Question: What Do You Call a Folk Singing Elephant?"

Mon, 08/23/2010 - 19:58

Okay, before those of a certain age start groaning and those not of a certain age wonder what in the world I am talking about, the answer is "Harry B-Elephant."  And in its own way that simple, pretty stupid joke tells quite a bit about a time in the late 50's and early 60's.  The country still lay in the slumber of the Eisenhower era.  There was no war to support or protest, gender roles remained defined, racial tension pretty calm (and races separated-I don't know how many Elephant Jokes were told in the black community.)  And EVERYONE in the white and black communities knew Harry Belafonte.  I bring him up here because not only did Chad Mitchell know Harry Belafonte, The Chad Mitchell Trio got their big break when they were included on an album called "Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall."  Chad might tell you that he patterned his singing style after Harry Belafonte and I will tell you that I patterned my singing style after Chad Mitchell.  That is one of a multitude of ways that Harry Belafonte continues to influence music and the world.

He was a "white black superstar" of his time, (like Michael Jordan except Harry was much more outspoken) embraced by both white and black communities.  Still beneath that charm and those good looks there was an articulate man who spoke eloquently for the oppressed.  

Looking back it is possible he is one of those who is under-appreciated at this time because he was overexposed in his time.  He and the impact he had on folk music in particular and his country and the world in general should not be underestimated or forgotten.

Thanks, Harry. 

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