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Something to Say: Harry Belafonte

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Harry Belafonte is known for his calypso-style music and hits like The Banana Boat Song (Day-O) and Matilda, but in this 1969 interview with CBC interviewer Pat Patterson, he talks about much more than music. In Toronto for a three-week run at the O'Keefe Centre, he has been stung by the "rough treatment" of the critics, and although he says he doesn't take the criticism personally he does say he'll pay attention. Belafonte then discusses his desire for a career in motion pictures, his interest in politics and the United Nations, his passion for all things scientific and his belief that "there's something to man...his capacities are incredible."

• Harry Belafonte was born March 1, 1927 in Harlem, New York. He moved to his mother's native Jamaica for five years during his childhood.

• Belafonte makes a reference to critic Herbert Whittaker calling him an Uncle Tom. In his critique of the show, which appeared in the Globe and Mail on June 25, 1969, Whittaker actually criticized Belafonte for his "growing habit of falling into Uncle Tom attitudes. Whereas he formerly touched this device with wicked satire, now it seems almost second nature to him."

• Belafonte had just finished making a film called The Angel Levine. It not only provided him with an opportunity to hone his acting skills, but by virtue of a Ford Foundation grant he was able to take on to the project 15 black and Puerto Rican apprentices.

• In 2007 Belafonte was in Canada to receive the International Diversity Award from the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. This is just one of many awards he has won for his humanitarian efforts. He has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 1987, and he was one of the organizers of the recording of We Are the World in 1985.

• Dubbed "The Calypso King" because of his early musical hits, Belafonte told the Canadian Press in a 2007 interview that he didn't deserve the title, because he didn't compete in Trinidad for it.

Medium: Radio
Program: Something to Say
Broadcast Date: July 6, 1969
Guest(s): Harry Belafonte
Host: Warren Davis
Interviewer: Pat Patterson
Duration: 29:45
This clip was edited for copyright reasons.

Last updated: March 5, 2012

Page consulted on July 8, 2014

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