Deep as the River

Deep as the River

by Harry Belafonte


Harry Belafonte was one of the first performers to bring worldbeat rhythms to the U.S. charts in the postwar era. Born in Harlem, but spending a good part of his childhood in his mother's native Jamaica, Belafonte grew up straddling cultures and musical styles, and that gift of bridging perceived differences became his calling card as an entertainer. His silky smooth mixture of jazz, folk, pop, and art song, coupled with his charismatic good looks and easy, hip coolness and sharp racial and political sense, meant he was never reduced to being a mere commodity, even though he spent his whole career on major labels. His biggest success came with faux calypso tracks like "Banana Boat Song (Day O)," a song written by Brooklyn-born (albeit in a Jamaican neighborhood) Irving Burgie, but Belafonte was far from a one-trick pony, and his urbane, artful arrangements of pop and folk songs gave them a sort of timeless feel. This set lacks any of Belafonte's biggest hits, but it does feature the kind of material he handled and made his own so well, including versions of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes."

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