The Essential Recordings
Although born in New York Harry Belafonte spent eight childhood years living in Jamaica, and these would prove pivotal in his subsequent career. Long before words like “world” and “roots” had been inanely splattered across musical idioms Belafonte was exploring his Caribbean heritage alongside jazz, gospel, blues, Americana, Broadway, novelty songs and even a cover of Hava Nagila. In essence he was a versatile folk singer who happened to crack the big time.
Banana Boat Song was such a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1956 that calypso was thought likely to be the next big thing after the supposedly passing fad of rock’n’roll. In fact Belafonte hated being hailed as the “King of Calypso”, knowing full well the quality of lesser-known acts and that most of his Caribbean material was in fact Jamaican mento rather than the calypso of Trinidad and Tobago.
This radiant double-album presents the diversity of Belafonte’s early recording career, the commonality being his Teflon baritone voice. Alas There’s a Hole in My Bucket is absent.