Legendary singer Harry Belafonte dies aged 96

Harry Belafonte has sadly died at the age of 96.

As reported by The Mirror, the news of the legendary singer, actor, and civil rights activist’s passing was confirmed by his spokesperson, Ken Sunshine.

Sunshine revealed that Belafonte died on Tuesday (April 25) at home in Manhattan after suffering from congestive heart failure.

Known as the “King of Calypso”, Belafonte shot to fame in the 1950s in part thanks to his 1956 hit single ‘The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)’. Additionally, his first album, Calypso, became the first LP ever to surpass 1 million sales and spent a whopping 31 weeks at the top of the charts.
size-large wp-image-1263208253

Harry Belafonte back in 2012. Credit: Jeff Morgan 02 / Alamy

Speaking to CBS News back in 2018 about the album’s incredible success, Belafonte said: “I did it as part of what would become a larger display of the music of various cultures around the world.”

“I had had a deep interest in Africa and a deep interest in Latin America, but I got only to Calypso and then the world stopped,” he added. “I woke up one day and everyone was singing ‘Day-O’.”

Belafonte continued: “Most of my family in the Caribbean, in Jamaica, were plant workers and harvesting bananas and sugarcane and all the crops. That was our mainstay and as a kid everybody sang the ‘Banana Boat.’

“Singing was a big part of the culture. It helped with the tediousness of working in the sun all day long.”

size-large wp-image-1263208261

Calypso (1956) was the first album to reach 1 million sales. Credit: Records / Alamy

But many will also Belafonte for his contributions outside of the entertainment world.

Becoming a fundraiser, key strategist, activist, and mediator for the civil rights movement – often at risk of his career in entertainment –  Belafonte became a close friend of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Belafonte also recalled spending time with Luther King Jr. prior to his assassination, during which, MLK told the singer: “I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win, but I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house.

“I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had, and I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised.”

size-large wp-image-1263208254

Credit: REUTERS / Alamy

CNN describes Belafonte as a “voracious reader with a burning disdain for injustice”, who was shaped by his childhood as the son of a poor Jamaican mother.

When asked why he chose to become an activist and move away from being an artist, Belafonte once said: “I was an activist long before I became an artist. They both service each other, but the activism is first.”

Throughout his career, Belafonte became a three-time Grammy award winner – but he was also a well-respected actor and stage performer.

He would receive a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway revue John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, and walked the boards again in the 1955 Broadway revue 3 for Tonight.

Belafonte would also become the first Jamaican American in history to win an Emmy award, for his Revlon Revue: Tonight with Belafonte.

Our thoughts go out to Belafonte’s family, friends, fans, and supporters at this time…

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *