HomeMusicHarry Belafonte Dies at 96

Harry Belafonte Dies at 96

Legendary singer, activist, and actor Harry Belafonte has died of congestive heart failure, The New York Times reports. He was 96 years old.

Belafonte grew up in New York as the son of Caribbean immigrants. Although he recorded many different genres of music, he became known as the “King of Calypso” thanks to his Caribbean hits “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” and “Jump in the Line” in the 1950s. His 1956 album Calypso also became the first LP to achieve one million sales. In addition to recording numerous studio albums, he was accomplished on the stage (winning a Tony Award in 1953), screen (starring in multiple films and in his TV variety specials), and as a civil rights activist. Belafonte’s final studio album, Paradise in Gazankulu, arrived back in 1988.

An activist, Belafonte was a prominent voice in the civil rights movement and a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He supported causes like UNICEF and came up with the idea to record the star-packed charity single “We Are the World.” He was extremely critical of George W. Bush, endorsed Bernie Sanders, and referred to Donald J. Trump’s election as the coming of “the Fourth Reich.”

Belafonte received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1989, the National Medal of Arts in 1994, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. He is among the select group of artists to have received an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony for his work. The Berklee College of Music awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2014.

“Shining example of how to use your platform to make change in the world,” Questlove wrote in a tribute to Belafonte. “Hi$ activi$m was crucial for the civil rights movement. His activism was key in the anti apartheid movement.”

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