On his 90th birthday, we look back at some of Harry Belafonte's wisest words on art

CBC Arts dug up this archival video from 1961, where the actor, singer and activist says artists should act as mirrors of society.

In this video from 1961, the actor, singer and activist says artists should act as mirrors of society

Harry Belafonte shares his thoughts on being artist

5 years ago
Im honour of his 90th birthday, we look back to this video of Belafonte from 1961. 1:30

In honour of actor, singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte's 90th birthday today, CBC Arts dug into the archives and found this remarkable video from 1961, where Belafonte shares his thoughts on his role as an artist.

"I think that very basically this is the function of the artist and the role of the artist," Belafonte says in the video (which contains some problematic pronoun usage all too common at the time). "He behaves and should, in fact, conduct himself as a mirror of the society — whether he's a poet or a painter or an actor or a playwright."

In the 56 years since Belafonte spoke those words, it's difficult to argue that he has not continued to emulate them in his own work — no matter what form it's taken. We thank you for all your contributions, Harry, and wish you a very happy birthday. 

For more throwbacks like this one, visit the CBC Digital Archives.


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