WASHINGTON — Calypso singing legend and social activist Harry Belafonte saluted young Americans behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, saying Tuesday: "We're lucky we got 'em."

"I would suggest that they stay the course," Belafonte, 84, told AFP on his way into a private screening in Washington of "Sing Your Song," an upcoming HBO television documentary on his life and times.

"I think that what they are doing is critical and necessary," he added.

"A lot of people have asked what happened to the current generation. I think they (the younger generation) have awakened to that question and talked to the world at large. We're lucky we got 'em."

Born in New York to Caribbean immigrants, Belafonte introduced calypso to the world in the 1950s with such chart-toppers as "Matilda," "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" and "Jamaica Farewell."

Success enabled him to give vital financial support to Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Later in life he engaged in issues as varied as apartheid, AIDS, African hunger and US foreign policy.