Created by Matt Zoller Seitz
Directed by Judith Carter
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
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An eloquently told personal account of an era of enormous cultural and political change, which reveals Harry Belafonte as not only one of America’s greatest entertainers, but also one of our most profoundly influential activists.
Harry Belafonte spent his childhood in both Harlem and Jamaica, where the toughness of the city and the resilient spirit of the Caribbean lifestyle instilled in him a tenacity to face the hurdles of life head-on and channel his anger into positive, life-affirming actions. He returned to New York City after serving in the Navy in World War II, and found his calling in the theater, before transitioning into a career as a singer and Hollywood leading man. During the 1960s civil rights movement, Belafonte became close friends with Martin Luther King, Jr., and used his celebrity as a platform for his activism in civil rights and countless other political and social causes. My Song tells the inspiring story of a startlingly original and powerful entertainer who has always engaged fiercely with the issues of his day.
A New York Times Notable Book
“A brave and spellbinding memoir . . . Belafonte tells a sweeping story. . . . Surprising and revelatory.” —The Washington Post
“A gorgeous account of the large life of a Harlem boy.” —Garrison Keillor, The New York Times Book Review
“The ‘Song’ of [Belafonte’s] life has been . . . diverse, encompassing the heartbreaking ballads of poverty and loss, up-tempo pop songs of fame and wealth, and deeply felt spirituals of dedication to social justice. The world is richer for having heard them.” —The Boston Globe
“This rich memoir chronicles a lifetime of activism alongside some of history’s greatest heroes and sheds new light on moments that shaped our nation. Through it all, Harry exudes the same passion and candor I’ve experienced in our friendship and conversation over the years.” —President Bill Clinton
“Absorbing. . . . Belafonte is a man of many conflicting identities, all of which he’s needed to help change the world.” —New York magazine
“An honest, in many ways important and genuinely revelatory autobiography. . . . My Song is a more than fitting denouement for a life well lived.” —The Seattle Times
“Engrossing. . . . My Song is rich with vivid scenes of Belafonte working as an advisor, mediator, fundraiser and implementer.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Even amid the most intensely charged subject matter, Belafonte traces a path . . . with the easygoing charm of a born raconteur. Uncluttered and free of fuss, his narrative unfolds effortlessly. . . . The world may think of Belafonte as an entertainer first and an activist second, but My Song makes it engagingly, compellingly clear that he wishes his legacy to be prioritized the other way around.” —The A.V. Club
“Harry Belafonte has led an extraordinary life. . . . Some of the richest passages . . . focus on Belafonte’s social engagement.” —USA Today
“To read Harry Belafonte’s new memoir, My Song, is to discover a man who has packed enough life for ten people into eighty-four years.” —NPR/Morning Edition
“Belafonte certainly knows how to make an immediate and lasting impression. My Song follows suit with prose that’s fluid yet intensely detailed. . . . [There’s] a keen awareness of his greatness and place in history—but it’s never overbearing. After all, it’s not bragging when it’s true.” —The Austin Chronicle
“The entertainer-activist par excellence of his generation. . . . Belafonte, despite his gift for pungent soundbites, is a thoughtful man whose barbs are often tempered by nuanced observations on art, politics and race.” —The Daily Beast
“Belafonte’s story is the tale of a man who has well and truly balanced stardom and serious activism.” —The New Republic
“A story of triumph amid adversity that focuses on the intriguing personal life of one of the 20th century’s most iconic actors.” —The Root
“Bracingly opinionated autobiography from an American original, still provocative in his ninth decade .” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Harry Belafonte’s 1956 album Calypso made him the first artist in history to sell more than one million LPs. He has won both a Tony Award and an Emmy, and he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton. He has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and is the recipient of Kennedy Center Honors for excellence in the performing arts. He currently resides in New York City with his wife, Pamela.
Michael Shnayerson, a longtime contributing editor to Vanity Fair, is the author of Irwin Shaw; The Car That Could; The Killers Within, coauthored with Mark J. Plotkin, and Coal River, which recounted the efforts of Appalachian lawyers and grassroots groups to stop the devastating practice of mountaintop coal removal in southern West Virginia. Shnayerson’s passion for those environmental activists was one reason Harry Belafonte chose him to collaborate on his autobiography. Shnayerson lives in Bridgehampton, New York, with his daughter, Jenna.
MZS.Press is the online arts bookstore founded by author, critic, and filmmaker Matt Zoller Seitz and directed by Judith Carter. It offers new, used, signed, collectible, and rare books on film, TV, music, photography, and the visual arts. The store was launched in 2019 on a different platform and has expanded to incorporate arts books published by MZSPress's private imprint: titles currently include Seitz's The Deadwood Bible: A Lie Agreed Upon and Dreams of Deadwood, about the HBO Western, and Walter Chaw's A Walter Hill Film.
Our deepest wish is to promote, encourage, and distribute work by small presses, academic presses, and individuals. Extraordinary work tends to get swallowed up on giant platforms like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The store's inventory of nearly 1000 volumes is currently in the process of being reconstructed after its relocation from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Dallas, Texas. The titles featured here are personally selected by a group of curators and advisors, including Seitz, Carter, and an array of critics, artists, journalists, educators, publishers, and arts mavens who are known for their ability to suss out what Seitz's jazz musician dad liked to call "the good sh*t."
“Please. Have mercy. I’ve been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday.”
Matt Zoller Seitz
Critic, Author, Filmmaker, MZS Press Creator
Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large and film critic of RogerEbert.com; a staff writer for New York Magazine and Vulture.com, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. His writing on film and TV has appeared in Sight and Sound, The New York Times, Salon.com, The New Republic and Rolling Stone. Seitz is the founder and original editor of the influential film blog The House Next Door, now a part of Slant Magazine.
Seitz has written, narrated, edited or produced over a hundred hours’ worth of video essays about cinema history and style for The Museum of the Moving Image, Salon.com and Vulture, among other outlets. His five-part 2009 video essay Wes Anderson: The Substance of Style was spun off into the hardcover book The Wes Anderson Collection. This book and its follow-up, The Wes Anderson Collection: Grand Budapest Hotel were New York Times bestsellers.
Other Seitz books include the New York Times bestellers The Sopranos Sessions and Mad Men Carousel; TV (The Book), The Deadwood Bible: A Lie Agreed Upon, and the forthcoming The Wes Anderson Collection: The French Dispatch. He is also an interviewer, moderator, and film programmer who has curated and hosted film and TV presentations for the Museum of the Moving Image, IFC Center, San Francisco's Roxie Cinema, and other venues. He is currently working on a memoir about his marriages and a feature-length documentary about his father, jazz musician and composer Dave Zoller.
His hobbies include exotic dancing, moonwalking, and affixing masking tape labels to every food item in the refrigerator, including eggs. He has the attention span of a gnat.