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Calypso and Calypsonians in North America, 1934-1961

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Archive for April 7th, 2018

How a Calypso Anthem Became the Surreal Centerpiece of Beetlejuice

Posted by Michael Eldridge on April 7, 2018

I don’t usually reblog, but this just seemed too perfect. Hat-tip to Repeating Islands—and to Pitchfork. (And, while we’re at it, to Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones [A.W. Merrick!].) I’m probably not quite as sanguine as Belafonte is about beer-soaked ballpark fans bellowing “Day-O”: minstrelsy comes in many forms, after all, and at this point a living legend like him surely doesn’t need to worry about his longevity. But if he can take the charitable view, then who am I to argue?

Repeating Islands

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A report by Zach Schonfeld for Pitchfork.

Harry Belafonte received a telephone call.

It was 1986 or early 1987, and David Geffen was on the other line. He was calling the Jamaican-American singer and activist on behalf of his production house, the Geffen Film Company, with a rather unusual request. Could he use Belafonte’s music in a dark comedy about two ghosts who hire a crass “freelance bio-exorcist” to rid their home of insufferable art snobs?

The film sounded preposterous. Yet Belafonte was intrigued. And flattered.

“I never had a request like that before,” says Belafonte, who is now 91 and retired from music in favor of humanitarian work. “We talked briefly. I liked the idea of Beetlejuice. I liked him. And I agreed to do it.” (Geffen was unable to be interviewed for this piece, but confirmed through a representative that he remembers the same phone…

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