The 96-year-old musician and performer Harry Belafonte used his fame as a Calypso sensation to support civil rights and charitable causes.
One or two of Belafonte’s well-known songs is “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” along with “Jamaica Farewell” and “Jump in the Line.”. His spokesperson Ken Sunshine told the New York Times that congestive heart failure was the cause of death. He passed away in his Manhattan home.
Belafonte was born on March 1st, 1927, in Harlem, New York City, the son of low-income Caribbean immigrants. He spent several years of his formative years in Jamaica with his grandmother before returning to New York City in the 1940s.
He admitted to People Magazine that his early years were “the most trying times of my life.”. “My mother loved me, but she also expressed great sorrow that I was left alone,” the author wrote.
During World War II, he left high school early to enlist in the Navy. After serving, he went back to New York to pursue a theater career. According to Biography, Belafonte attended the same drama school as Marlon Brando and Walter Matthau.
At the same time, with help from musicians like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, he also rose to prominence as a jazz club performer.
Belafonte won a Tony Award for his performance in John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, his Broadway debut. His roles opposite Dorothy Dandridge in movies like the musical Carmen Jones helped him quickly rise to fame.
He also played a part in the spread of traditional Trinbagonian Calypso music throughout the world. His album Calypso from 1956 was a big hit and the first to sell one million copies. It also included “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” the song he made famous. ”.
Later, Belafonte told The New York Times, “that song is a way of life. It is a song about the Jamaican men and women who work in the cane and banana fields, as well as my parents, grandparents, and uncles.
He made history by becoming the first Black person to win an Emmy for his 1959 television program Revlon Revue: Tonight with Belafonte.
Despite being known as the “King of Calypso,” Belafonte was also well-known for being an activist his entire life.
Martin Luther King Jr. and him became good friends. and participated in numerous protests and rallies as a vocal supporter of the US civil rights movement. His mentor was the activist and fellow performer Paul Robeson.
Belafonte later wrote in his autobiography, “Paul Robeson had been my first great formative influence; you might say he gave me my backbone. The next was Martin Luther King Jr. He sustained my spirit.
At the 1963 March on Washington, which he helped to organize, King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. He also backed the 1961 Freedom Rides as well as voter registration campaigns. In addition to getting MLK released on bail, he raised money to free other civil rights activists.
Throughout his entire life, Belafonte remained an activist. In the 1980s, he assembled a supergroup of well-known musicians to record “We Are the World,” a song for African famine relief that went on to become one of the best-selling singles of all time and raise more than $10 million when it was released.
He was a strong opponent of the Iraq War and was active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
Belafonte is recognized today for his innovative music and unwavering commitment to the civil rights movement.
He has received a number of lifetime achievement awards, such as the Kennedy Center Honors in 1989, the National Medal of Arts in 1994, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, and the honorary Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022, he became the oldest living member.
To Harry Belafonte: peace be with you. a fantastic musician who devoted his life to upholding his values.
Please spread this tale in Harry Belafonte’s honor.