Song 30: Harry Belafonte, “Jump in the Line” (1961)


Like many people my age, I associate “Jump in the Line” with Beetlejuice, which is a great movie, but I’m kind of embarrassed that I don’t think of, oh, I don’t know, Harry Belafonte.

Belafonte is not only a consummate entertainer but an important figure in the history of the civil rights movement. He helped organize the “We Are The World” concert for Africa, was a vocal critic of the George W. Bush administration, and was an instrumental force in the anti-apartheid cause. He bailed Martin Luther King, Jr. out of Birmingham City Jail. He financed the Freedom Rides. And he made this ridiculously great song.

My favorite part is the very beginning. Each instrument comes in gradually, and then there’s a storm of activity. And this song is just plain fun, isn’t it? I hadn’t heard it in years, and it came on the PA at a Sox game last year. Lilly started dancing around, and I realized it was a perfect song for kids. We started dancing to this song every night after dinner for months after that.

Also, there may not be a better description of dancing than “She go up in the air, come down in slow motion.” I’m just saying.


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