American singer, songwriter, actor, and activist, Harry Belafonte, is releasing a new album to celebrate his 90th birthday. The anthology album, called ‘When Colors Come Together: The Legacy of Harry Belafonte’ will feature the song he co-wrote for the 1957 film ‘Island in the Sun.’
Harold George Bellanfanti Jr (1927-) is 90 on 1 March 2017. Born in New York of Jamaican and Martiniquan heritage, Harry Belafonte also has Scottish heritage on his mother’s side and Dutch Jewish heritage on his father’s side. He lived in Jamaica with his grandmother for eight years from the age of 5-13.
After attending high school in New York he joined the navy and served in World War II. In the 1940s he took acting classes in New York alongside Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, and Sidney Poitier, whlle performing at the American Negro Theatre.
He is famous for his calypso songs, such as Mathilda (1953), The Banana Boat Song (Day-O) in 1956, and Jamaica Farewell (1957). He has also recorded other genres and acted in several films. He acted in ‘Carmen Jones’ (1954), ‘Odds Against Tomorrow’ (1959), ‘White Man’s Burden (1995) with John Travolta, Kansas City (1996), and Bobby (2006) about the assassination of Robert F Kennedy.
Although he won awards for his singing and acting, he has also received humanitarian awards. Throughout his career he has been an advocate for political and humanitarian causes. Belafonte supported the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and was one of Martin Luther King’s confidants. He has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 1987. Vocal in a number of advocacy campaigns, he is most active in civil rights and human rights, and also the ‘We are the World’ and ‘Live Aid’ concerts and campaigns.
His new album ‘When Colors Come Together’ is a reflection on his work as an activist to promote racial harmony and social cohesion. He said, “The differences that exist between us should be things that attract us to one another, not alienate us from one another.”
Photograph: Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte & Charlton Heston at the Civil Rights March on Washington DC in 1963