I had Peggy Lee for last week’s Music Friday. Why not take another album off of my parents’ shelf.
Calypso was Harry Belafonte’s third album, released in 1956. It was history’s first million-selling LP, spent 31 weeks at #1 on the album charts, and 99 weeks on the charts overall. The most famous song from the album was “The Banana Boat Song”, known to baseball and Beetlejuice fans as “Day-O”:
Another hit single from the album was “Jamaica Farewell”:
Belafonte, still alive and in his mid-80s, has had one of the great careers of our time. He won a Tony award in 1954. While his name was made in music with Calypso, his interests were wide-spread … he returned to the calypso sound many times, but he only released calypso albums at five-year intervals. In 1959, he released what AllMusic calls “the granddaddy of all live albums”, Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, a double-LP package. The album finished with an 11 1/2 minute version of “Matilda”, which was his first hit back in 1953. “Matilda” remained a cornerstone of his concerts:
In 1968, he appeared on a TV special hosted by Petula Clark. At one point, Clark briefly touched Belafonte. As this was the first time a black man and white woman had touched on American TV, the sponsors got cold feet. Nonetheless, the special was telecast and was a critical and ratings success:
Belafonte was a noted political activist, as well, from the March on Washington to the present day.
And it must be noted that he is one of the handsomest son-of-a-guns ever. He was gorgeous when he was young … he’s pretty damn good-looking in his 80s. Some guys have all the luck.