Calypso star Harry Belafonte dies at 96

Author: Yuvi April 25, 2023

Calypso star Harry Belafonte dies at 96

Harry Belafonte (Image Credit: AFP)

Her publicist Harry Belafonte, the superstar entertainer who introduced Caribbean flair to mainstream American music and became famous for his deep personal investment in civil rights, died Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 96 years old.

The barrier-breaking artist-activist died of heart failure at his home in New York, according to a publicist’s statement.

Born in Harlem to a Jamaican mother and a father from the French region of Martinique, the calypso singer and actor spent part of his childhood in Jamaica before returning to New York – a dual upbringing that shaped his musical and political outlook, and saw him campaign tirelessly for racial equality.

Harry Belafonte’s calypso, a style of Caribbean music that drew from West African and French influences, skyrocketed him to fame amid post-World War II prosperity and suburbanization.

Their third album, simply titled “Calypso” and released in 1956, became the first LP to sell over one million copies in the United States.

The album featured Belafonte’s signature song “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”.

Based on a Jamaican folk tune, Belafonte sings with a Caribbean accent, “Stack Bananas ’til Day Morning Come / Daylight Come and We Van Go Home.”

Harry Belafonte scoffed at suggestions that the song was just feel-good dance music, calling the track a rebellious take on workers who were demanding fair wages.

Even in his early career, Harry Belafonte did not shy away from controversy.

He starred in the 1957 film “Island in the Sun” as an upwardly mobile black politician on a fictional island who becomes involved with a woman from the white elite in one of Hollywood’s earliest depictions of interracial romance. goes.

In 1954, he became the first African American person to win a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway musical “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac”.

Six years later, he became the first African American to win an Emmy Award for his musical television program “Tonight with Belafonte”. He also won three Grammys.

– ‘Conflict’ –

But her life’s work went well beyond performing, with both her music and films playing a supporting role in her activism.

As the civil rights movement gained momentum, Harry Belafonte took a pioneering role that went far beyond moral support. He became a confidante of Martin Luther King Jr. and personally opened his wallet to fund the cause.

“When people think of activism, they always think that there is some sacrifice involved, but I have always considered it a privilege and an opportunity,” she said in a 2004 speech at Emory University.

Harry Belafonte brought King and Birmingham, Alabama pastor Fred Shuttlesworth to his New York apartment to plan a 1963 campaign to integrate the notoriously racist Southern city.

When King was thrown into a Birmingham jail, Belafonte raised $50,000 – about $500,000 in current value – to post his bail, at a time when the rise of pop music was bringing wealth and lavish lifestyles to many entertainers. Was.

King said of Belafonte, “Harry Belafonte’s global popularity and his commitment to our cause is a vital component to the global struggle for freedom and a powerful strategic weapon in the civil rights movement here in America.”

“We are blessed by his courage and moral integrity.”

Despite his frequent criticism of American policies, Harry Belafonte said that the United States “offers a dream that cannot be easily accomplished anywhere else in the world” – but one that can only be achieved through “struggle”. can be obtained.

Following his election to the presidency, John F. Kennedy appointed Harry Belafonte to the advisory committee of the newly created Peace Corps, through which the young president hoped that the United States would demonstrate its power through non-military means. Will do

But Harry Belafonte said that while many in the Peace Corps hoped to “show how beautiful we are as people,” his mission was different — to expose young Americans to the struggles of the developing world.

Harry Belafonte spent much time in Africa, particularly Kenya, and became one of the first American artists to fight apartheid in South Africa.

Their album “Paradise in Gazankulu”, released in 1988, revolved around the oppression of black South Africans and was partly recorded in Johannesburg with local artists.

Harry Belafonte made his USA debut in 1985 for the supergroup Africa, whose song “We Are the World” raised millions of dollars for Ethiopia’s famine victims.

Accepting an award in Hollywood in 2014, Harry Belafonte said the entertainment industry had a sorry past record on race, but offered hope for the future.

He added, “I really wish I was around for the rest of the century to see what Hollywood does with the rest of the century.”

“Maybe, just maybe, this could be a game-changer for civilization.”

Author: Yuvi

My name is Yuvi, I work as Sub Editor at

25 April, 2023, 9:29 pm

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