Belafonte finally wrote his autobiography, "My Song," which was published several years ago. I got to meet him at a Q&A session in Santa Monica, moderated by Tim Robbins and get his autograph on my copy of the book.
There is also a tremendously moving documentary called "Sing Your Song" http://singyoursongthemovie.com/
In the book, Belafonte goes into fascinating detail about the early decade of his career, before the civil rights movement and political activism made his recording career of secondary importance in his life. He talks about the early years when he tried to be a jazz singer, donning a pencil-thin mustache and singing a la Billy Eckstine. Belafonte may just be the most erudite, thoughtful, and intelligent entertainer ever to step on an American stage. His autobiography is one of the finest, most interesting reads I've ever encountered. It's one of those books you don't want to end. I wish he delved more into his work on "The Long Road to Freedom," the remarkable decade-long exmination of the history of African American music, from early primitive chants from Africa to slave songs and spirituals, Civil War songs, minstrelsy, and into early blues and jazz. While Belafonte was making some of his most puerile albums for RCA Victor in the late 1960s (which resulted in ALL of his product migrating from "folk" to "easy listening" bins), he was methodically recording for "Long Road to Freedom" in New York, with the tapes filed on a shelf. They remained unissued for nearly 40 years until his son David discovered them and put out an ornate box set. It's easily his finest work. It was nominated for a Grammy but lost to yet another Billie Holiday retrospective. (Ironically, a set that I co-produced for Rhino on the American folk music revival was nominated in the same category as the Belafonte box. Neither of us won, but I was honored just to be in the same category as him. His set deserved to win.) I talked about this set in detail as well as other aspects of Belafonte's career at the ARSC conference in Cleveland in 2005.
On Jul 30, 2013, at 3:46 PM, Paul Stamler <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> On 7/30/2013 11:03 AM, Roderic G Stephens wrote:
>> And my mother LOVED Belafonte, so we HAD to see him at the Greek Theater in L.A. He could do no wrong.
> We bought out the entire orchestra floor at the Chicago Civic Opera
> House for a Belafonte concert c. 1970. then resold the tickets to help
> raise money for my dad's legal bills after an encounter with HUAC. I saw
> that concert -- people called James Brown the hardest-working man in
> show business, but after that evening I'd have to disagree.