My Song: A Memoir of Art, Race, and Defiance
Harry Belafonte, Michael Shnayerson
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An eloquently told personal account of an era of enormous cultural and political change, which reveals Harry Belafonte as not only one of America’s greatest entertainers, but also one of our most profoundly influential activists.
Harry Belafonte spent his childhood in both Harlem and Jamaica, where the toughness of the city and the resilient spirit of the Caribbean lifestyle instilled in him a tenacity to face the hurdles of life head-on and channel his anger into positive, life-affirming actions. He returned to New York City after serving in the Navy in World War II, and found his calling in the theater, before transitioning into a career as a singer and Hollywood leading man. During the 1960s civil rights movement, Belafonte became close friends with Martin Luther King, Jr., and used his celebrity as a platform for his activism in civil rights and countless other political and social causes. My Song tells the inspiring story of a startlingly original and powerful entertainer who has always engaged fiercely with the issues of his day.
students had staged that sit-in on their own, and hundreds of students across the South, unaffiliated with any group, had followed their example. Students had power—the power of their independence. They didn’t have jobs they stood to lose if they protested. And when they did protest, they stirred widespread sympathy if angry policemen tried to intervene. Black or white, these were America’s children, after all, still more innocent than not, and as youths, their protests had a special, universally
ours. Julie found a new place nearby, too; the neighborhood was as much her home as mine. Sometimes these days I see her walking her dog on Broadway, and on occasion we stop and chat. The legal wrangling is behind us; we have grandchildren to discuss; life goes on. In the wake of my divorce, I still had more comforts than most people on the planet. But no Town Car sits idling outside my door. I’ve rediscovered the New York City transportation system, the buses and subways, where I have found
chance and snatched the shoe. I thought she’d demand it back, but she just stormed back into her dorm, one foot shod, the other stockinged. So I kept it. Now, every time she saw me, she asked when she’d get her shoe back. I said she’d get it when she went out on a date with me. Finally, she gave in. I’d met one challenge with Marguerite, only to realize, on our date, that I was up against another. She came from a family of high achievers. She herself planned to earn graduate degrees and become a
for her; maybe it would hurt her career. Now Otto was the supplicant. He asked to come to her apartment and plead his case, and when he did, she made him his favorite dinner of cold steak and cucumbers. Once he’d persuaded her to take the leading role, he talked her into taking him to her bedroom—and one of the great Hollywood affairs of the day began. Because he was married, and Dorothy had her career to protect, the two kept their romance a tightly guarded secret. On set, they betrayed no
Light.” The island slang “Day-o” appeared in the lyrics of one version or another, but it was buried—a throwaway line. I came up with the idea of starting our version with a dramatic a cappella “Day-o” that resonated. Like the opening lyric of “Jerry,” it grabbed the listener and didn’t let him go. We called our version “Day-O,” and made it the album’s opening track, but none of us had any idea, when we recorded it, that it would be spun off as a single, much less rocket up the charts. The fact