Inside Music with Melinda Newman

Hitfix Interview: Harry Belafonte and his harsh words for Barack Obama

The star of new doc, 'Sing Your Song,' also takes on today's artists

<p>Harry Belafonte</p>

Harry Belafonte

Credit: Victoria Will/AP

PARK CITY - One of the most stirring documentaries making the rounds at the Sundance Film Festival this year is “Sing Your Song,” a film about the life of Harry Belafonte. While the movie traces his musical career, its focus is his life-long role as a civil rights leader and humanitarian and as someone who has never feared speaking truth to power. It shows him walking side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr., gently chiding the Kennedys for dragging their feet in supporting civil rights, rebuking Bill Clinton for his actions in Haiti, and celebrating Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

His actions have come at a cost:  the FBI spied on him relentlessly and ultimately broke up his first marriage. He’s been chased by the Ku Klux Klan and threatened many times.

We got a chance to talk with Belafonte at Sundance in one of the few interviews he conducted. We also spoke with his daughter, Gina, who co-produced “Sing Your Song,” and the film’s director, Susanne Rostock. They said they are fielding many offers for the picture and they’d like for it to have a theatrical as well as television run, but ultimately, their goal is to have the movie used as a teaching tool in schools about the Civil Rights movement and power of the individual to make a difference.  As Gina Belafonte says, “We want it to be everywhere.”

[More after the jump...]

Sundance Review: 'The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975'

What can Swedish footage from that time teach us about our own country?

<p>'The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975'</p>

'The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975'

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975”  has a powerful opportunity to teach us something about our American past, but the film, which had its world premiere at Sundance Jan. 21, needed a stronger guiding hand and voice to reach its full potency.

The documentary is crafted around footage shot by Swedish journalists from 1967-1975 as they attempted to understand the Black Experience in America.  The 16mm material, which surfaced 30 years later, and director Goran Olsson uses it as the basis for his 96-minute film.

The footage veers from produced pieces that aired on Swedish television to talking head interviews with blacks about their daily living experiences in places like Harlem, as well as film of civil rights leaders and activists coming to Sweden.

[More after the jump...]

Sundance Review: 'Sing Your Song' highlights Harry Belafonte's life as a crusader

'Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)' is the least of what we'll remember him for

<p>&nbsp;Harry Belafonte and John F. Kennedy in a scene from 'Sing Your Song'</p>

 Harry Belafonte and John F. Kennedy in a scene from 'Sing Your Song'

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY - The legendary Paul Robeson once told a young Harry Belafonte, “Get them to sing your song and they’ll want to know who you are.”

As the documentary “Sing Your Song” shows, it was advice well taken. Belafonte may be best known by the casual fan for popularizing the calypso tune, “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” but he has raised his voice for far greater things. For close to 60 years, Belafonte has traveled the world over as a civil rights leader and connector: he helped bring Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedys together. He coordinated Nelson Mandela’s first U.S. appearance after the South African leader was freed from Robben Island.

The 83-year old Belafonte was born in Harlem, but sent to Jamaica as a young boy to be raised by relatives. There, he learned the songs of the peasants and workers, and later made many of the tunes famous as the Calypso King. The Tony-winning actor was touring the south in 1952 with a show called “Three for Tonight” when he first encountered prejudice. A state trooper threatened to kill him if he used the bathroom designated for non-blacks. That awakened a passion in him already stirred by his mother who told him as a boy to “never let a day go by without doing something to undermine injustice.” Each personal slight against him, such as when he was headlining the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas, yet was not allowed to come through the front door or eat in the main dining room, fueled his burning desire to help change the world for those who have no voice.

Utilizing an astonishing array of archival tape (and new footage), “Sing Your Song,”  reserves roughly 80% of its 103 minutes to Belafonte’s humanitarian work. Filmmaker Susanne Rostock crafts together a  loving, yet never fawning, story of a life lived in service of the world. 

[More after the jump...]

Sundance: Music From Main Street: Part 1

At the ASCAP Cafe with Josh Ritter, Manchester Orchestra and Paul Reiser

<p>Josh Ritter</p>

Josh Ritter

PARK CITY—People come to the Sundance Film Festival for the movies, to be sure, but the event has also become a hotbed for music with concerts all over the city for the duration.

Ground zero for the music scene at Sundance is the ASCAP Cafe on Main Street, which for seven days features live music from 2-6 p.m. We’ll be bringing you several reports from there throughout our stay at Sundance.  The line-up focuses primarily on singer/songwriters since they are, in many cases, performing acoustically.

[More after the jump...]

Watch: Pink's new video for 'F**kin' Perfect'

Things get a lot worse before they get better

Watch: Pink's new video for 'F**kin' Perfect'

Pink, despite all of her success, has always identified herself as a “dirty little freak.”  She’s from the land of misfit toys, and proud of it.

In the new video for “F**ckin’ Perfect,” the second previously unreleased song from her greatest hits set,  she takes a song whose lyrics are meant to give anyone who’s ever felt they don’t belong hope that they are fine just the way they are, and takes them to some pretty dark places first.

[More after the jump...]

Movie Review: 'Lemmy: 49% Motherf***er, 51% Son of a Bitch'

Documentary explores the myth of the Motorhead frontman



The full title of the new documentary on Lemmy Kilmister, leader of long-surviving metal band Motorhead, is “Lemmy: 49% Motherf***ker, 51% Son of a Bitch,” but as viewers will see for themselves, the name is a bit of a misnomer.  Lemmy is 100%  softie.

He tears up ever so slightly when he talks about losing his girlfriend to a heroin overdose in her teens. He looks a little weepy when asked, in the middle of his overwhelmingly memorabilia-stuffed apartment, what the most precious item is, as he answers “my son,” who is sitting on the sofa beside him.  Mind you, they didn’t meet until the boy was six, allegedly in the midst of a drug deal. And with a bit of unconvincing nonchalance, Lemmy adds, “I have another one, but I’ve never met him, so he doesn’t count.”  Okay, make that 93% softie.

Lemmy is one of rock’s great characters and Motorhead one of the pioneers of heavy metal. While Motorhead has never had anything remotely resembling a hit song in the U.S, you’d be hard pressed to find a metal band, whether it’s Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax or dozens of others, that doesn’t owe a tremendous debt to Motorhead.  If Spinal Tap’s amps went to 11, Motorhead’s go to 17.

[More after the jump...]

Katy Perry kicks off 'California Dreams' tour in Atlanta June 7

HitFix has all the dates for you on the 41-city tour

<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Credit: AP Photo

Katy Perry took to Facebook today to tell her millions of friends that she will start the U.S. portion of her California Dreams tour June 7 in Atlanta. The 41-city outing, sponsored by Schick Quattro for Women (that’s a razor), ends Aug. 14 in her hometown of Santa Barbara, Calif.

The international tour starts Feb. 20 in Lisbon, Portugal and will travel through Europe, U.K. Australia and Japan before she comes to the U.S.

[More after the jump...]

Britney Spears starts at No. 1 on Hot 100 with 'Hold It Against Me'

Bruno Mars' 'Grenade' can't blast her hopes

<p>Britney Spears</p>

Britney Spears

Here’s a phrase we couldn’t imagine uttering three years ago: It’s good to be Britney Spears.  Lots of fans want to hold, “Hold It Against Me,” the first single from Spears’ upcoming album, against them as the song debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Spears is only the second artist in the chart’s 52-year history to have more than one song bow in pole position  (we’ll reveal the other artist at the end of this posting). As you recall, it wasn’t so long ago that Spears’ “3” came in at No. 1 for the week of Oct. 24, 2009, according to Billboard.

While we celebrate that fact, in this digital sales age, it’s not the rare feat that it once was. In fact, it was only two months ago that Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” launched at No. 1. (The Billboard 100 combines airplay and digital sales). A total of 18 songs have started their chart lives at No. 1.

[More after the jump...]

Cake bakes its way to No. 1 on Billboard 200 in another record sales low

Cage the Elephant debuts at No. 2



Taylor Swift can breathe a sigh of relief: her dubious distinction of landing at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with the lowest sales figure in the SoundScan era to achieve that feat is over. Cake’s “Showroom of Compassion” now holds that record as it bows on the album chart with sales of 44,000.  Swift set the record last week with 52,000 for “Speak Now.”

“Showroom of Compassion” is Cake’s first new studio album in years and its first to reach not only the summit but to land in the Top 10.

[More after the jump...]

Arcade Fire, Kanye West, Kings of Leon headline Coachella 2011

Duran Duran, Black Keys, Mumford & Sons also on the bill

<p>Kanye West</p>

Kanye West

Credit: AP

Arcade Fire, Kanye West and Kings of Leon will headline Coachella 2011.

The 12th annual Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival will be held April 15-17 at the Empire Polo Club grounds in Indio, Calif.

Other top acts include Duran Duran, Lauryn Hill,  The Strokes, PJ Harvey, Animal Collective, Brandon Flowers,  Erykah Badu, Mumford & Sons, The Black Keys, Robyn and Scissor Sisters.

[More after the jump...]

Get Instant Alerts on Music News

Around the Web