As we approach the holiday season, the music in the air is already transforming to the seasonal tunes of Christmas. What a joyful time of the year filled with thankfulness and blessings. Today's spotlight shines on a performer who sought permission to record a West Indian song written by Jester Hairston, a Julliard-trained songwriter who would later popularize the spiritual "Amen" during the civil rights movement in the United States.
A man of many talents
Harry Belafonte: a multi-talented performer achieving lasting fame for his traditional folk songs, Broadway stage and on-screen performances
The oldest son of Caribbean immigrants, Harry Belafonte struggled with poverty and a turbulent family life. He spent much of his childhood in Jamaica where a lasting impression resulted from the oppression of blacks by the English authorities.
"The most difficult time in my life was when I was a kid," he later told People magazine. "My mother gave me affection, but, because I was left on my own, also a lot of anguish." Source: bio.comBelafonte enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944 serving in the Pacific at the end of World War II. It was his return to New York City after being discharged from the Navy that became the stage for his acting and singing successes. He is best known for such songs as "The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)," and for his humanitarian work.
The song was first recorded in 1956 for Belafonte's album An Evening with Belafonte. To date, his version has sold over 1.18 million copies. In 1962, the full-length version was added to a re-issue of Belafonte's previously released album To Wish You a Merry Christmas.1957 Harry Belafonte was at No.1 on the UK singles chart with 'Mary's Boy Child'. Belafonte became the first black male to have a #1 in the UK. It was the first ever song to sell 1 million copies there and the first ever British #1 record to have a playing time of more than four minutes. It stayed at No.1 for seven weeks making it this 1957's Christmas No.1. The first Christmas song to hit No.1 in two different versions - the other was Boney M's version in 1978.
Tidbits of Trivia...
And the music goes on beating to the rhythm of the changing times...