Harry Belafonte’s SING YOUR SONG (HBO On Demand)November 04, 2011
SING YOUR SONG
As the economy has tanked and quagmire-wars continue endlessly overseas, I’ve wondered where the protesters of the sixties and seventies are. Now as Occupy Wall Street spreads across the world, I realize that not only is that activism alive and well, but some of that feeling never went away. That fire for demanding human rights has been burning continually in Harry Belafonte!
At 84, the still handsome and vigorous Belafonte remains glorious and gracious, and still demanding human rights, as captured in the new documentary, “Sing Your Song” now On Demand on HBO.
For those who may not know him at all, or only vaguely as the guy who sings that Day-O song, this documentary will be a revelation. For those who were already aware of the multi-talented actor/singer, this will expand that awareness into full on awe.
With his good looks, charm and talent, Harry Belafonte quickly rose to success as a singer/actor. But his success brought controversy as young girls (many of them white) swooned for him, much to the dismay of older, more bigoted audiences. His theatrical appearances with Marge and Gower Champion broke barriers when Marge Champion (who is white) danced and sang with Harry, actually holding his hand on stage.
Even with his success and popularity, Belafonte experienced first hand the lack of civil rights afforded to African Americans when he was not allowed in the front door of hotels he was booked to sing at. Nor was he allowed to use the same bathroom as the white musicians on tour with him. In 1968 on an NBC special, Petula Clark touched his arm (gasp!) while they were singing a duet (which was not a love song, nor was the touch romantic or sexual in nature). When a Chrysler (the sponsor of the show) executive objected to the interracial physical contact, Clark and Belafonte held their ground and refused to re-do the number. The show aired to great acclaim and another barrier was broken.
Inspired by (and a close friend of) Martin Luther King, Belafonte used his celebrity to bring awareness to injustice and helped protect the other, lesser well-known civil rights activists by his brave appearances on the front line of marches and protests. And although his continued fight for Human Rights has hurt his career, he proudly continues to this day, a shining example. Take inspiration, Occupyers of Wall Street!
Jean Tait is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. Currently the Director of Programming for the Connecticut Film Festival, Jean has programmed for the Jacksonville Film Festival and Sundance Channel.
Look for SING YOUR SONG (HBO On Demand) availability on your local cable provider.
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