Friday, 7 December 2012

My Song - A Memoir...

I felt compelled to buy My Song - A Memoir of Art, Race & Defiance by Harry Belafonte after watching him discussing the book on one of the Hay Festival sessions on SKY Arts in June this year.  In November, I made a note in my journal:

'I'm not giving up on this book, although it's tedious start did almost bring me to an all time halt as I took time - leaving it to 'brew.'  So far the story is full of interest re: the 60's - Civil Rights' Movement - his musical/film career and how he weaved politics into his world.

What is it I don't like?  When Belafonte brings in the future at random, which doesn't add, it distracts (me the reader!)  It's unnecessary detail, untimely, thrown in, a spanner in the works as it stops the narrative flow, causing much irritation.  I wish his Editor (Michael Schnayerson) had picked this up; I would've!'

Am I being harsh?  Maybe, but I'm being honest.

I'm not sure this book fits well as a memoir, more of an autobiography, since it is the story of Belafonte's life spanning from his birth to his seventies. It is an account of his life and his career as an international singer and actor.  It's also a story of his journey on the front lines of his political activism.

It took me sometime to read as I dipped in and out and I did find certain sections hard work, but on the whole I gained a behind-the-scenes portrait of Belafonte's life and the many fascinating cultural and political figures he befriended along the way.  The list is long and includes Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Kennedy, Fidel Castro, James Baldwin, Bob Dylan, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela.

My Song shows how powerful a determined human being can be.  And for that reason alone, it is worth the read.


Harry Belafonte grew up in Harlem and Jamaica.  His 1956 album Calypso made him the first artist in history to sell more than one million LPs.  From the early days of his career, he broke down barriers wherever he encountered them.  His activism widened to a passionate involvement with the civil rights movement.

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