Harry Belafonte endorses union’s jazz campaign

Volume 113, No. 11December, 2013

Todd Bryant Weeks


Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte, one of the nation’s most prominent performers and social activists, has announced his endorsement of Local 802’s Justice for Jazz Artists campaign. Belafonte’s endorsement caps off a week which saw tremendous growth in support from notable figures including singer Alicia Hall Moran and the prominent New York-based pastor Michael A. Walrond, Jr.

The campaign has also been endorsed by over 20 members of the New York City Council and many state and national elected officials including U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler.

Belafonte, whose career has spanned six decades, was dubbed the “King of Calypso” for popularizing the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. He is perhaps best known for singing “The Banana Boat Song,” with its signature lyric “Day-O.” Throughout his career he has been an outspoken advocate for civil rights and humanitarian causes.

The Justice for Jazz Artists campaign seeks retirement and recording protections for musicians who work in major NYC nightclubs like the Blue Note, Iridium, Village Vanguard, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Jazz Standard and Birdland. With little access to state statutory benefits like Social Security, unemployment and workers’ compensation, many jazz artists, even those who have had long and relatively stable careers, retire into poverty or semi-poverty.

Furthermore, many jazz clubs now routinely record performances by musicians who work in their clubs, retaining the rights to the master recordings. Jazz musicians rarely see residual payments or royalties from those live recordings, but are not in a position to ask clubs not to record, and do so at their own peril.

Other endorsers of the jazz campaign include artists Ron Carter, Christian McBride, Joe Lovano, Paquito D’Rivera, Jason Moran, Jimmy Owens, Bob Cranshaw, Bill Frisell and Bobby Sanabria.

Additionally, the jazz campaign is supported by writers Nat Hentoff, Amiri Baraka, Dan Morgenstern, Gary Giddins, Stanley Crouch, many religious leaders and other labor organizations, including the Communication Workers of America and Actors Equity.

Mr. Belafonte’s artistic talent and commitment to social justice make him a notable and honored addition to Justice for Jazz Artists’ roster of support, which includes dozens of professional musicians, educators, writers and elected officials, and over 63,000 Facebook supporters. Additionally, over 6,000 campaign supporters have signed a petition to support for Justice of Jazz Artists. At this writing, no major New York City jazz nightclub has agreed to negotiate with Justice for Jazz Artists or the musicians’ union on the subject of pensions or recording rights.

For more information, visit, where you can find links to the campaign’s Facebook and Twitter pages.