Harry Belafonte, Singer and Activist, Dies at 96 of Congestive Heart Failure

Harry Belafonte, the iconic singer, actor, and activist, passed away at the age of 96 due to congestive heart failure.
Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte was known for breaking racial barriers and using his artistry to advocate for social justice. As an EGOT holder, having won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards, Belafonte made a significant impact on the entertainment industry and beyond.

Harry Belafonte gained popularity in the 1950s with his recordings for RCA Victor, which included his iconic rendition of the Jamaican folk song “Day-O,” also known as “The Banana Boat Song.” His good looks, charismatic performances, and unbuttoned shirt to his chest won the hearts of audiences, both Black and white, during a time when racial segregation was prevalent in America.

Born in Harlem to Caribbean parents, Belafonte’s mother was Jamaican, and his father was from Martinique. He spent time in Jamaica, where he absorbed the culture that influenced his music. In an interview with NPR, Belafonte explained that his recording of “The Banana Boat Song” was inspired by the work songs he heard from street vendors in Jamaica. The song, which became a smash hit, was about the plight of underpaid workers begging for an honest count of the bananas they had picked.

Belafonte’s career spanned across music, film, television, and theater. He won a Tony Award in 1954 for his role in the revue “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac: A Musical Harlequinade.” He also appeared in movies and TV variety shows, breaking barriers as the first African American to have a one-hour show on CBS called “The Revlon Revue: Tonight With Belafonte.” Belafonte was also known for his activism and close friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He helped organize the historic Freedom March on Washington in 1963, where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Belafonte’s humanitarian work extended beyond civil rights activism. He helped organize Nelson Mandela’s first trip to the U.S. after his release from prison and received numerous honors for his contributions to the arts and social justice. However, he was not without controversy, as his relationship with the King family soured in 2013 when he filed a lawsuit over documents that King had given him, which the family claimed he had “wrongfully acquired.” The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.

Harry Belafonte remained an outspoken critic of those in power, including President Barack Obama and African American artists Jay-Z and Beyonce, whom he accused of turning their back on social responsibility. Despite his criticisms, Belafonte’s impact on music, activism, and the fight for civil rights cannot be overstated. He was known for his tenacity, a quality he learned from his mother, and remained active in his humanitarian work well into his 90s.

The world has lost a true legend in Harry Belafonte, whose contributions to the arts, civil rights activism, and humanitarian work have left an indelible mark on history. His style, class, and charisma will always be remembered, and his legacy will continue to inspire generations to come. Rest in peace, Harry Belafonte.

Also Read: Actor Danny Masterson Accused of Drugging and Raping Three Women at His Home in Retrial

Leave a Reply

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