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My Song: A Memoir [Large Print]
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About the Author

Harry Belafonte's 1956 album Calypso made him the first artist in history to sell more than one million LPs. He has won both a Tony Award and an Emmy, and he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton. He has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and is the recipient of Kennedy Center Honors for excellence in the performing arts. He currently resides in New York City with his wife, Pamela.

Michael Shnayerson, a longtime contributing editor to Vanity Fair, is the author of Irwin Shaw; The Car That Could; The Killers Within, coauthored with Mark J. Plotkin, and Coal River, which recounted the efforts of Appalachian lawyers and grassroots groups to stop the devastating practice of mountaintop coal removal in southern West Virginia. Shnayerson's passion for those environmental activists was one reason Harry Belafonte chose him to collaborate on his autobiography. Shnayerson lives in Bridgehampton, New York, with his daughter, Jenna. From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews

Belafonte, actor and activist, whose voice is known to millions for his opening line, "Day-O!" to "The Banana Boat Song," stepped out of a life of poverty and up to a microphone in the late 1940s, launching a brilliant career as a singer, actor, and activist. With lyrical grace, he chronicles his life from early childhood-where a violent father made life difficult for him, his brother, and his mother-and his first singing engagements, to the difficulties in his own marriages, the grueling life on the show circuit, and his later involvement in the civil rights movement and other social causes. After his hitch in the service, he enrolls in acting lessons with the American Negro Theater, where he meets his life-long friend, Sidney Poitier, and numerous other influential black actors. On a cold January night in 1949, the owner of the Royal Roost night club in New York asks Belafonte to sing a few numbers during intermission for Lester Young's band; astonished and anxious, the young singer steps onto the stage and finds himself backed by Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Al Haig, and Tommy Potter, four of jazz's greatest musicians, and his musical career takes off. These musicians' generosity instill the same compassion in him, and his encounter with great concert singer, athlete, and actor Paul Robeson teaches him that he can use his music and his concerts as pulpits for important causes. Belafonte sometimes exhausts with too many details, but he mostly carries us liltingly along with his song that the best times always lie ahead as long as we take care of each other. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Well-known singer and actor Belafonte begins his memoir in 1964, when he and Sidney Poitier brought $70,000 in cash to Mississippi to help the struggling Civil Rights Movement. Belafonte has been politically active throughout his life (he does not back away from his public statement that George W. Bush is a "terrorist"), and one strand of his memoir deals with the causes he has supported. He also discusses his private life-born in poverty in New York City and of Jamaican heritage, Belafonte saw service in the U.S. Navy and has had several failed marriages. He covers his public career as an American entertainment icon (which solidified with his 1956 album, Calypso) and his interactions with many politicians and celebrities, e.g., Paul Robeson, Poitier, Marlon Brando, and Robert Kennedy, among many others. How these different strands interweave-the anger generated by the poverty and racial discrimination of his early years, the socially conscious reformer, and the well-respected entertainer-make for a potent memoir of our times. Verdict Beyond the usual interest generated by celebrity biographies, Belafonte's civil rights activism and involvement in other social causes give his memoir broader relevance. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 5/2/11.]-Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ.-Kingsville (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

An honest, in many ways important and genuinely revelatory autobiography. . . . My Song reveals, Belafonte was more than celebrity eye candy, burnishing his image with a little politically correct politicking. He not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. . . . My Song is more than fitting denouement for a life well lived. Curt Schleier, Seattle Times

In My Song, a brave and spellbinding memoir written with Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson, Belafonte tells a sweeping story . . . riveting . . . In these days of national and global uncertainty, with the numbers of poor steadily rising, there are lessons aplenty in the life of Harry Belafonte, as told in this surprising and revelatory book. Wil Haygood, Washington Post

. . . engrossing autobiographical account of a life devoted in equal parts to entertainment and social causes. My Song is rich with vivid scenes of Belafonte working as an adviser, mediator, fundraiser and implementer with such players as John and Robert Kennedy and King. Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle
Here is a gorgeous account of the large life of a Harlem boy . . . Scenes of extravagant waste, scenes of righteous anger rich contradictions abound with little attempt to explain them away, a mark of the honest autobiographer. Garrison Keillor, New York Times Book Review
Absorbing . . . Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, New York

To read Harry Belafonte's new memoir, My Song, is to discover a man who has packed enough life for 10 people into 84 years. Morning Edition, NPR
Somewhere amid the accounts of when he became the first artist to sell a million copies of an album, the first black leading actor to romance a white leading actress in a major Hollywood film, and the man who was asked to help pick out the clothes that Martin Luther King Jr. would be buried in, you realize just how extraordinary Harry Belafonte s life has been. If Belafonte had simply pursued one strand of that life - the immensely popular singer, the Tony Award-winning actor, the powerful political and social activist - it would have made fascinating material for a book. That he managed to cram all three into his 84 years makes My Song, his captivating memoir written with Michael Shnayerson, not only a sometimes exhausting chronicle of Belafonte s own story but an intriguing look at US history from the late 40s to the present. . . . One of the book s triumphs involves the way Belafonte and Shnayerson manage to capture Belafonte s distinctive voice . . . You can almost hear him narrate the story in his stately rasp. Sarah Rodman, The Boston Globe
Bracingly opinionated autobiography from an American original, still provocative in his ninth decade. Kirkus (starred) From the Hardcover edition."
"An honest, in many ways important and genuinely revelatory autobiography. . . . My Song reveals, Belafonte was more than celebrity eye candy, burnishing his image with a little politically correct politicking. He not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. . . . My Song is more than fitting denouement for a life well lived." --Curt Schleier, Seattle Times

"In My Song, a brave and spellbinding memoir written with Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson, Belafonte tells a sweeping story . . . riveting . . . In these days of national and global uncertainty, with the numbers of poor steadily rising, there are lessons aplenty in the life of Harry Belafonte, as told in this surprising and revelatory book." --Wil Haygood, Washington Post

" . . . engrossing autobiographical account of a life devoted in equal parts to entertainment and social causes. My Song is rich with vivid scenes of Belafonte working as an adviser, mediator, fundraiser and implementer with such players as John and Robert Kennedy and King." --Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle

"Here is a gorgeous account of the large life of a Harlem boy . . . Scenes of extravagant waste, scenes of righteous anger--rich contradictions abound--with little attempt to explain them away, a mark of the honest autobiographer." --Garrison Keillor, New York Times Book Review "Absorbing . . ." --Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, New York

"To read Harry Belafonte's new memoir, My Song, is to discover a man who has packed enough life for 10 people into 84 years." --"Morning Edition," NPR "Somewhere amid the accounts of when he became the first artist to sell a million copies of an album, the first black leading actor to romance a white leading actress in a major Hollywood film, and the man who was asked to help pick out the clothes that Martin Luther King Jr. would be buried in, you realize just how extraordinary Harry Belafonte's life has been. If Belafonte had simply pursued one strand of that life - the immensely popular singer, the Tony Award-winning actor, the powerful political and social activist - it would have made fascinating material for a book. That he managed to cram all three into his 84 years makes My Song, his captivating memoir written with Michael Shnayerson, not only a sometimes exhausting chronicle of Belafonte's own story but an intriguing look at US history from the late '40s to the present. . . . One of the book's triumphs involves the way Belafonte and Shnayerson manage to capture Belafonte's distinctive voice . . . You can almost hear him narrate the story in his stately rasp." --Sarah Rodman, The Boston Globe "Bracingly opinionated autobiography from an American original, still provocative in his ninth decade." --Kirkus (starred) From the Hardcover edition.

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