Harry Belafonte, Folk Hero – The New York Times

Of course, it started with the song, which is the actual folk music. Well, an interpolation of Belafonte, in its various guises, combining acoustic singing with black spiritual arrangements and island sounds. He took his best-selling music on tour from his million-selling album ‘Calypso’ (the album that included ‘Day-O’) to a white audience who would pay a lot to see him perform. I was. Most of the people he knew knew they were watching TV. In 1959, he managed to get CBS to air “Tonight With Belafonte.” This one-hour studio performance of him begins with his commercial for LeBron (sponsor of the night) live, melting from shimmering blonde actor Barbara Britton (ad seller), surrounded by shadows and giant chains. black man.

Belafonte’s viscous version of “bald womanAn entire hour is just this chilling: percussive work songs, chunky gospel, moaning blues, a dramatic saving set that hints at isolation and confinement, and a weather system called Odetta. is. Belafonte never gives a direct speech about injustice. He believes the songs and stage techniques speak for themselves. People—especially black people—will get it. It’s their music.

In her 2011 memoir, My Song, Belafonte wrote, “The more bleak my acting prospects became, the more I threw myself into political organizations.” That organizing took familiar forms: marches, protests, rallies. money. He helped underwrite the civil rights movement and paid for the Freedom Ride. He took out the life insurance policy of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., with Coretta Scott King as the beneficiary. The building he purchased at 300 Avenue in Manhattan’s West End and converted into a 21-room palace appeared to double as the movement’s New York headquarters. (“Martin started drafting an anti-war speech in my apartment.”) Yes, yes, Belafonte was near the movement’s spiritual core and control center.

But these dark Hollywood prospects – an immense combination of racism and all-too-raw talent – ​​made Belafonte uniquely earthbound and culturally organized. It wasn’t movies that sustained him in the lives of many people over the years, but he never stopped acting altogether. Convincing threats such as gangsters. His organizing was on television, featured prominently as himself throughout the 1960s, and his political reach was arguably as pervasive as his soulmate. His variety show introduced Gloria Lynn, Odetta, and John Lewis to America.

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