Monday, October 17, 2011

'Sing Your Song': HBO Documentary on Harry Belafonte Will Make Your Day-O

Recently I was invited to a screening of 'Sing Your Song,' the HBO documentary about Harry Belafonte that is airing tonight. Like me, you're probably most familiar with him because of the song 'Day-O.' You can listen to it here. Trust me, you'll be singing, "Daylight come and me wanna go home," for the rest of the day. You're welcome.

But what I didn't know about Belafonte was what a passionate activist and dedicated humanitarian he is. He's been a hands-on participant in political and social movements since the Civil Rights Movement and was a close friend and confidant of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as being one of the earliest figures to rally the support of celebrities to support causes he fought for, such as fighting apartheid in South Africa and the fight against AIDS in Africa. He also coordinated Nelson Mandela’s first visit to the United States after his release from prison.

One of the most moving moments in the evening came before the screening started and filmmaker Susanne Rostock relayed a conversation she had with Belafonte. He said to her, with tears in his eyes, "I'm so worried that I'm not going to be passing the baton." It gave such a vivid portrait of the actor and his dedication to his fight for equality and social justice not just for himself and his peers, but for generations to come.

The documentary contains moving footage of Belafonte with King and John F. Kennedy among others, and also interviews with friends including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Tony Bennett, Sidney Poitier and Quincey Jones. But the documentary also touches on the actor's shortcomings as a husband and a father, and he talks openly about his two failed marriages and he voices his regret at being an absentee father.

I loved getting this glimpse of the active and dedicated, yet modest life of Harry Belafonte and I have such admiration for his dedication to fighting for social causes that continues to this day - he recently lent his support to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

And, as my friend and I remarked to each other at the screening - we forget that Belafonte was – and is – so suave and such a stunner. Check out this video of him singing the title song from his 1957 movie 'Island In The Sun.' Take a lesson in class, all you 20-year-old hipsters on MTV:

Watch 'Sing Your Song' on HBO tonight (Monday, October 17) at 10pm.

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