March 1 marked the 90th birthday of singer and activist Harry Belafonte, and he celebrated with the release of an anthology album that underscores a portion of his life’s work fostering racial harmony. Belafonte, the first artist of any race or gender to sell 1 million records with his 1956 hit album “Calypso” has throughout his career brought social consciousness to everything he does, merging the activist with the artist in the flow of his music. Belafonte marched with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, and most recently was an honorary co-chair of the Women’s March that took place in Washington, D.C., in January.
“When Colors Come Together: The Legacy of Harry Belafonte” is being released by Sony Legacy Records and features a multi-ethnic children’s choir performing an updated version of his classic, “Island in the Sun,” under the guidance of his son, executive producer David Belafonte.
The elder Belafonte co-wrote the song for the 1957 film of the same name that generated controversy at the time for its exploration of race and interracial romance. The younger Belafonte felt it was important to remake the tune specifically for its message of diversity to introduce kids to Belafonte’s music and the concept of racial and gender diversity.
“It is with this in mind that we look to introduce the legacy of Harry Belafonte to the youth of today, a young generation not aware of his unique and powerful artistic contributions to the world as an artist, producer, and social activist,” said David. “We intend to, at the very least, highlight fundamental principles and worldly perspective on both music and social change. As a Good Will Ambassador to UNICEF, a founder of the Peace Corps, a major force in the Civil Rights Movement in America (and globally), creator of the ‘We Are The World/USA for Africa’ initiative, and the ‘Gathering for Justice,’ his commitment to the well-being of children has been unwavering throughout his career. It should be with great urgency and enthusiasm that this legacy is shared with, and hopefully passed onto, the youth of today, as art and activism at is level is increasingly rare.”
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SOURCE: The Philadelphia Tribune – Bobbi Booker