Belafonte to celebrate 90th birthday with new project

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Harry Belafonte arrives at a charity gala in 2014. (AP Photo/Steffi Loos, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Harry Belafonte is turning 90 in a few weeks, and he’s planning to use the milestone to release an album that will underscore part of his life’s work — fostering racial harmony.

A multi-ethnic children’s choir will perform a new version of his classic “Island in the Sun” for a new anthology of his music, “When Colors Come Together: The Legacy of Harry Belafonte.” He co-wrote the song for the 1957 film “Island in the Sun.” It generated controversy at the time for its exploration of race and interracial romance.

“Most of the things that fuel prejudice, that fuels hate … are contrived,” Belafonte, who turns 90 on March 1, said in a release. “The differences that exist between us should be things that attract us to one another, not alienate us from one another.”

Belafonte has been a longtime civil rights activist, marching with the likes of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He is an honorary co-chair of the Women’s March on Saturday in Washington.

According to the official album release statement:

The film, Island In The Sun explored themes of racial tension and interracial romance in an explosive drama based on Alec Waugh’s 1955 novel. With the myriad of problems facing the world today, none embody the passion and life’s work of Belafonte more than the issue of race. Coming from a background of diversity he evolved into a performing artist with a deep, lifelong commitment to social activism. In the spirit of that commitment and at the forefront of this important effort is a re-imagining of one of Harry’s classic recordings that took the world by storm, wrote David Belafonte in his liner notes to the album. We are proud to present ‘When Colors Come Together (Our Island In The Sun)’: re-interpreted for children; and re-recorded by children. We hasten to make the case that the concept of race is not a trait with which one is born, but instead an acquired disease that festers with age. As such, we looked to these young children as the voice of this expression through this reimagined song, dance, and art.

The album is set for release on Feb. 24. Here is the track list for “When Colors Come Together… The Legacy of Harry Belafonte”:

1) When Colors Come Together (Our Island In The Sun) (newly recorded for this album)

2) Jump In The Line (1961 – Jump Up Calypso)

3) Banana Boat (Day-O) (1956 – Calypso)

4) All My Trials (1959 – Love is a Gentle Thing)

5) Empty Chairs (1973 – Play Me)

6) Matilda (1956 – Belafonte)

7) Angelina (1961 – Jump Up Calypso)

8) Turn The World Around (1977 – Turn The World Around)

9) Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair) (1956 – Belafonte)

10) Abraham, Martin and John (1970 – Belafonte By Request)

11) On Top of Old Smokey (1962 – The Midnight Special)

12) Jamaica Farewell (1956 – Calypso)

13) Brown Skin Girl (1956 – Calypso)

14) Island In The Sun (From “Island In The Sun”) (1957 – Belafonte Sings of the Caribbean)

15) Those Three Are On My Mind (1967 – Belafonte On Campus)

16) Try To Remember (1966 – In My Quiet Room)

17) Mary’s Boy Child (1956 – An Evening with Belafonte)

18) Look Over Yonder/Be My Woman, Gal (Live) (1972 – Harry Belafonte…Live!)

19 ) Pastures of Plenty (Live) (1972 – Harry Belafonte…Live!)

Associated Press; Contributing: Sun-Times staff reporter Miriam Di Nunzio

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