Harry Belafonte


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About Harry Belafonte

Singer, actor, and all-around entertainer Harry Belafonte is perhaps best known for popularizing calypso music with his 1956 blockbuster Calypso. But the multi-talented Jamaican American artist and activist has left a much bigger impression on America culture and the world at large before dying in 2023 at the age of 96. • Belafonte was born in Harlem to Caribbean immigrants. He moved with his mother to her native Jamaica in 1935 and remained there for five years. • In the late ’40s, after serving in the US Navy and studying acting at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research, Belafonte began singing in nightclubs around New York City. • He won Best Featured Actor at the 1954 Tony Awards for his performance in John Murray Anderson’s Almanac. • Having turned his attention to folk music, he broke through to the mainstream with 1956’s Calypso, which introduced American audiences to the titular style of music. The album features “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” which became Belafonte’s signature tune. • His 1960 album Swing Dat Hammer earned him a Grammy for Best Performance - Folk. He picked up a second in 1965 for An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba, a collaboration with South African singer Miriam Makeba. • While his recording career took off, the handsome Belafonte also became a movie star, appearing in films like Bright Road (1953) and Island in the Sun (1957). • Throughout his career, Belafonte was a vocal supporter of civil rights and humanitarian causes. He was close friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the ’60s, and in the ’80s, he helped to organize “We Are the World,” a charity single for African famine relief. • Belafonte received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1989 and a National Medal of Arts in 1994.

Harlem, NY, United States
March 1, 1927

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