Full and frank admission: before this unmissable doc, I was a bit foggy on Harry Belafonte – he’s the Calypso singer, right? As ‘Sing Your Song’ reveals, however, that’s not the half of it. For half a century, Belafonte has put himself on the battle line of every major civil rights struggle. Born in Harlem and partly raised in Jamaica, he was a ’50s teeny-bopper heartthrob (Tim Burton used his song ‘Day-O’ in ‘Beetlejuice’). Early on, Belafonte calculated he could use his celebrity as a strategy – acting as a go-between for the Kennedys and Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement.
King was a close friend, and his daughter tells us why her dad was inspired by Belafonte: because here was someone who didn’t have to get involved, but did. As for the man himself, now 75, he talks with the calm, measured directness of someone who has lived by his principles his entire life – discussing his involvement in causes from the liberation struggle in South Africa to Ethiopian famine. If Richard Dawkins’s mob want to start giving out secular sainthoods, they should start with Harry Belafonte. What a man.