Harry Belafonte is an American Hero

Image result for harry belafonte

*** update Sept 2019 at bottom.  Original piece written Sept 2014

I have written a bit about Harry Belafonte over the years, but not nearly enough. I am afraid his magnitude may not be appreciated until after he is dead. Harry Belafonte is a great man. You know him as the banana boat guy. There is so much more music. He invented his own sound and style. Think of it, who else sings those happy reggae-ish calypso type catchy tunes? What the hell is calypso? I have no idea, as I hadn’t heard of it before Harry Belafonte. In fact, like Hunter Thompson and ‘Gonzo Journalism’, I am not sure it existed before Harry. There is nothing like it. As I said, you know the banana boat song (god, I hope so) but here are a few more. Yeah, he did ok with music. He was the first artist in history to sell a million records. Read that again. It wasn’t the Beatles, or Michael Jackson, or Nickelback, or Elvis.

Mr. Belafonte has also done so much more for humanity that transcends his music. You love Martin Luther King, right? Yes, we all do. What did you do, though? I mean, not just liking the guy or throwing up a quote to your facebook wall on Feb 1… but what have you personally done about racial segregation in the United States? Right. Me neither. Well, I did write this… but I am no Harry Belafonte. Oh, and I am not waiting until February to acknowledge black history. Here at I am Correct, every month is black history month, crackers! I digress, back to the story.

MLK famously wrote a book called ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’. MLK got arrested, a lot. That is kinda the deal with civil disobedience. Harry Belafonte was the guy who bailed him out every time. That is putting a target on your head. When MLK was locked up in the deep south, he was the most hated man in the country to those folks. In walks Harry and hands them the cash to set him free. That is balls of steel.

Oh, then he discovered Bob Dylan and gave him his first job. When Bob Dylan moved to New York in 1961, it was Harry who gave him his first job. Bob was Harry’s harmonica player. Are you thinking “how is that possible? Dylan is a terrible harmonica player?” You should be, it’s true. I don’t know what Harry saw in Dylan, but we owe him huge thanks for keeping Dylan afloat as he discovered his thing.

Am I going to tell you that Harry Belafonte also invented electricity, and puppies, too? Well, I can’t prove he didn’t.

Each and every one of you has the power, the will and the capacity to make a difference in the world in which you live in. … You should go through life knowing, “I am somebody.”

Who said that? Mandela? MLK? Ghandi? Chad Kroeger? Nope, it was our boy Harry. How about this gem from Maya Angelou Harry Belafonte?

You can cage the singer but not the song.

He is still alive and recording and writing and generally being the great fucking human that he is. I am not claiming that Harry isn’t being recognized by society. Thankfully, he very much is. Just this week he is being honored by Harvard. Last year he was honored by the Kennedy Center. It’s a big deal there. I am not sure what they do, or what it means, but the president shows up. So, it’s a big deal.

Ok.  Time out.  Let’s have a little song and a smile from that man himself.  Here he is with Steven Colbert riffing on some genuine classics.

So, the intellectual elite know all about him. I am not telling them the virtues of Harry Belafonte, I am telling you. Like you, I wasn’t invited to either event. They love Harry, whoever ‘they’ are. I just wanna make sure you do, too. Lastly, he is also impossibly charming. Here is from a year or two ago on the Colbert Report. I would embed it below, but it got pulled from youtube. So, here is a link from Colbert’s official (and very cool) site. Stay for the whole thing. At the 8:30 mark into the interview, they (Colbert and Belafonte) sing together. It’s pretty terrific.

I just found a biopic on Harry here. Can’t say how good it is, never seen it. Truth be told, I didn’t know it existed until 4 minutes ago. I am going to stream it now, it’s $3.

Thank you, Harry Belafonte.

**** update Sept 2019

I am just about done with Harry’s autobiography, ‘My Song’.  I learned a lot that I want to share with you quickly. I mention above his impact on the civil rights’s movement.  Harry Belafonte is one of the single most important and influential figures in the Black Civil Rights movement.  Let’s say there is a top 5 of GREAT black leaders.  MLK would be there, as would Nelson Mandela.  Harry is in there, too.  What I learned in the Belafonte book is his single-handedly bankrolled ALL of this.  Remember those voter registration drives, where white college kids drove down to the South to register voters (and sadly… get killed doing so).  Belafonte paid for it all.  He kept MLK solvent, as well.  MLK was so the real deal, he gave away all of his money and possessions.  He wouldn’t charge to speak.  He walked the walk, a la St Francis of Assisi.  He and Harry were best friends, and it was Harry who was flying Martin all over the country to speak.  It was Harry who bailed him out of jail every time.

You know about black civil rights from the late 60’s.  Harry and Martin were fighting this battle together since the mid – 50s.  See, Harry doesn’t just have a good heart.  Harry was crazy fucking rich at the time.  He was the first artist ever to sell over a million copies of a single record.  Note that I did not say ‘first black artist’, you racist.  He was the first.  In his prime he was selling millions of records, a huge movie star, and a VERY big club draw across the country.  Because of his mojo, he was able to break so many color barriers of that era.  Example?  When Harry started doing big Vegas shows, he wasn’t allowed to come in the front door or walk around the casinos.  He and his band where not even allowed to stay in those hotels.  As his star rose, he got to make his own terms.  One of my favorite moves of true civil disobedience was to go swimming one day at the big pool at one of those casinos.  People freaked the fuck out, like that scene in Caddyshack.

I think one of the reasons he was so successful as an activist was by staying under the radar.  He preferred to operate more behind the scenes, as a silent partner of sorts.  Smart move.  Had anyone known back then how incredibly valuable he was to the movement, they would have killed him, too!

I am so thankful and so happy that he is still alive as I write this (Sept 2019).  The man is 92!  Sadly, though, I think the reason you are reading this is because he likely just passed away.  Odds are, that will be the next time I read this as well.

Belafonte-cropped.png

What else has he done?  In case that wasn’t enough.  He worked very hard to end apartheid in South Africa!  You don’t do that with letters and marches and hugs and good vibes and benefit shows (btw, ‘USA for Africa and their song ‘We are the World’?  Yeah, that was ALL Harry Belafonte as well).  The way to crush a tyrannical regime is through money.  By cutting all of it off.  The key term is ‘divestment’.  This is getting all companies and governments to stop doing business with South Africa.  Belafonte successfully such diverse and important financial institutes as the teacher’s union.  the California teacher’s union pension is valued at 230 BILLION dollars.  Luckily, teachers tend to believe in justice.  Of course, that kind of money… you invest.  So, the California teachers union told their banker investment people ‘don’t do ANY business in South Africa.  Don’t even do business with people who do business with South Africa.’  Pepsi, for example, took Belaonte’s lead and pulled all their business interests out of South Africa.  Coke, on the other hand, did not.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Coke saw that Pepsi was leaving and took advantage of that gap to move in and make a monopoly in the market.  Now, am I saying specifically that “Coca Cola hates black people”?  Yes.  Yes I am.  In fact, i am going to put that in the tags so it becomes searchable.

Harry is one of the most important people alive, and we are all better for having him on our Earth.  If there was a black Mt Rushmore… well… it wouldn’t be in South Dakota on scared native land.  But it would have Harry Belafonte on it, it would have Nelson Mandela, it would have Bob Marley,  it would have Chris Brown, it would have Barack Obama.  You get the idea.

God bless you Harry!  You have done SO much for society and music and love and human rights.  AND…. don’t forget… dude discovered Bob Dylan and put him on a record!  If you know how much I love Dylan, you know that is my favorite part.

Like a few other pieces I have done over the years… I want to stop and treasure the man before he dies.  Too often, only when someone dies do we stop and appreciate them.  Let’s not wait any longer!

Here is a look at my fledgling ‘still alive’ series.  Of course, many have since passed on.

the Amazing Randy – still alive

Peter Coyote – still alive

Bobby Seale – still alive

Christopher Lloyd – still alive

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Black History – one for the ages… and the spacemen

If aliens arrived, and they asked you about black culture in the United States… and YOU are the only ambassador. Well… clearly not you.  But me. We can all agree this isn’t the best option, but it is what we have to deal with.  No pressure. Here is what I hand them:

 A book

soul on ice > Eldridge Cleaver. Eldridge Cleaver as a leader in the black panther party. You need to learn about them, they were AMAZING. They were a ‘black power’ group, but did this by taking over their own neighborhoods. Food drives, shoe drives… etc. Wait, you say – didn’t they shoot white cops? Nope. Geronimo Pratt’s sentence was finally overturned and he was set free. Pratt was jailed in the early 70s for shooting cops. But, he didn’t. He was set up by the cops.  Turns out the witnesses were cops who were lying.  Pratt did almost 30 years for that bullshit.  Same with Hurricane Carter.  It’s no wonder why black people hate you. I hate me already!

So a brief primer on the Panthers, whom I love. It was started by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. In this time, in Northern California… blacks were getting majorly hassled. This was happening everywhere, in here they took a stand. Huey Newton, the leader, knew law. He LOVED law. He would follow cops, and when would pull over and harass black folks, he would stand there and tell them their rights. “you don’t have to answer that”. Or “ask if you are being detailed, and do NOT allow them to search your person or vehicle. You have rights!”  Huey was known to carry a rifle in one hand, and a law book in the other.  Is there a better symbol of America than that?

 Yeah, he really did that. He ran around at night and advised his poor black community peers of their rights against the white racist cops. Well, the cops hated that, as you can imagine. Nixon made them public enemy number 1.
Eldridge became a leader in the group shortly after. According to Eldridge, he was very high up… possibly even #3 (behind Bobby and Huey). This book is Eldridge’s diary while he was in prison for something or other. Before you read it, know that Eldridge is a big fan of Eldridge. Did you read Clinton’s biography? It’s kinda like that. These guys LOVE themselves. Still, though, it is an AMAZING read and opened my eyes to black culture and contributions beyond what my middle class upbringing would provide.

 Bobby also wrote a book, called ‘Seize the Time’. Sadly, it isn’t as good. Know that Bobby was a MUCH bigger figure historically than Eldridge… but Eldridge is a hell of a writer. Eldridge even strikes me as a guy who probably refers to himself in the third person. Still worth it, though.

Side note – Bobby is still alive (unlike Huey and Eldridge). With the passing of Nelson Mandela… Bobby Seale might be the greatest living black activist… or a very close tie to Harry Belafonte.

 A movie

It is a real and genuine tragedy there is no good Black Panther movie. Man, would that make an amazing film. It has everything. I imagine young blacks know about MLK, and perhaps a bit about Malcom X (another amazing memoir, and also a bit of a hagiography)… but I bet few know about the story of the Black Panthers. Or worse, possibly the perception that the white power structure put out – that they were thugs and gangs and anti white and cop shooters. Listen, here is the thing… just because they are pro-black… it does not mean (to me anyway) they are anti white.  Speaking of movies and Malcolm X, I very much enjoyed the Denzel movie.  I think he did a terrific job.

 Sorry, I got diverted. I think Spike Lee’s movie ‘Do the Right Thing’. It’s a great story. Kinda funny, my only memory of the cast is Danny Aiello (the one white guy). I don’t much care for Spike, though. I think he is totally racist.  However, he is honest and upfront about his opinions.  Here is when I turned on him… or when he turned on us.  He was being interviewed for something, by someone, about making a shit ton of money on something or other and the reporter asked how he would spend the windfall.  Spike got all butt-hurt and demanded “would you ask a white man that?”.   Yeah.  Yeah we would.  It was an interview… about all the money you made… where we ask you questions… about the money you made.  No hidden agenda here, man.

Can I add one more thing?  It sure wouldn’t be a Tyler Perry movie.  Those movies are so stereotypie that my stereotypographometer®  just exploded.  Maybe if the aliens asked ‘how about a movie about what black people think white people think about black people’.

 An album

 Jimi HendrixElectric Ladyland.   This album is an insano masterpiece of songwriting and engineering. This is the last record from Jimi (in his life he only did 3). There isn’t much pop on here. No ‘Foxy Lady’, or ‘Purple Haze’. No sir. This fucker goes deep. To listen to the album optimally, I would recommend really good headphones, an ocean, and a shit ton of LSD. Not sure that is what you should do, but it worked for me. What was it Hunter said “I never advocated drugs, violence, alcohol, or insanity… but they always worked for me”.  Here is my favorite song of all.

oh, there is also this one.  Like this one a lot.  Side note, this album has Jimi’s highest charting hit… and it was a cover.

A poem

 You expect me to give you some Maya Angelou. I wish I could. I am sure it’s great. I never read any. From afar, it looked boring and preachy. I am not proud of that, just being honest.   Let’s go deeper, crackers. I am a lit guy, and I had a great lit teacher who turned me on to WEB DuBois. Dig this gem, from around 1900

My country tis of thee,
Late land of slavery,
         Of thee I sing.
Land where my father’s pride   
Slept where my mother died,   
From every mountain side
         Let freedom ring!

My native country thee
Land of the slave set free,
         Thy fame I love.
I love thy rocks and rills
And o’er thy hate which chills,   
My heart with purpose thrills,   
         To rise above.

Let laments swell the breeze   
And wring from all the trees
          Sweet freedom’s song.   
Let laggard tongues awake,   
Let all who hear partake,   
Let Southern silence quake,
         The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to thee   
Author of Liberty,
         To thee we sing
Soon may our land be bright,   
With Freedom’s happy light   
Protect us by Thy might,
         Great God our King.

a tv show

 In Living Color, the Wayans family.  So funny, and so aggressive and silly at the same time… about race issues.  That show was brilliant.  That show did what I think Tyler Perry is trying to do but can’t… let black people celebrate their differences and laugh about cultural variances.  This can be done playfully bouncing off stereotypes… without beating them to death.  I have never seen on of the 13 ‘Madea’ movies… but I will bet my life there is a scene in every one where she is sweating in a pentecostal church with a fan saying things like ‘oh lawdy lawdy lawdy’.  I bet she threatens to ‘whoop a lot of ass’.    Perry, you are to blacks what Adam Sandler is to whites.  Don’t over think that, it just wanted to see what it looked like in print.

                               power to the people.  All power to the people.  – Huey Newton

 

Harry Belafonte is an American Hero

Image result for harry belafonte

*** update Sept 2019 at bottom

I have written a bit about Harry Belafonte over the years, but not nearly enough. I am afraid his magnitude may not be appreciated until after he is dead. Harry Belafonte is a great man. You know him as the banana boat guy. There is so much more music. He invented his own sound and style. Think of it, who else sings those happy reggae-ish calypso type catchy tunes? What the hell is calypso? I have no idea, as I hadn’t heard of it before Harry Belafonte. In fact, like Hunter Thompson and ‘Gonzo Journalism’, I am not sure it existed before Harry. There is nothing like it. As I said, you know the banana boat song (god, I hope so) but here are a few more. Yeah, he did ok with music. He was the first artist in history to sell a million records. Read that again. It wasn’t the Beatles, or Michael Jackson, or Nickelback, or Elvis.

Mr. Belafonte has also done so much more for humanity that transcends his music. You love Martin Luther King, right? Yes, we all do. What did you do, though? I mean, not just liking the guy or throwing up a quote to your facebook wall on Feb 1… but what have you personally done about racial segregation in the United States? Right. Me neither. Well, I did write this… but I am no Harry Belafonte. Oh, and I am not waiting until February to acknowledge black history. Here at I am Correct, every month is black history month, crackers! I digress, back to the story.

MLK famously wrote a book called ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’. MLK got arrested, a lot. That is kinda the deal with civil disobedience. Harry Belafonte was the guy who bailed him out every time. That is putting a target on your head. When MLK was locked up in the deep south, he was the most hated man in the country to those folks. In walks Harry and hands them the cash to set him free. That is balls of steel.

Oh, then he discovered Bob Dylan and gave him his first job. When Bob Dylan moved to New York in 1961, it was Harry who gave him his first job. Bob was Harry’s harmonica player. Are you thinking “how is that possible? Dylan is a terrible harmonica player?” You should be, it’s true. I don’t know what Harry saw in Dylan, but we owe him huge thanks for keeping Dylan afloat as he discovered his thing.

Am I going to tell you that Harry Belafonte also invented electricity, and puppies, too? Well, I can’t prove he didn’t.

Each and every one of you has the power, the will and the capacity to make a difference in the world in which you live in. … You should go through life knowing, “I am somebody.”

Who said that? Mandela? MLK? Ghandi? Chad Kroeger? Nope, it was our boy Harry. How about this gem from Maya Angelou Harry Belafonte?

You can cage the singer but not the song.

He is still alive and recording and writing and generally being the great fucking human that he is. I am not claiming that Harry isn’t being recognized by society. Thankfully, he very much is. Just this week he is being honored by Harvard. Last year he was honored by the Kennedy Center. It’s a big deal there. I am not sure what they do, or what it means, but the president shows up. So, it’s a big deal.

So, the intellectual elite know all about him. I am not telling them the virtues of Harry Belafonte, I am telling you. Like you, I wasn’t invited to either event. They love Harry, whoever ‘they’ are. I just wanna make sure you do, too. Lastly, he is also impossibly charming. Here is from a year or two ago on the Colbert Report. I would embed it below, but it got pulled from youtube. So, here is a link from Colbert’s official (and very cool) site. Stay for the whole thing. At the 8:30 mark into the interview, they (Colbert and Belafonte) sing together. It’s pretty terrific.

I just found a biopic on Harry here. Can’t say how good it is, never seen it. Truth be told, I didn’t know it existed until 4 minutes ago. I am going to stream it now, it’s $3.

Thank you, Harry Belafonte.

**** update Sept 2019

I am just about done with Harry’s autobiography, ‘My Song’.  I learned a lot that I want to share with you quickly. I mention above his impact on the civil rights’s movement.  Harry Belafonte is one of the single most important and influential figures in the Black Civil Rights movement.  Let’s say there is a top 5 of GREAT black leaders.  MLK would be there, as would Nelson Mandela.  Harry is in there, too.  What I learned in the Belafonte book is his single-handedly bankrolled ALL of this.  Remember those voter registration drives, where white college kids drove down to the South to register voters (and sadly… get killed doing so).  Belafonte paid for it all.  He kept MLK solvent, as well.  MLK was so the real deal, he gave away all of his money and possessions.  He wouldn’t charge to speak.  He walked the walk, a la St Francis of Assisi.  He and Harry were best friends, and it was Harry who was flying Martin all over the country to speak.  It was Harry who bailed him out of jail every time.

You know about black civil rights from the late 60’s.  Harry and Martin were fighting this battle together since the mid – 50s.  See, Harry doesn’t just have a good heart.  Harry was crazy fucking rich at the time.  He was the first artist ever to sell over a million copies of a single record.  Note that I did not say ‘first black artist’, you racist.  He was the first.  In his prime he was selling millions of records, a huge movie star, and a VERY big club draw across the country.  Because of his mojo, he was able to break so many color barriers of that era.  Example?  When Harry started doing big Vegas shows, he wasn’t allowed to come in the front door or walk around the casinos.  He and his band where not even allowed to stay in those hotels.  As his star rose, he got to make his own terms.  One of my favorite moves of true civil disobedience was to go swimming one day at the big pool at one of those casinos.  People freaked the fuck out, like that scene in Caddyshack.

I think one of the reasons he was so successful as an activist was by staying under the radar.  He preferred to operate more behind the scenes, as a silent partner of sorts.  Smart move.  Had anyone known back then how incredibly valuable he was to the movement, they would have killed him, too!

I am so thankful and so happy that he is still alive as I write this (Sept 2019).  The man is 92!  Sadly, though, I think the reason you are reading this is because he likely just passed away.  Odds are, that will be the next time I read this as well.

Belafonte-cropped.png

god bless you Harry!  You have done SO much for society and music and love and human rights.  AND…. don’t forget… dude discovered Bob Dylan and put him on a record!  If you know how much I love Dylan, you know that is my favorite part.

Like a few other pieces I have done over the years… I want to stop and treasure the man before he dies.  Too often, only when someone dies do we stop and appreciate them.  Let’s not wait any longer!

Here is a look at my fledgling ‘still alive’ series.  Of course, many have since passed on.

the Amazing Randy – still alive

Peter Coyote – still alive

Bobby Seale – still alive

Christopher Lloyd – still alive