on Sesame Street back in 1978 with the classic "Day-O"

Turn the World Around
Harry Belofonte sang this song at Jim Henson's funeral. The african puppets where made specially for the song.

The classic Belafonte & Animal drum duet

Belafonte's political beliefs were greatly inspired by Paul Robeson, the singer and activist who mentored him. Belafonte's success did not protect him from racial discrimination, and so Belafonte refused to perform in the American South from 1954 until 1961. 
Belafonte supported the Civil Rights Movement of the '50s and was one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s confidants. He provided for King's family, since King made only $8,000 a year as a preacher. Belafonte bailed King out of the Birmingham City Jail and raised thousands of dollars to release other civil rights protesters. And like many civil rights activists, Belafonte was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

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