Harry Belafonte’s Image Problem

In 1957, The Saturday Evening Post featured an in-depth profile of the legendary singer.

Harry Belifonte performing on stage

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—“Belafonte Gives It All He’s Got”
by Jeanne Van Holmes, April 20, 1957

“I’ll give it to you straight, Harry,” the agent said. “You haven’t got a prayer of getting anywhere. Number One, to go into folk singing would be committing professional suicide. Number Two, it just ain’t as easy to get bookings for Negroes. And Number Three, how come you’re so damned dedicated you won’t even slant these folk songs of yours to some special audience — men, women, teenagers, or the old-timers? Who do you think is going to listen to you — the folk?”

Evidently, there are plenty of “folk” in the United States, for today Harry Belafonte gets a warm welcome in every entertainment field, and his earnings have come close to a half-million dollars a year.

The critics, perhaps a little unnerved by his way of “singing as if his life hung in the balance,” have tagged him as “incandescent” and “irrepressible.” Harry himself put it this way: “I’d say it has taken me almost all my 30 years to be an ‘overnight success.’”

 

The first page of the article, "Belifonte-Gives-All-He's-Got"
Read “Belafonte Gives it All He’s Got” by Jeanne Van Holmes from the April 20, 1957, issue of the Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

This article is featured in the March/April 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: SEPS

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