Harry Belafonte is one of the true genius performers and thinkers of the past two centuries. So when he uses his honorary Oscar acceptance speech to speak up about the terrible past of the movie industry, it's a truly amazing moment.
JUST LOOK AT WHAT A BOSS HE IS.
For those of you who have never heard of Harry Belafonte before — or have heard of him but are like, "Yeah! He's that 'Day-O' guy, right?" — well, to you I say, "Yes! He is that 'Day-O' guy." Harry Belafonte famously recorded the traditional Jamaican folk song "Day-O" in 1956. That's such a good song!
BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE HE DID?
- Released the first album by a single artist to sell more than 1 million copies in a year, "Calypso," in 1956. Not Elvis. Not Chuck Berry. Not Bob Dylan. Harry freaking Belafonte.
- Was super tight with Martin Luther King Jr. When King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech? Harry Belafonte was there. When King went to jail in the middle of the Birmingham protests? Harry Belafonte raised over $50,000 so they could keep going. When King was killed? Harry Belafonte was an executor of his estate. That's right. He was the guy who said, "Martin Luther King's — the father of civil rights — last will and motherloving testament isn't executed in law until HARRY BELAFONTE SAYS IT'S GOOD AND EXECUTED, YE SONS OF DOGS! Now who wants a piece?" Nobody wanted a piece.
- Appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" a month after The Beatles. The Beatles got 13 minutes. Belafonte got 22. Starting to think this guy is kind of the man, you guys.
- Was the main dude responsible for USA for Africa's "We Are the World," which raised over $50 million to combat hunger in Africa. Was also the main dude responsible for Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid, which he set up to discourage other performers from taking gigs in South Africa during the height of the apartheid regime. He took a ton of heat for this. So he backed down. Just kidding. Harry Belafonte never backs down.
- Appeared in 18 films, five of them as himself. When you get to play yourself FIVE TIMES in movies, that's when you know. You're playing 12-dimensional chess while everyone else is playing tic-tac-toe.
- Was appointed a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. Travels all around the world saving kids from hunger, racism, and disease with his bare hands.
- Best of all, he appeared on "The Muppet Show."
Picture a little clearer now? Good.
Now stop everything you're doing and let Harry Belafonte, Emperor of Earth*, BLOW YOUR HEAD CLEAN OFF with his gentle island rhythms.
*I wish. Oh do I wish.