Harry Belafonte is not just one of the greatest entertainers of our time; he has led one of the great American lives of the last century. Now, this extraordinary icon tells us the story of that life, giving us its full breadth, letting us share in the struggles, the tragedies, and, most of all, the inspiring triumphs.
Belafonte grew up, poverty-ridden, in Harlem and Jamaica. His mother was a complex woman - caring but withdrawn, eternally angry and rarely satisfied. His father was distant and physically abusive. It was not an easy life, but it instilled in young Harry the hard-nosed toughness of the city and the resilient spirit of the Caribbean lifestyle. It also gave him the drive to make good and channel his anger into actions that were positive and life-affirming. His journey led to the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he encountered an onslaught of racism but also fell in love with the woman he eventually married. After the war he moved back to Harlem, where he drifted between odd jobs until he saw his first stage play - and found the life he wanted to lead. Theater opened up a whole new world, one that was artistic and political and made him realize that not only did he have a need to express himself, he had a lot to express.
He began as an actor - and has always thought of himself as such - but was quickly spotted in a musical, began a tentative nightclub career, and soon was on a meteoric rise to become one of the world’s most popular singers. Belafonte was never content to simply be an entertainer, however. Even at enormous personal cost, he could not shy away from activism. At first it was a question of personal dignity: breaking down racial barriers that had never been broken before, achieving an enduring popularity with both white and black audiences. Then his activism broadened to a lifelong, passionate involvement at the heart of the civil rights movement and countless other political and social causes. The sections on the rise of the civil rights movement are perhaps the most moving in the book: his close friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr.; his role as a conduit between Dr. King and the Kennedys; his up-close involvement with the demonstrations and awareness of the hatred and potential violence around him; his devastation at Dr. King’s death and his continuing fight for what he believes is right.
But My Song is far more than the history of a movement. It is a very personal look at the people in that movement and the world in which Belafonte has long moved. He has befriended many beloved and important figures in both entertainment and politics - Paul Robeson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sidney Poitier, John F. Kennedy, Marlon Brando, Robert Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Tony Bennett, Bill Clinton - and writes about them with the same exceptional candor with which he reveals himself on every page. This is a book that pulls no punches, and turns both a loving and critical eye on our country’s cultural past.
As both an artist and an activist, Belafonte has touched countless lives. With My Song, he has found yet another way to entertain and inspire us. It is an electrifying memoir from a remarkable man.
©2011 Harry Belafonte (P)2011 Random House Audio
I have listend to digital books for years and this my first review. Harry Belafonte's life was and is simply amazing. The narration was perfect. I have purchased hard copies of the book for myself, my son, my aunt and a close friend. It is that good.
Absolutely. The richness of the experiences shared by Harry Belefonte is beyond measure.
The look at American History from the perspective of someone who faced oppression and racism head on, and who learned that moving forward with peace is really the answer to saving tomorrow.
Hearing the story told with the passion they both used helped bring it to life in a way the words on a page could have not have done.
Well worth the time to listen!
Great insight into the life of one who lived the Civil Rights. Excellent historical account of Balafonte's life and the movement for justice!
I have always admired Harry Belafonte. I first viewed the film on his life and now having read the book I have greater insight into both him and many of the things he experienced. One of the most powerful messages has to do with the role that resources, particularly money and access to people and power play in social change. It almost makes you wonder what would have happened if that had not been the case. Something I will continue to ruminate on.
J.F., CA. I am a voracious "bookaholic" who enjoys many different genres. I am often listening to/reading multiple books at the same time.
I totally did not know Harry Belafonte this way. I had not known how important he was to the civil rights movement and I had known how big of an entertainer he was in his time. Belafonte does come across as somewhat arrogant but the reader is able to overlook this because his contribution is so vast (assuming all he says is true and I think he is credible). The reader also realizes that entertainment was actually the secondary role in his life and tackling social causes was the primary. As mentioned before, he has a pronounced ego but I suppose that worked for him in instances when he needed to be strong and self-assured. He has strong opinions on public figures that I do not always agree with but that is uniquely who he is - he usually speaks his mind. I also question some of the things he found necessary to include in the book like MLK's true feelings about his wife - it was not important to Belafonte's story and not his business to reveal. Like him a lot or a little, it is an interesting book that is well written and engagingly narrated.
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