Harry Belafonte, who combined music, performing, and activism, passes away at 96: report

Harry Belafonte, a singer, songwriter and groundbreaking actor who began his leisure profession belting Day O in his Nineteen Fifties hit music Banana Boat earlier than turning to political activism, has died on the age of 96, the New York Occasions reported on April 25.

As a Black main man who explored racial themes in Nineteen Fifties films, Belafonte would later transfer on to working along with his buddy Martin Luther King Jr. in the course of the U.S. civil rights motion within the early Sixties. He grew to become the driving pressure behind the celebrity-studded, famine-fighting hit music We Are the World within the Nineteen Eighties.

Belafonte as soon as stated he was in a relentless state of revolt that was pushed by anger.

“I’ve got to be a part of whatever the rebellion is that tries to change all this,” he informed the New York Occasions in 2001. “The anger is a necessary fuel. Rebellion is healthy.”

Belafonte was born in New York Metropolis’s borough of Manhattan however spent his early childhood in his household’s native Jamaica. Good-looking and suave, he got here to be often known as the “King of Calypso” early in his profession. He was the primary Black particular person allowed to carry out in lots of plush nightspots and likewise had racial breakthroughs in films at a time when segregation prevailed in a lot of america.

In Island within the Solar in 1954 his character entertained notions of a relationship with a white lady performed by Joan Fontaine, which reportedly triggered threats to burn down theaters within the American South. In 1959’s Odds In opposition to Tomorrow Belafonte performed a financial institution robber with a racist companion.

Within the Sixties he campaigned with King, and within the Nineteen Eighties, he labored to finish apartheid in South Africa and coordinated Nelson Mandela’s first go to to america.

‘We are the world’

Belafonte traveled the world as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Kids’s Fund, in 1987 and later began an AIDS basis. In 2014 he acquired an Academy Award for his humanitarian work.

Belafonte offered the impetus for We Are the World, the 1985 all-star musical collaboration that raised cash for famine reduction in Ethiopia. After seeing a grim information report on the famine, he wished to do one thing much like the fund-raising music Do They Know It is Christmas? by the British supergroup Band Support a 12 months earlier.

We Are the World featured superstars equivalent to Michael Jackson, Stevie Marvel, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and Diana Ross and raised tens of millions of {dollars}.

“A lot of people say to me, ‘When as an artist did you decide to become an activist?'” Belafonte stated in a Nationwide Public Radio interview in 2011. “I say to them, ‘I was long an activist before I became an artist.'”

Even in his late 80s, Belafonte was nonetheless talking out on race and revenue equality and urging President Barack Obama to do extra to assist the poor. He was a co-chair of the Girls’s March on Washington held the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president in January 2017.

Belafonte’s politics made headlines in January 2006 throughout a visit to Venezuela when he known as President George W. Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world.” That very same month he in contrast the U.S. Homeland Safety Division to the Gestapo of Nazi Germany.

An anthology of his music was launched to mark Belafonte’s ninetieth birthday on March 1, 2017. Just a few weeks earlier than the launch, Belafonte informed Rolling Stone journal that singing was a method for him to precise injustices on the planet.

“It gave me a chance to make political commentary, to make social statements, to talk about things that I found that were unpleasant – and things that I found that were inspiring,” he stated.

Born Harold George Bellanfanti in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, he moved to Jamaica earlier than returning to New York to attend highschool.

He had described his father an abusive drunk who deserted him and his mom, leaving Belafonte with a eager for a steady household. He drew power from his mom, an uneducated home employee, who instilled the activist spirit in him.

“We were instructed to never capitulate, to never yield, to always resist oppression,” Belafonte informed Sure! journal.

Becoming a member of the resistance

Throughout World Struggle Two, these ideas led him to affix the Navy, which additionally offered stability after he dropped out of highschool.

“The Navy came as a place of relief for me,” Belafonte informed Sure! “… But I was also driven by the belief that Hitler had to be defeated … My commitment sustained itself after the war. Wherever I found resistance to oppression, whether in Africa, in Latin America, certainly here in America in the South, I joined that resistance.”

After the Navy, Belafonte labored as a janitor in an house constructing and as a stagehand on the American Negro Theater earlier than getting roles and learning with Marlon Brando and Sidney Poitier, one other pioneering Black actor who would turn into an in depth buddy.

He additionally appeared on Broadway in Almanac, profitable a Tony Award, and within the film Carmen Jones in 1954.

Belafonte’s third album, Calypso, grew to become the primary by a single performer to promote greater than 1 million copies. Banana Boat, a music about Caribbean dock staff with its resounding name of Day O, made him a star. Surgical procedure to take away a node on his vocal cords within the ’60s, nevertheless, diminished his voice to a raspy whisper.

In 1959, he started producing movies and teamed with Poitier to provide Buck and the Preacher and Uptown Saturday Night. In 1984, he produced Beat Road, one of many first films about break-dancing and hip-hop tradition.

Belafonte was the primary Black performer to win a significant Emmy in 1960 along with his look on a tv selection particular. He additionally gained Grammy Awards in 1960 and 1965 and acquired a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2000 however voiced frustration on the limits on Black artists in present enterprise. In 1994, Belafonte was awarded the Nationwide Medal of Arts.

Belafonte was married thrice. He and his first spouse Marguerite Byrd had two kids, together with actress-model Shari Belafonte. He additionally had two kids with second spouse Julia Robinson, a former dancer.

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