When I heard about the passing of Belafonte, I was immediately transported back in time, sitting in the dining room in front of my dad’s Ampex Crescendo stereo system, listening to the two live Carnegie Hall albums that were played over and over in our house.
His voice was magic, and he was an outstanding entertainer. He made the audience feel like they were old friends, warm and comfortable. There was always a joy of life in his music, even in the sad songs. He also brought other talented musicians and singers with him. He had no ego problems, and valued the talent of other performers as much as he did his own.
I never gave it much thought at the time, but although he was well known, his music was not really that prevalent on the radio stations of my youth. I never knew that the beginning of his career was in movies, not in music. Crossover artists were very rare in those days. Frank Sinatra comes to mind, but he started out as a singer, and then made movies. Elvis was the same. To my knowledge, neither Sinatra nor Elvis ever won an Emmy, but Belafonte did. He also recorded the first album that ever sold a million copies.
He also was a guest host on the Johnny Carson show. WOW! (I was a fan of Carson, but I must have missed that.) He continued his civil rights work his entire life. We were extremely lucky to have had his talent and inspiration. I learned the song “Jamaica Farewell” from his album and have had it in my program for over forty years. I always get a good response. (It’s hard to wreck a great song). Anyway, thank you Harry Belafonte, for the music, inspiration, and example of a truly fine human being.