Photo: Manfred Werner - Tsui

Legendary Singer Harry Belafonte: Dead At 96

Earlier today (4.25,) iconic singer/actor, Harry Belafonte, passed away at his Manhattan home due to congestive heart failure. He was 96 years old.

In 1927, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. was born in Harlem, New York to Caribbean-born parents. Enjoying massive in the 1950s, the musician helped popularize calypso music before going on to perform folk, blues and American standards. 

Perhaps best known for such classics as ‘Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),’ ‘Jump in the Line,’ and ‘Jamaica Farewell,’ Harry’s breakthrough 1956 album ‘Calypso’ is believed to be the very first LP by a single artist to sell more than a million copies.

In addition to his music career, Belafonte was an actor, appearing in films such as ‘Carmen Jones,’ ‘Island in the Sun,’ ‘Odds Against Tomorrow,’ and his swan song role in 2018’s BlacKkKlansman.

Given his popularity as an entertainer, the barrier-breaking legend was able to leverage his celebrity as a prominent civil rights activist and a friend and supporter of Martin Luther King Jr. 

Throughout his seven-decade long career Belafonte received innumerable honors, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2000,), a Kennedy Center Honor (1989,) the National Medal of Arts (1994,) and was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2014 in recognition of his civil rights activism. 

Harry Belafonte was married to Marguerite Byrd (1948-1957,) Julie Robinson (1957-2004,) and Pamela Frank from 2008 who, along with his four children, two stepchildren, and eight grandchildren, survives his passing.

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Author: Al Denté

Photo: Manfred Werner – Tsui