Harry Belafonte

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Harry Belafonte

Born

3/1/1927, Harlem, New York

Birth Name

Harold George Belafonte, Jr.

Gender

Male
9.1
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User Rating
5 votes

Biography

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Harold George Belafonte Jr. is an actor, composer, author, producer and singer. He was born in Harlem, New York. His mother, Melvine was a domestic worker and his father, Harold George Belafonte was a chef. During his childhood, Harry lived with his grandmother in Jamaica. When he returned…more

Credits

Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

  • Quotes

    • Harry: (answering what keeps him energized and active in his humanitarian line of work) Even with all the difficulties and the frustrations that we feel—those of us who have been consistent in this journey—what makes it so remarkably attractive and encouraging are the men and women you meet on the way. I have met some glorious human beings: Eleanor Roosevelt, Fanny Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Dr. King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and Che Guevarra, and Cesar Chavez and others not quite so famous—they are the ones who really make the journey rewarding. The work I do with Unicef. The men and women I've met in Rwanda, South Africa, working against HIV/AIDS, and the courageous things that simple, wonderful human beings do for each other. In the face of all the inhumanity, it is their humanity that feeds the capacity to endure and continue to pursue honorable solutions to our pain.

    • Harry: (on performing the Yiddish song Hava Nagilah) When I want people to understand that we are more brothers and sisters than we are not, I say I will take your music and your culture to other places until you see twenty-thousand Germans in a stadium in Germany, singing a Jewish song at the top of their lungs. What a wild image - especially since they are being led by a black American! It really is in itself its own bit of poetry. It's a way of eliminating the barriers that have kept us so distant from one another. Sadly, Hollywood is perhaps the most intransigent and resistant force to permitting this to happen - all because the men and women who run that institution are incapable of defining the profitability in that, as if we should somehow lose our souls in the name of gaining material fortune. I think that's a very bad negotiation. That's a very bad deal. The more people are pollinated with information from other cultures and can see reward in our differences rather than tear them, the better things will be. There's a real profit to be made in telling the truth.

    • Harry: (on how he hooked up with Altman in the film Kansas City) Initially, he involved me as someone who could advise him about how to handle the black environment in the film. In the middle of that, he said to me, "Why don't you play the part of Seldom Seen?" - this ruthless, debased, immoral gangster who runs the Hey-Hey Club in Kansas City. When I looked at this character, I said to Bob, "I can't do this. It's outside my reach. People think of me as a man of peace. I'm with UNICEF and I'm a Martin Luther King man, and now you're telling me that I must deny all that and play this character?" You know what Bob said to me? He said, "Well, Belafonte, I want to ask you something. Who started this rumor that you're an actor?" [laughs] That gave me great pause to think. I said, "Wait a minute, I am an actor." He said, "So if you're an actor, there's nothing you can't play. There must be some aspect to this character that's within you. Just bring your thing to it. If I'm prepared to take the risk, why not you?" And I said, "Risk? I'll promise you there'll be no risk if I accept this role".

    • Harry: (answering who were the people he encountered and what was most meaningful for him personally when preparing the musical contribution 'The Long Road to Freedom') Leadbelly, Bessie Jones, Joe Williams and Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee were but a few of the easily identifiable personalities.
      When I listen to many of the voices that sang these songs, the soulfulness with which they expressed themselves dimensionalizes for me the sense of how broad my own repertoire of songs could be. As much as I understood about the music of the Caribbean—which some people view as exclusively my artistic voice—it is the folk music of the African diaspora, which includes America and the Caribbean and Brazil and all the nations of Africa, that enriches my own work. The purity of purpose and the kind of passion Miriam Makeba and the great Calypsonian singers and the other artists I mentioned brought to their work is very, very different from the ways artists express themselves in pop culture. Pop culture has none of the vibrancy that you find in the folk culture, where people speak directly to their own experience in the human condition. Pop culture tends to be escapist and to focus on the boy/girl, moon/June, the great influence of Tin Pan Alley. We had to go outside of that arena into places that were not so accessible to find blues artists and chain gang songs and other expressions that spoke to the suffering and the conditions of black people. Also very central to my own development was Woody Guthrie and the folk art of white America, and the kind of alliances that were made between black and white people who were caught up in the working class struggle of this country, and indeed the world.

    • Harry Belafonte: This is not the first time smutty commercials have been done, it's not the first time candidates have been lied about, not the first time that the system has manufactured falsehoods in order to destroy something that they want to destroy.

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