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Harry Belafonte is not just one of the greatest entertainers of our time; he has led one of the great American lives of the last century. Now, this extraordinary icon tells us the story of that life, giving us its full breadth, letting us share in the struggles, the tragedies, and, most of all, the inspiring triumphs.   Belafonte grew up, poverty-ridden, in Harlem and Jama Harry Belafonte is not just one of the greatest entertainers of our time; he has led one of the great American lives of the last century. Now, this extraordinary icon tells us the story of that life, giving us its full breadth, letting us share in the struggles, the tragedies, and, most of all, the inspiring triumphs.   Belafonte grew up, poverty-ridden, in Harlem and Jamaica. His mother was a complex woman—caring but withdrawn, eternally angry and rarely satisfied. His father was distant and physically abusive. It was not an easy life, but it instilled in young Harry the hard-nosed toughness of the city and the resilient spirit of the Caribbean lifestyle. It also gave him the drive to make good and channel his anger into actions that were positive and life-affirming. His journey led to the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he encountered an onslaught of racism but also fell in love with the woman he eventually married. After the war he moved back to Harlem, where he drifted between odd jobs until he saw his first stage play—and found the life he wanted to lead. Theater opened up a whole new world, one that was artistic and political and made him realize that not only did he have a need to express himself, he had a lot to express.   He began as an actor—and has always thought of himself as such—but was quickly spotted in a musical, began a tentative nightclub career, and soon was on a meteoric rise to become one of the world’s most popular singers. Belafonte was never content to simply be an entertainer, however. Even at enormous personal cost, he could not shy away from activism. At first it was a question of personal dignity: breaking down racial barriers that had never been broken before, achieving an enduring popularity with both white and black audiences. Then his activism broadened to a lifelong, passionate involvement at the heart of the civil rights movement and countless other political and social causes. The sections on the rise of the civil rights movement are perhaps the most moving in the book: his close friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr.; his role as a conduit between Dr. King and the Kennedys; his up-close involvement with the demonstrations and awareness of the hatred and potential violence around him; his devastation at Dr. King’s death and his continuing fight for what he believes is right.   But My Song is far more than the history of a movement. It is a very personal look at the people in that movement and the world in which Belafonte has long moved. He has befriended many beloved and important figures in both entertainment and politics—Paul Robeson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sidney Poitier, John F. Kennedy, Marlon Brando, Robert Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Tony Bennett, Bill Clinton—and writes about them with the same exceptional candor with which he reveals himself on every page. This is a book that pulls no punches, and turns both a loving and critical eye on our country’s cultural past.   As both an artist and an activist, Belafonte has touched countless lives. With My Song, he has found yet another way to entertain and inspire us. It is an electrifying memoir from a remarkable man.


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Harry Belafonte is not just one of the greatest entertainers of our time; he has led one of the great American lives of the last century. Now, this extraordinary icon tells us the story of that life, giving us its full breadth, letting us share in the struggles, the tragedies, and, most of all, the inspiring triumphs.   Belafonte grew up, poverty-ridden, in Harlem and Jama Harry Belafonte is not just one of the greatest entertainers of our time; he has led one of the great American lives of the last century. Now, this extraordinary icon tells us the story of that life, giving us its full breadth, letting us share in the struggles, the tragedies, and, most of all, the inspiring triumphs.   Belafonte grew up, poverty-ridden, in Harlem and Jamaica. His mother was a complex woman—caring but withdrawn, eternally angry and rarely satisfied. His father was distant and physically abusive. It was not an easy life, but it instilled in young Harry the hard-nosed toughness of the city and the resilient spirit of the Caribbean lifestyle. It also gave him the drive to make good and channel his anger into actions that were positive and life-affirming. His journey led to the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he encountered an onslaught of racism but also fell in love with the woman he eventually married. After the war he moved back to Harlem, where he drifted between odd jobs until he saw his first stage play—and found the life he wanted to lead. Theater opened up a whole new world, one that was artistic and political and made him realize that not only did he have a need to express himself, he had a lot to express.   He began as an actor—and has always thought of himself as such—but was quickly spotted in a musical, began a tentative nightclub career, and soon was on a meteoric rise to become one of the world’s most popular singers. Belafonte was never content to simply be an entertainer, however. Even at enormous personal cost, he could not shy away from activism. At first it was a question of personal dignity: breaking down racial barriers that had never been broken before, achieving an enduring popularity with both white and black audiences. Then his activism broadened to a lifelong, passionate involvement at the heart of the civil rights movement and countless other political and social causes. The sections on the rise of the civil rights movement are perhaps the most moving in the book: his close friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr.; his role as a conduit between Dr. King and the Kennedys; his up-close involvement with the demonstrations and awareness of the hatred and potential violence around him; his devastation at Dr. King’s death and his continuing fight for what he believes is right.   But My Song is far more than the history of a movement. It is a very personal look at the people in that movement and the world in which Belafonte has long moved. He has befriended many beloved and important figures in both entertainment and politics—Paul Robeson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sidney Poitier, John F. Kennedy, Marlon Brando, Robert Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Tony Bennett, Bill Clinton—and writes about them with the same exceptional candor with which he reveals himself on every page. This is a book that pulls no punches, and turns both a loving and critical eye on our country’s cultural past.   As both an artist and an activist, Belafonte has touched countless lives. With My Song, he has found yet another way to entertain and inspire us. It is an electrifying memoir from a remarkable man.

30 review for My Song: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Greg Brozeit

    Update: In a recent interview in Pittsburgh, Harry Belafonte warned “Hitler is not too far from our door.” This notion is no longer overblown hyperbole. Belafonte had a gift of prescience about political trends his entire life, as his autobiography proved over and over again. Original Review For those who have read Taylor Branch's trilogy on the history of the civil rights movement, My Song is an excellent and uplifting book that illuminates much more than the story of one man's contribution to ou Update: In a recent interview in Pittsburgh, Harry Belafonte warned “Hitler is not too far from our door.” This notion is no longer overblown hyperbole. Belafonte had a gift of prescience about political trends his entire life, as his autobiography proved over and over again. Original Review For those who have read Taylor Branch's trilogy on the history of the civil rights movement, My Song is an excellent and uplifting book that illuminates much more than the story of one man's contribution to our nation's history. And for those who aren't familiar with Branch's work, reading My Song might compel you to read more about the history Belafonte helped shape. It is wrong to categorize this autobiography among the self-indulgent "books" written by too many persons in the world of entertainment (I'm still scarred by the experience of trying to trudge through Quincy Jones' narcissistic love letter to himself and have avoided these types of books like the plague). Harry Belafonte is so much more than an entertainer. Indeed, as he makes clear throughout, his celebrity gave him the means to focus his anger about racism, Jim Crow, and injustice throughout the world in constructive ways that have changed our world for the better. Belofonte was born at the right time. He engaged in the fundamental issues dear to him, was able to exploit his talents for the common good unlike any artist before, and inspired the activism of celebrities in later generations. And we should never forget his talent and devotion to making the music of struggle and hope available and relevant to us all. This autobiography elevates our knowledge about the stories behind so many of the fundamental struggles of our age. I've listened to my Belafonte records with a depth of appreciation I never understood fully until I read My Song.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I knew that Harry Belafonte had an incredible voice, but I did not know that he was best friends with MLK, tight with JFK and RFK, and basically used his apartment in Manhattan as a meeting place for the major players of the civil rights movement. If I had to put this book into percentages, based on how much covered music and how much covered his various political causes, I'd say 15% was devoted to music and the rest to politics. This man had a direct hand in freeing Nelson Mandela! The only dow I knew that Harry Belafonte had an incredible voice, but I did not know that he was best friends with MLK, tight with JFK and RFK, and basically used his apartment in Manhattan as a meeting place for the major players of the civil rights movement. If I had to put this book into percentages, based on how much covered music and how much covered his various political causes, I'd say 15% was devoted to music and the rest to politics. This man had a direct hand in freeing Nelson Mandela! The only downside to the book is that there is so much detail - he's in his mid-eighties now - and his ego is so large that the book almost becomes confusing because he's involved in about 3 or 4 different civil rights fronts at the same time. I'm glad I read this and I still think the vocals on the original "Sylvie" are some of the best I've ever heard come out of anyone's mouth - male or female - but, I think I his editor should have tried to tighten this one up just a titch...maybe keep it under 400 pages. Eh, what do I know? Here I am rambling again...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Excellent book. I've been listening to Belafonte all my life (my parents were huge fans and had all his records) and I knew he was an activist, but I had no idea how MUCH of an activist he's been. He was a good friend of Martin Luther King's, not just as a financial donor, but as an integral part of the team. He knew and worked with everybody. I also hadn't known that he started as an actor--I thought he'd made some films once he became a musical star. This book seemed very honest in detailing h Excellent book. I've been listening to Belafonte all my life (my parents were huge fans and had all his records) and I knew he was an activist, but I had no idea how MUCH of an activist he's been. He was a good friend of Martin Luther King's, not just as a financial donor, but as an integral part of the team. He knew and worked with everybody. I also hadn't known that he started as an actor--I thought he'd made some films once he became a musical star. This book seemed very honest in detailing his not-so-great human failings as well. A year or so ago I saw a wonderful interview he had with Carlos Santana and was very impressed with the values and principles of them both, and this book really deepened my appreciation of him. So much more than Day-o!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    (Kindle) "Ultimately, it isn't so important how long you live. The important thing is how well you live." --Martin Luther King Jr. (pg 325) The amount of respect and admiration that I have for Harry Belafonte has grown exponentially after reading his autobiography. Belafonte provides a mature, thoughtful retrospective of his career both in music/acting and political activism. "I see the little boy I was, in all his complexities, angry and hurt, almost always alone. Yet why this little boy, among all (Kindle) "Ultimately, it isn't so important how long you live. The important thing is how well you live." --Martin Luther King Jr. (pg 325) The amount of respect and admiration that I have for Harry Belafonte has grown exponentially after reading his autobiography. Belafonte provides a mature, thoughtful retrospective of his career both in music/acting and political activism. "I see the little boy I was, in all his complexities, angry and hurt, almost always alone. Yet why this little boy, among all others, should use his anger to push himself up, make a name for himself, and then make it his mission to smash racial barriers and injustice with such grim determination, I'm not sure I can say. "Perhaps, in the end, where you anger comes from is less important than what you do with it." Following WWII, Belafonte uses his GI bill funds and starts his career taking acting classes. This is a magical period in Hollywood and New York entertainment history. He finds himself in a group of wannabe actors that includes Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau, Bea Arthur, Elaine Stritch, Wally Cox and Tony Curtis. Each of these early acting schools and experiences become foundation friends that Belefonte would stay in touch with and engage in civil rights and humanitarian causes throughout their lives. While I know Harry Belafonte first as a singer, his passion was for acting. "Drama was serious; it was a tool to speak truth to power, to change society and especially to show the folly of war." The late 40's was a struggle for serious black actors, where limited parts made it even harder to make a living. One of his friends suggested that Harry pick up an extra paycheck by filling in singing between at intermissions at a local club. Not thinking of himself as a singer, he was reluctant, but finally agrees. His first gig was nerve wracking until he realized several jazz greats were slipping into position behind him to play back up. Harry was astonished that Al Haig, Tommy Potter, Max Roach and Charlie Parker would volunteer to be back up for an unknown 21 year old singer. This amazing act of generosity made an impression on Harry, even as it launched his career as a singer. Repeatedly through is life, Harry would go out of his way to generously help up and coming singers and talent. Harry's mother, a complicated woman, set very high standards for Harry when it came to having a purpose in life. "My mother had told me to wake up every morning and known how I'd wage the fight against injustice." The power of high expectations, moral purpose and early childhood longing for approval from his single parent mother became fuel for an incredible lifetime of work for civil rights, economic justice and world peace. I learned that Harry was a major funder and fundraiser for civil rights work in the 60's. Out of his own pocket, and sometimes when he couldn't really afford it, he raised bail for jailed civil rights protesters. There's a harrowing tale of when he called up Sidney Poitier for some emergency action in the middle of the night--and the two of them went into a very dicey situation to deliver funds to civil rights protesters in the deep south. I'm surprised after this event that Sidney ever took his calls again. What struck me as Harry shares the story of the civil rights movement is not only his first hand perspective of events and famous names, but his understanding of his role as an individual who must do something; and that individual does not speak for any contingency. He facilitated important meetings, he brought great minds together, he challenged pragmatic thinkers to find their moral compass, he wasn't afraid to ASK, to ask for help, to ask for action, to ask for the impossible--but it wasn't about Harry Belefonte. Ever. He knew it was about causes. That's an interesting and mature perspective. So easily, one can slip into demagoguery--but Harry seems to have understood and respected his own self worth. He was scared at times. He did stupid things at times. He admits to failures as a husband and father--yet through all of this, his actions are in alignment with his moral core. Harry is human with great compassion and care for humanity--all humanity. This is a powerful book. It informs younger generations about the reality of the civil rights movement, what it took to change Jim Crow laws, to fight for justice. Its eerie relevance to the fight against racism blossoming up once again makes it very clear that racism was never gone, it just went underground. What it will take to bring out country back to a moral center is intimidating. Do we have the where with all to do what Harry's generation did? Do we have the courage, the commitment? How can we NOT? What other choice do we have? RECOMMEND RECOMMEND RECOMMEND Read it now.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    I picked up this book because the ladies in my family have always loved Harry Belafonte and because I had just seen him on “CBS Sunday Morning” the same week I had coincidentally watched his episode of “The Muppet Show”. I am ashamed to admit how much I didn’t know about Harry Belafonte. His account of the civil rights movement, which comprises about half of the book, was so detailed that I finally was able to have a working chronology in my head. Before reading this book I knew all of the event I picked up this book because the ladies in my family have always loved Harry Belafonte and because I had just seen him on “CBS Sunday Morning” the same week I had coincidentally watched his episode of “The Muppet Show”. I am ashamed to admit how much I didn’t know about Harry Belafonte. His account of the civil rights movement, which comprises about half of the book, was so detailed that I finally was able to have a working chronology in my head. Before reading this book I knew all of the events but couldn’t make a coherent story out of them. His involvement and commitment to the cause is simply stunning, and humbling. I admire his outspoken views on politics, such as his kind words for Fidel Castro and favorable views on Hugo Chavez (despite getting used by the guy for publicity). I imagine Belafonte will lose as many fans as he will gain with some of these sentiments. I admire his candor when discussing his frustration with the early Kennedy administration, the rightward drift of Martin Luther King’s family, and his disappointment in today’s black leaders regardless of their political affiliation. Because of the depth of his commitment to political causes and the breadth of his experiences, Belafonte presents with a highly nuanced view of history. He relates how he could see MLK’s SCLC was growing staid by the mid-sixties and was not getting the same results as the SNCC organization. Yet he is ultimately unimpressed with Stokely Charmichael’s exile to Guinea and even doubts Miriam Makeba’s moral compass while married to Charmichael and involved with dictator Ahmed Sékou Touré. Belafonte returns frequently to the subject of Bobby Kennedy, as the two had countless exchanges about the civil rights movement during RFK’s tenure as Attorney General. Belafonte portrays Bobby first as a coldly calculating guard to JFK who hopes that the civil rights movement will somehow blow over, but who gradually becomes enlightened and not only caves to the movement’s pressure but actually becomes aligned in his heart with the cause. People who Harry speaks highly of: Dorothy Dandridge (an unrequited love), Marlon Brando (presented as a talented rascal rather than a difficult genius), Joan Fontaine (courageous actress), Roger Moore (a great gambling buddy). Belafonte writes with compassion about Sammy Davis Jr.’s difficult position in the Rat Pack and Hollywood in general, but he does not hold back his disapproval for the choices Sammy made. Aside from the early Kennedys and George W. Bush, Belafonte tends to be more critical of black celebrities and politicians. He feels that anyone who tows their party’s line or who is willing to settle for second best is a sellout to varying degrees, even if that person becomes the first black actor to win an Oscar. There is a lot of push and pull in his relationship with Sidney Poitier, who came up through the American Negro Theater at the same time and who, in the beginning of his film career, took many of the roles Belafonte declined. Belafonte admires the space that Poitier eventually carved out for himself in Hollywood, but cannot see himself making the same compromises that made it possible. I also have a great appreciation for autobiographies where the writer reflects on their children and what they could have done differently. Belafonte understands the complicated messages about race that his four children (two with his black first wife with bourgeois-minded parents and two with his second wife, a Caucasian actress/activist) received and internalized, and how they enacted these messages in their choices of mates. He also demonstrates great insight into how his name/fame affected them, and what he can still do to help them while encouraging them to find their complete independence.

  6. 4 out of 5

    LorenzoT

    What a life…what a journey… A very moving trip through the life of one of the most influential entertainers in history…! I knew some of the story, but I had no idea how much I didn’t know, and how important Harry was to the entire Civil Rights movement, and how decorated he was as a singer and entertainer. If there was anyone else who provided as much financial assistance, and support to the movement, I would really like to read their book… Of course nobody is perfect, and politics is politics, bu What a life…what a journey… A very moving trip through the life of one of the most influential entertainers in history…! I knew some of the story, but I had no idea how much I didn’t know, and how important Harry was to the entire Civil Rights movement, and how decorated he was as a singer and entertainer. If there was anyone else who provided as much financial assistance, and support to the movement, I would really like to read their book… Of course nobody is perfect, and politics is politics, but Harry’s mark on history is undeniable, and his life’s story is truly remarkable…! To Harry – Thank-you…

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jazalyn

    You can't go wrong with such an in depth book on the life of a legend, written by the legend. I had no idea how big of a star Harry Belafonte was, but he was a big deal on stage as well as behind the scenes of the civil rights movement and a myriad of other important causes. I appreciated his honesty about his struggles with anger throughout his life, and even his little insights into other stars and activists of his time. He's gotten pretty bold in his later years in terms of criticizing major You can't go wrong with such an in depth book on the life of a legend, written by the legend. I had no idea how big of a star Harry Belafonte was, but he was a big deal on stage as well as behind the scenes of the civil rights movement and a myriad of other important causes. I appreciated his honesty about his struggles with anger throughout his life, and even his little insights into other stars and activists of his time. He's gotten pretty bold in his later years in terms of criticizing major figures in our society, but having been through it all, he's earned his say.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carita Crawford-Keene

    I had no idea how important Harry Belafonte was to the advancement of civil rights. Do read this and learn about his international and interracial influence, support, and inspiration.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ken Dachi

    This is a fantastic memoir. For your honesty, thank you!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I read this, hoping it would focus on Belafonte’s work as a Civil Rights activist and I was not disappointed. He doesn’t hold back from criticism, even of his friends and associates.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Colette

    What interested me was that Belafonte's life involved major aspects of recent US history and politics, primarily the Civil Rights Movement through his relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr, and, to a lesser extent, the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa. The reader is shown how politics becomes his primary concern over art. I like history, and so those aspects of the memoir drew me in. I didn't care so much for the details of his personal life and relationships. I have no problem with pe What interested me was that Belafonte's life involved major aspects of recent US history and politics, primarily the Civil Rights Movement through his relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr, and, to a lesser extent, the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa. The reader is shown how politics becomes his primary concern over art. I like history, and so those aspects of the memoir drew me in. I didn't care so much for the details of his personal life and relationships. I have no problem with people discussing their personal life, especially since that's what one expects in a memoir. I'm just disappointed with how the personal details left me liking him a bit less as person. That's a subjective response on my part, though, and I wouldn't expect other readers to consider that. Belafonte definitely names names in this book, though.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ferris

    Never let it be said that Harry Belafonte is a modest man! Certainly this memoir is interesting, but to me, only because of the time period in which he has lived and his participation in the Civil Rights movement. I have always loved Mr. Belafonte's music and have seen him perform in concert. He is an amazing performer and entertainer! However, to hear his version of history he is the unsung hero, the mover and shaker, behind the most powerful figures in the Civil Rights movement. I have no doub Never let it be said that Harry Belafonte is a modest man! Certainly this memoir is interesting, but to me, only because of the time period in which he has lived and his participation in the Civil Rights movement. I have always loved Mr. Belafonte's music and have seen him perform in concert. He is an amazing performer and entertainer! However, to hear his version of history he is the unsung hero, the mover and shaker, behind the most powerful figures in the Civil Rights movement. I have no doubt that he was deeply involved and committed, but the egocentrism with which he tells his tale is incredibly off putting. Lord knows what would have happened if he hadn't been there to influence Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy! Love the music, but not impressed with the man. Diappointed!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    How many people can say that they were friends with, Dr. W.E.B Dubois, Paul Robeson, Paul Newman, Tony Bennett, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra & the rat pack,Marlon Brando Nelson Mandela & Dr. Matin Luther King? Mr.Belafonte Memoir not tells the story of a man who rose from Harlem to the height of world wide fame it also tells the story of the civil rights movement in this country, and the story of Hollywood as seen and lived it first hand. He talks about his victories & defeats in his personal life How many people can say that they were friends with, Dr. W.E.B Dubois, Paul Robeson, Paul Newman, Tony Bennett, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra & the rat pack,Marlon Brando Nelson Mandela & Dr. Matin Luther King? Mr.Belafonte Memoir not tells the story of a man who rose from Harlem to the height of world wide fame it also tells the story of the civil rights movement in this country, and the story of Hollywood as seen and lived it first hand. He talks about his victories & defeats in his personal life, activist life, and career life. After the autobiographies of Malcolm X & Miles Davis this is my third favorite and in my mind the third best one of all time. This is the best book I have read all year.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Irene Palfy

    I have to admit first: I did not finish this book. Of the 600 pages of the German issue I read 450 - and now I give up. I simply don't want to spend more time of my life with this book. I love the music of Mr. Belafonte and besides that mostly know him from films and telly appearances - where he never appeared to be very likeable to me but I thought I'd give his memoirs a try and maybe then I would become a true fan. But sadly - and this might be just the German translation - my hopes were not I have to admit first: I did not finish this book. Of the 600 pages of the German issue I read 450 - and now I give up. I simply don't want to spend more time of my life with this book. I love the music of Mr. Belafonte and besides that mostly know him from films and telly appearances - where he never appeared to be very likeable to me but I thought I'd give his memoirs a try and maybe then I would become a true fan. But sadly - and this might be just the German translation - my hopes were not fulfilled though he had a very exciting life and the history of civil rights movement and everything he stood up for is great this book simply doesn't klick with me. Please don't allow this review to stop you from reading this book - give it a try. Maybe you'll get inspiration from it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andre

    I think Harry was interested in giving the world the parts of his song, that most are unaware of. I was surprised to find how deeply involved he was in the civil rights movement. He committed both energy, time and money. Some of the stories he tells of those times are riveting and read like a novel. I think this memoir is well worth the investment, and you will come away impressed with his commitment to human justice. It is rare that stars risk their standing, but Harry did and surprisingly avoi I think Harry was interested in giving the world the parts of his song, that most are unaware of. I was surprised to find how deeply involved he was in the civil rights movement. He committed both energy, time and money. Some of the stories he tells of those times are riveting and read like a novel. I think this memoir is well worth the investment, and you will come away impressed with his commitment to human justice. It is rare that stars risk their standing, but Harry did and surprisingly avoided any devastating consequences. You don't feel like he is holding much back and this makes for a rewarding journey.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dolores Elkin

    This book is compelling. I love the style it is written in, like he is talking to you. I admire how Belafonte lived up to his morals in the performance world even when it was hard to do financially. It talks of the racism he experienced, as well as the wonders of his life. Harry Belafonte's Calypso was one of my favorite records when I was four, and now I know why. He was incredibly popular at the time and many people had his record including my father. I remember that red cover too. I'm going to This book is compelling. I love the style it is written in, like he is talking to you. I admire how Belafonte lived up to his morals in the performance world even when it was hard to do financially. It talks of the racism he experienced, as well as the wonders of his life. Harry Belafonte's Calypso was one of my favorite records when I was four, and now I know why. He was incredibly popular at the time and many people had his record including my father. I remember that red cover too. I'm going to make up a dance to one of his songs to teach to my preschool/kindergarten class to carry on the tradition of enjoying his music while young.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This was pretty interesting history. I learned much about civil rights and the fight in the south, which Belafonte bankrolled much of. I admire his zeal for his projects, concerns, politics. Big ego, though. By the final disk, the ego is SO big and the politics so unreasonably partisan, that any kind thoughts I'd been developing were about lopped away. When a 70 year old, married to the same woman for 48 years decides it's all wrong, that's an ego. He really lost me with ridiculously extreme com This was pretty interesting history. I learned much about civil rights and the fight in the south, which Belafonte bankrolled much of. I admire his zeal for his projects, concerns, politics. Big ego, though. By the final disk, the ego is SO big and the politics so unreasonably partisan, that any kind thoughts I'd been developing were about lopped away. When a 70 year old, married to the same woman for 48 years decides it's all wrong, that's an ego. He really lost me with ridiculously extreme comments about Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and George Bush. He isn't too thrilled with Obama, either (probably because he doesn't have his ear!) but stated it much more "democratically."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    I absolutely LOVED learning about Harry Belafonte's significant financial contributions - both personal and collaborative to the Civil Rights Movement as well as many other global social justice movements. His selfless dedication, behind the scenes activism and use of his "celebrity status" to further his humanitarian work is riveting to say the least. Inspired by friendships with Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Robeson, Marlon Brando and his unique on again/ off again kinship with Sidney Poitier a I absolutely LOVED learning about Harry Belafonte's significant financial contributions - both personal and collaborative to the Civil Rights Movement as well as many other global social justice movements. His selfless dedication, behind the scenes activism and use of his "celebrity status" to further his humanitarian work is riveting to say the least. Inspired by friendships with Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Robeson, Marlon Brando and his unique on again/ off again kinship with Sidney Poitier and Bobby Kennedy are highlighted throughout the story and shed light into his fascinating story. Highly Recommend!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cc

    A good book because it read easily and mostly very interesting. I didn't realize how much Mr. Belafonte was involved in the civil rights movements and continues to be involved in politics currently. He is very passionate and angry. It amazes me that he still doesn't think of himself as a singer! Parts of the book were slow.. it seem to read like lists of how much and who donated what to what cause. I really liked the behind the scenes planning sessions and the glimpse of the human beings behind A good book because it read easily and mostly very interesting. I didn't realize how much Mr. Belafonte was involved in the civil rights movements and continues to be involved in politics currently. He is very passionate and angry. It amazes me that he still doesn't think of himself as a singer! Parts of the book were slow.. it seem to read like lists of how much and who donated what to what cause. I really liked the behind the scenes planning sessions and the glimpse of the human beings behind the headlines.. but we didn't get enough of that.

  20. 4 out of 5

    wade

    On of the "meatiest" autobiographies that I have ever read. Like he lived his life his book is a frank and honest portrayal of life as he saw it with all its ups and downs. It is not a puff piece and on the other side he is doing a hatchet job on people in his life. He writes honestly about his wives, children, fellow performers and even about himself on many facets of his life. He had such broad experiences in music, movies and the Civil Rights movement that the book is varied in subjects and v On of the "meatiest" autobiographies that I have ever read. Like he lived his life his book is a frank and honest portrayal of life as he saw it with all its ups and downs. It is not a puff piece and on the other side he is doing a hatchet job on people in his life. He writes honestly about his wives, children, fellow performers and even about himself on many facets of his life. He had such broad experiences in music, movies and the Civil Rights movement that the book is varied in subjects and very interesting on many levels.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maya

    This was the most open and honest book that I've ever read. The history lessons in this book are mind blowing. Belafonte does not hold back his feelings of people, events, or situations. The book is inspirational in its own right because it tells of a man who fights continuously for human rights. The reader gets more than a glimpse into the life of Harry Belafonte, his family, and the Civil Rights Movement. This was the most open and honest book that I've ever read. The history lessons in this book are mind blowing. Belafonte does not hold back his feelings of people, events, or situations. The book is inspirational in its own right because it tells of a man who fights continuously for human rights. The reader gets more than a glimpse into the life of Harry Belafonte, his family, and the Civil Rights Movement.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Kearney

    3.5, I guess. I had no idea Harry Belafonte was so intimately involved in social activism and the civil rights movement. He's not short on ego and self-importance, but still it's a fascinating history of the era I came of age in. 3.5, I guess. I had no idea Harry Belafonte was so intimately involved in social activism and the civil rights movement. He's not short on ego and self-importance, but still it's a fascinating history of the era I came of age in.

  23. 4 out of 5

    readswithrosa

    ‘My Song’ is an in-depth look at the life of the legendary Harry Belafonte - artist, entrepreneur and activist. The son of Jamaican immigrants, he experienced poverty and family struggles while growing up. During his youth and even as an adult, there were times when he felt alienated, alone, and unsure of his self-worth, but his mother had always drummed into him the need to fight injustice wherever he saw it and in whatever way he could. She made him feel like it was his job to speak out for ot ‘My Song’ is an in-depth look at the life of the legendary Harry Belafonte - artist, entrepreneur and activist. The son of Jamaican immigrants, he experienced poverty and family struggles while growing up. During his youth and even as an adult, there were times when he felt alienated, alone, and unsure of his self-worth, but his mother had always drummed into him the need to fight injustice wherever he saw it and in whatever way he could. She made him feel like it was his job to speak out for others who didn’t have the voice or platform to do so. Belafonte has lived a long life and along the way he has influenced and inspired many, and contributed to a myriad of social and political causes. When it came to his music he was a tough negotiator and he did not want to be put into a box and categorized as only a Calypso singer. He commanded respect not just as an entertainer, but as a black entertainer. Race was the cutting edge in everything Belafonte did, and he did not want to be an object of ridicule, as it would undermine not just his stage persona but also his purpose. Although this is a memoir, you could be mistaken for thinking that it is a history book. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE history and this book is brimming with accounts of the Civil Rights Movement and key figures from the black community, meetings with politicians, international race-relations, the plight of black service men in World War Two, the Cold War, anti-Apartheid, USA for Africa, to name a few. These important historical issues and events are interwoven into his personal narrative and it was pretty mind blowing! I was surprised to learn about his close friendship with Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and I found myself doing my own research as I listened to the audiobook. His civil rights work over the years also gave him access to a network of activists and organizations world-wide, and figures of political influence, also working for human rights, world peace, and towards social equality. Through acting he was connected to many important figures in the entertainment industry, and so you will read and hear many familiar names. This is a vivid and well-written memoir and Belafonte is an excellent storyteller. Despite all the good that came from his activism, he does not shy away from acknowledging his own shortcomings and weaknesses, and in that sense, readers will appreciate his honesty and self-assessment. He is definitely someone who has used his platform to advocate for others and to make a difference in the world. Enjoy!

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    When embarking on a memoir, I never know exactly what I will find. I knew Harry Belafonte’s music. I have several albums including his Carnegie Hall recording and I absolutely love his Muppet Show episode. I knew he was involved with and supported Civil Rights and Human Rights. I knew, sadly, little else when I started this. Belafonte’s memoir is refreshing and raw. He lays everything out and doesn’t skirt any issue. At times, this was jarringly raw emotion coming at the reader with intense situ When embarking on a memoir, I never know exactly what I will find. I knew Harry Belafonte’s music. I have several albums including his Carnegie Hall recording and I absolutely love his Muppet Show episode. I knew he was involved with and supported Civil Rights and Human Rights. I knew, sadly, little else when I started this. Belafonte’s memoir is refreshing and raw. He lays everything out and doesn’t skirt any issue. At times, this was jarringly raw emotion coming at the reader with intense situations and thoughts that often showed the man behind the entertainer. Discussing his marriages, children, the civil rights movement of the 1950s to today (to publication date), his parents (and even his parents’ stories before he was born a bit), he never once withdrew. He spoke honestly of his friendships with celebrities including movie stars and singers and politicians (like Fidel Castro!). His left-leaning ideas about politics and the function of government and the vision for the future are clearly on the page, but it’s never a relentless rant. Instead it is simply his thoughts and frustrations with things. He explains some of what he has said through the years and I would say calls out slights and friendships that have fallen apart. With this honesty comes a bit of harsh reality. At times, particularly when speaking of who he has met and eaten dinner with politically and his activism post-1980s I’d say, he comes across a tad arrogant or boastful. Like he is saying “look who I know and have spoken to personally”. But this could be more of the narrator of the audiobook and author’s voice as he did have an author assist in the writing. I listened to the audiobook which was done well. The audiobook stated that it is read by Harry Belafonte and Mirron Willis. Belafonte reads an opening prologue, a taste of what’s to come in a story about the civil rights work he did in the 1960s. Then it is all Willis. I didn’t mind this and enjoyed it. But it may have led to some of the above tonal issue I mentioned. Overall, despite the occasional boastful tone, it was insightful of not only his life but the lives around him, from MLK Jr to RFK to Sidney Poitier. I highly reccommend this. I will say I am picking up a copy of this for my shelf and to reread later on.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Priscilla Herrington

    I have been a Harry Belafonte fan since my early teens. I enjoyed his calypso songs, and I loved his bringing other folk songs - world music - to his audience's attention. I loved him even more as I saw his civil rights and humanitarian work. My Song is everything that a memoir should be, and more. Yes, it is autobiographical, narrating his story from childhood to the present. It also describes many aspects of the entertainment business, and dishes a bit about other contemporary entertainers. And I have been a Harry Belafonte fan since my early teens. I enjoyed his calypso songs, and I loved his bringing other folk songs - world music - to his audience's attention. I loved him even more as I saw his civil rights and humanitarian work. My Song is everything that a memoir should be, and more. Yes, it is autobiographical, narrating his story from childhood to the present. It also describes many aspects of the entertainment business, and dishes a bit about other contemporary entertainers. And then it is a history of the Civil Rights Movement (I knew Belafonte was involved; I did not realize how deeply.) Belefonte relates the African struggles for independence, and how he helped many African performers find a larger stage. I cannot say enough about this book. Listening to Belafonte's introduction and Mirron Willis's narration was like sitting in a friend's apartment for drinks and conversation. There is so much material here there could have been three or four books! This one is must reading for anyone who is interested in recent and current U.S. History.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert Wilson

    This book deserves more than 5 Stars, so I’ll give it 10 in this written review. I became interested in Harry Belafonte when he was included in the book Kennedy and King. I was fascinated to learn more about this wealthy, intelligent, and vocal celebrity’s actions behind the scenes. He was the right man at the right time for Martin Luther King Junior, Bobby Kennedy, African Americans fighting for their rights, famine victims in Africa, up and coming actors/singers, and so many more. His story is This book deserves more than 5 Stars, so I’ll give it 10 in this written review. I became interested in Harry Belafonte when he was included in the book Kennedy and King. I was fascinated to learn more about this wealthy, intelligent, and vocal celebrity’s actions behind the scenes. He was the right man at the right time for Martin Luther King Junior, Bobby Kennedy, African Americans fighting for their rights, famine victims in Africa, up and coming actors/singers, and so many more. His story is so rich and so star studded as to be unbelievable. He’s been spot on about so many of the issues he stood up for over decades of activism. That kind of batting average is only achieved by those with the keenest eye for humanity and human nature’s good and bad sides. I feel truly privileged to have read this story. I believe it reached near perfection in its honesty and depth. I weep for those who know Harry only for his music and even more so for those who’ve never heard of him at all. This is a great man and I hope history honors him for that.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mary Sisney

    Maybe because he believes that artists are "the true documentarians of history," Belafonte's book reads more like an entertaining history text than a memoir or a song. He may be the most active activist entertainer since his hero Paul Robeson. He knew everyone, including Robeson, Eleanor Roosevelt, John and Bobby Kennedy, Reverend Martin Luther King, who was a good friend, Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela. He recruited and organized the celebrities who attended the March on Washington and the ma Maybe because he believes that artists are "the true documentarians of history," Belafonte's book reads more like an entertaining history text than a memoir or a song. He may be the most active activist entertainer since his hero Paul Robeson. He knew everyone, including Robeson, Eleanor Roosevelt, John and Bobby Kennedy, Reverend Martin Luther King, who was a good friend, Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela. He recruited and organized the celebrities who attended the March on Washington and the march to Selma; he helped plan Reverend King's funeral, suggested the African relief effort that led to the 1984 "We Are the World" song, and planned Mandela's first visit to America. Belafonte's memoir also reminds us why we shouldn't trust the FBI, who in the 20th Century spied on and smeared black activists like Reverend King and members of the SNCC. In fact, in Belafonte's book, the FBI sounds more like the Russian spies of today.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maurice

    My interest in reading Belafonte's book was based on reading about his involvement in brokering the communications between Martin Luther King and the Kennedy administration in the book Kennedy and King by Steven Levingston. That was a very, very good book. My song is a good book. Belafonte's story is quite interesting, from his early childhood to his breakthrough in acting. Who would ever think that your first real acting class would include such future stars as Walter Matheau, Marlon Brando & To My interest in reading Belafonte's book was based on reading about his involvement in brokering the communications between Martin Luther King and the Kennedy administration in the book Kennedy and King by Steven Levingston. That was a very, very good book. My song is a good book. Belafonte's story is quite interesting, from his early childhood to his breakthrough in acting. Who would ever think that your first real acting class would include such future stars as Walter Matheau, Marlon Brando & Tony Curtis. His first onstage cameo being backed up by Al Haig, Max Roach & Charlie Parker! The jazz greats, movie stars, fame, fortune, push for civil rights, politics and putting his money where his mouth is; Belafonte's story is truly one in a million. There was one issue I had with the book and that's why I gave it 4 stars rather than 5. I'd rather not mention it but still think that there is so much interesting history in this book it's certainly worth reading.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Great memoir. I knew very little about Belafonte beyond his famous performances and a few civil rights headlines, so I was really pleased that the majority of the book focused on his activism and the relationships he built or burnt in a somewhat single-minded pursuit of equality. (I particularly enjoyed his unconventional, and very human, portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) He doesn't shy away from his own ego, but he's smart enough, in most places, to admit where he made mistakes. It start Great memoir. I knew very little about Belafonte beyond his famous performances and a few civil rights headlines, so I was really pleased that the majority of the book focused on his activism and the relationships he built or burnt in a somewhat single-minded pursuit of equality. (I particularly enjoyed his unconventional, and very human, portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) He doesn't shy away from his own ego, but he's smart enough, in most places, to admit where he made mistakes. It starts to feel a bit glossy and shallow toward the end, post-1970s, when Belafonte seems to have mostly mutated into a celebrity ambassador and producer; he's less willing to be critical of his own stance, and more interested in knowing how long his influence was felt in both the activism and entertainment communities. By that point, though, the rest of his story has been so strong, he's earned it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Carson

    4.5 rounded up. This book is a must read, purely for the intimate background on the Civil Rights Movement and other historic events. Mr. Brkafonte's commitment as an activist first, and an actor and signer second is truly inspirational and puts contemporary leaders in entertainment into perspective. His role in shaping 20th century history, both culturally and politically are astonishing. Mr. Belafonte does tend to go into detail about his own success and the high profile friends he's had. This m 4.5 rounded up. This book is a must read, purely for the intimate background on the Civil Rights Movement and other historic events. Mr. Brkafonte's commitment as an activist first, and an actor and signer second is truly inspirational and puts contemporary leaders in entertainment into perspective. His role in shaping 20th century history, both culturally and politically are astonishing. Mr. Belafonte does tend to go into detail about his own success and the high profile friends he's had. This may turn off some. However, I understand the poverty and pressures of an immigrant family. It often results in constant self doubt and therefore, the constant need for validation of your accomplishments.

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