Aaah! You know, when I was practically still a baby, I believe this was the first album I remember seeing of Mr. Belafonte. I’m sure I still have the album somewhere 😃. I’m just going to come out and say it. In America, unless you came from the Caribbean, almost no one thinks of Caribbean music; unless you’re dating someone who happens to by Caribbean; or someone is talking about going to a NYC carnival/West-Indian day parade. So many things you could be writing about for Black History Month.
Let’s see now. What we can say about the incredibly multi-talented and then very handsome, Harry Belafonte? Well, he was born on 1927! That’s right guys! That makes him about 92 years old now 👀 ! BTW, he still looks healthy and amazing! Belafonte wasn’t just a singer & actor, he was also a heavy civil rights activist and a humanitarian.
Tally Me Banana!
I think it’s safe to say that, when people hear the name Harry Belafonte (and if they do actually remember him), they would most remember him for his “Banana Boat” song released in 1956; sometimes called the “Day-O” song. And that maybe because the younger generation heard it used in the then popular hit movie called “Beetlejuice (1988).” By the way, I should add that another one of his popular songs called “Jump In The Line (1961)” was also in the movie as well. If I’m not mistaken, there was supposed to be a reboot of Beetlejuice this year. Not sure if the project was cancelled or not.
Anyway, Harry was so much more than just a Caribbean performer. You know, in today’s political climate, the news media always take shots at how many people in office who’s been entertainers. In reality, this is nothing new. I’d say what is new (probably), is the lack of characters of the “once a celebrity” politicians, etc. Harry had intelligence beyond his years, an intelligence that America then and today were not ready to hear. He surrounded himself with great men in their own right; Sidney Poitier and Charlton Heston. And BTW, Charlton also fought fiercely for Black rights during the civil rights movement. Some how Charlton’s name always gets omitted in conversations of Black history.
Did you know that Harry was one of Martin Luther King’s very few confidants? Harry also helped MLK and his family financially, because king made very little money as a preacher in the beginning. Wow, that’s what you’d call a friend. Not many of those today (sorry to say). Did you also know that in the mid 80s, Harry helped to organize the whole “We Are The World Project?” Harry did so much for South Africa, especially when it came to the A.I.D.S. crisis. Africa had it really bad, there were no resources for them, neither was there education about the disease. Again, Harry Belafonte was, and still is, the last of his breed. He truly not only has a pure love for mankind, but sees the undying need to help each other.Diamond Hemp
The late Eunice Kathleen Waymon, or better known by her stage name, the legendary Nina Simone! Nina wasn’t considered to be a woman of classic beautify (especially as she got older). In fact, when I skimmed through her teenage photos and compared them to photos when she was in her 50s, it seemed as though she morphed in to an entirely different person. At one point, it appeared as though she exuded a lot of strong male energy. Years ago, I remember watching an interview she did, and she explained that prominent people in the music business told her that she would never make it as a performer. Why? They flat out said she was too ugly. I never forgot about that interview. It has to be on YouTube somewhere.
One Thing That Was True About Nina, She Stayed True To Her Blackness
Now, imagine hearing something like that, at a time when Black folk experience all manor of oppression. I can’t imagine how she must have felt. Today, I’m not sure if young people could understand this. Back in the day, calling someone ugly was worse than calling someone fat. And as a performer, the thought of whether or not people would actually pay to see her, had to have crossed her mind plenty of times.
Despite being told on a daily basis that she was too ugly for a contract deal, Nina stayed true to her Blackness, and stayed connected to her African culture. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit, if these same negative attitudes by White producers then, were responsible for her need to become a civil rights activist. It was interesting watching her make that physical transformation. From pleasing the executives by straightening her hair, putting on makeup, etc. To defying industry norms by wearing her hair natural, and fully embracing her African heritage by wearing African clothing. Just imagine how empowering that was.
Nina’s name is not on the lips of today’s music lovers. She mostly sang Jazz and some R&B. But let me tell you, she was a talented woman, with a very unique and brassy voice. In fact, some of her music has been remixed by some of the hottest DJs you can imagine. First Let me share with you some of my Nina Simone favorites. “Feeling Good (1965)” is a nice one I recommend; I also loved her version of “Screaming Jay” Hawkins’s “I Put A Spell On You (1965).” I also love her original “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (1964),” and despite what many people believe, this song was specifically written for Nina. Therefore, this song was NOT The Animals‘s original song.
Some of my favorite remixes include a song called “Baltimore,” I think it was remixed by Creed Taylor. It has a sick reggae beat, I love it. Another remix you must hear is a song called “I Can’t See Nobody,” remixed by Daniel Yaghoubi. “Turn Me On” is a cute remix done by Tony Humphies. Whenever you get a chance, I really think you should look her up on google, her story is fascinating. Nina died at the age of 70, in 2003. Her daughter followed in her footsteps. Lisa Simone Waymon Stroud, also known as simply Simone, is the splitting image of her mother. Watch her tear up her late mother’s song “Feel Good,” on YouTube.Save up to 94% off cover price on your favorite magazines