Drawing from several musical traditions, Harry Belafonte’s lyrical baritone and emotive singing connected Americans to Black world culture. Singer, actor, producer, activist, and ally, Belafonte used the arts as a mechanism to effect social change on a global scale.
HALL OF FAME ESSAY
Harry Belafonte is not a rock & roll singer. He never was a rock star. This son of Caribbean parents, born in 1927 into a working-class Harlem melting pot, never lived a rock star life. In fact, as he told writer Henry Louis Gates Jr., when he walked into certain rooms, the reaction was, “‘Here comes Mr. Conscience,’ and all the cocaine left the room – you know?”
But Harry Belafonte is unmistakably rock & roll. Every popular musician who has succeeded (or failed) in marrying politics and fame has Harry Belafonte to thank. Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Bono, the Clash, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy...add your own names. They all stand on Belafonte’s broad shoulders. Across a career that’s covered stage, screen, television, calypso, folk, pop, thirteen presidents, the end of segregation, the triumph of civil rights, and the slaying of its leaders, Belafonte has delivered the anger and agitation that – at its best – are what rock & roll promises.
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Cleveland, Ohio 44114