Harry Belafonte was an American singer, activist, and actor.
As arguably the most successful Caribbean-American pop star, he popularized Jamaican mento folk songs which was marketed as Trinbagonian Calypso musical style with an international audience in the 1950s.
His breakthrough album Calypso (1956) was the first million-selling LP by a single artist.
Belafonte was best known for his recordings of “The Banana Boat Song”, with its signature “Day-O” lyric, “Jump in the Line”, and “Jamaica Farewell”.
He recorded and performed in many genres, including blues, folk, gospel, show tunes, and American standards.
He also starred in several films, including Carmen Jones (1954), Island in the Sun (1957), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).
Belafonte considered the actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson a mentor, and he was a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Belafonte won three Grammy Awards (including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award), an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award.
In 1989, he received the Kennedy Center Honors. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994.
In 2014, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy’s 6th Annual Governors Awards, and in 2022 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Early Influence category and was the oldest living person to have received the honor.
On April 25, 2023, Belafonte died from congestive heart failure at his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at the age of 96.
Harry Belafonte parents: Meet Harold George Bellanfanti, Sr., Melvine Bellanfanti
Belafonte was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. at Lying-in Hospital on March 1, 1927, in Harlem, New York, the son of Jamaican-born parents Harold George Bellanfanti Sr., who worked as a chef, and Melvine (née Love), a housekeeper.
His mother was the child of a Scottish Jamaican mother and an Afro-Jamaican father, and his father was the child of a Black American mother and a Dutch-Jewish father of Sephardic Jewish descent. Harry, Jr. was raised Catholic.