Singer and actor Harry Belafonte, known for breaking racial barriers, has died at the age of 96. The legendary singer passed away of congestive heart failure on Tuesday morning in the presence of his wife.
Belafonte was a pioneer of the civil rights movement and paved the way for many new African American performers with his music. He was known for popularizing Jamaican mento folk songs with an international audience and was called the ‘King of Calypso’. Read on to know more about the activist’s life and career.
Singer-Activist Harry Belafonte Dies at 96
Belafonte’s spokesman Ken Sunshine confirmed his death with a statement on Tuesday. Born in 1927 to Jamaican-born parents, Belafonte attended George Washington High School and joined the US Navy afterward.
In the late 1940s, he got enrolled at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York and took classes in acting alongside German director Erwin Piscator. Belafonte also studied folk song archives at the US Library of Congress and went on to sing in clubs in New York to earn money for his acting class fee.
He shot to fame in 1956 with the release of his album Calypso, featuring the hit single Day-O (The Banana Boat Song). The album was an instant hit, becoming the first LP to sell over a million copies, and established Belafonte as an international star.
During his career, Belafonte released over 30 albums, selling millions of copies worldwide. He also collaborated with renowned artists including Miriam Makeba, Lena Horne, and Odetta.
Belafonte was a Three-Time Grammy Winner
The singer won three Grammys in his career, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to his music career, he has also appeared in several films and television shows, including Buck and the Preacher, White Man’s Burden, Kansas City, Carmen Jones, and The Player.
Belafonte consistently highlighted struggles faced by African Americans and other oppressed groups and became an outspoken advocate for social justice and equality. His involvement in the 1963 March on Washington is one of his most significant contributions to the civil rights movement.
In addition to his civil rights work, Belafonte has also been actively involved in humanitarian efforts, including relief work for victims of natural disasters and humanitarian crises across the globe. He served as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and also won several honors for his charity.
Tributes Pour in for the Singer
A number of celebs and fans have paid tribute to Harry Belafonte on social media. Oprah Winfrey wrote, “Another “GREAT TREE” has fallen: Harry Belafonte, a Trailblazer and Hero to us all. Thank you for your music, your artistry, your activism, your fight for civil rights and justice—especially risking your life back in the day to get money to the movement.”
Singer Jon Legend tweeted, “I loved Mr Belafonte and I’m so grateful for his revolutionary work and his massive influence on our nation and the world. I found out that he passed just before this interview. He worked so hard and did so much. May he get his well-deserved rest.”
May Harry Belafonte’s soul rest in peace! Stay tuned for more news and updates.