Harry Belafonte, Entertainer & Civil Rights Activist, Has Passed Away [CONDOLENCES]
Harry Belafonte — a trailblazing singer, actor and activist — has died at the age of 96.
On Tuesday (Apr.25), Belafonte’s publicist confirmed that the legendary entertainer passed away due to congestive heart failure at his New York home.
Harry Belafonte was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. in Harlem in 1927 but was raised in Jamaica for a portion of his life. He grew up to become an influential entertainment figure and a civil rights activist. He broke barriers as one of the first Black leading men in Hollywood in the 1950s-1960s. Belafonte went on to star in films such as The Award Story, Island in the Sun, Odds Against Tomorrow, and Carmen Jones (co-starring Dorothy Dandridge), which received critical acclaim.
When it came to music, Belafonte was just as successful. He was dubbed the “King of Calypso” after the success of his 1956 hit, The Banana Boat Song (Day-O). He also earned the first gold record in history after selling over 1 million LPs for his 1956 album Calypso, which remained on the Billboard Top Pop Album charts for 31 weeks.
In his 2011 book, My Song: A Memoir, Belafonte wrote:
“I was good as a singer, but I wasn’t the best, and I’d known that from the start. I had to rely on my acting. And in the end, I could make a case that I was the greatest actor in the world: I’d convinced everyone I could sing.”
While he dominated the entertainment space, he also played a significant role when it came to the fight for civil rights. Belafonte was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and was a key organizer for the historic 1963 March on Washington.
He once said,
“I’ve often responded to queries that ask, ‘When as an artist did you decide to become an activist?’ My response to the question is that I was an activist long before I became an artist. They both service each other, but the activism is first.”
By the 1980s, he helped organize the We Are the World recording, which became the anthem for famine relief in Africa.
Over his illustrious life and career, the EGOT winner was awarded many honors including; a Kennedy Center Honors for Excellence in the performing arts; the Nelson Mandela Courage Award, and the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton. In 2022, he received an Early Influence Award from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Belafonte is survived by his wife Pamela, and their four children.
We send our thoughts and prayers to the Belafonte family.
[Source: 1, 2, 3]
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