Harry Belafonte 90th birthday career retrospective collection due Feb. 24

A 60th anniversary update of Harry Belafonte’s 1957 hit “When Colors Come Together (Island in the Sun)” caps a new retrospective album. The collection will survey the storied career of the veteran singer, actor and political activist who will celebrate his 90th birthday on March 1.

The song, which Belafonte wrote with songwriter Irvin Burgie, was featured in the 1957 film “Island in The Sun,” which explored interracial relationships and is among 19 tracks on the album, “When Colors Come Together,” scheduled for release Friday, Feb. 24. In addition to singing the track, Belafonte co-starred in the film with Dorothy Dandridge, James Mason, Joan Fontaine and Joan Collins.

The Times is premiering a making-of video that looks at the session in which a choir featuring more than a dozen children from different backgrounds was assembled to record the new version.

“With the myriad of problems facing the world today, none embody the passion and life’s work of Belafonte more than the issue of race,” David Belafonte, Harry’s son and executive producer of the album, said in a statement. 

“Coming from a background of diversity, he evolved into a performing artist with a deep, lifelong commitment to social activism. In the spirit of that commitment and at the forefront of this important effort is a re-imagining of one of Harry’s classic recordings,” David Belafonte wrote.

Belafonte had been active in theater and films in the 1940s, but his career hit new heights in the ‘50s when calypso music rode a wave of popularity in the U.S. 

His 1956 album “Belafonte” spent six weeks atop Billboard’s national sales chart, followed that year by “Calypso,” which logged a remarkable 31 weeks at No. 1, propelled by the success of the Top 5 single “Banana Boat (Day-O.)”

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He has spent decades on the forefront of civil rights issues, and was a prominent player in the Civil rights March on Washington D.C. in 1963 along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and numerous other political and entertainment world figures.

The new album’s tracks focus on Belafonte’s recordings of the ‘50s, ‘60s and early-‘70s, from traditional folk tunes such as “On Top of Old Smokey” and vintage folk-protest songs such as Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty” through his interpretations of rock-era social commentary including Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John.”


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An earlier edition of this post stated that Belafonte's hit single "Banana Boat (Day-O)" was on his "Belafonte" album. It was a track on his "Calypso" album.
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