Harry Belafonte

Day-O: The Best of Harry Belafonte

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Harry Belafonte's influence on pop music is much more far-reaching than many realize, as he was one of the first performers to bring worldbeat rhythms to the U.S. charts in the postwar era. Born in Harlem, but spending a good part of his childhood in his mother's native Jamaica, Belafonte grew up straddling cultures and musical styles, and bridging perceived differences became his calling card as an entertainer. His silky smooth mixture of jazz, folk, pop, and art song, often with impossibly infectious West Indies-styled accompaniment, coupled with his charismatic good looks and easy, hip coolness and sharp racial and political sense meant he was never reduced to being a mere commodity, even though he spent his whole career on major labels. This two-disc set combines highlights from his long career, including his biggest hit, "Banana Boat Song (Day O)," a defining version of Irving Burgie's gorgeous "Jamaica Farewell" from 1956, and beautifully arranged art/folk versions of "Scarlet Ribbons" and "Shenandoah," among many other gems. Innovative, intelligent, and unceasingly creative, Belafonte is long overdue for a critical reappraisal.

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