Harry Belafonte (born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr.; March 1, 1927 – April 25, 2023) was a Jamaican-American actor and award-winning singer.
Often nicknamed "the King of Calypso" (he has, however, sung in different genres), he appeared in many films during The Golden Age of Hollywood, was on TV acting and/or presenting, and is a political rights activist, known for being vocal during the Civil Rights Movement. His debut album was the first solo album to sell a million copies and his most famous song is "The Banana Boat Song" due to the lyric "Day-O". He won three Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as an Emmy and a Tony for his acting and music.
Born in Harlem and raised in Jamaica by his grandmother, Belafonte began performing in NYC nightclubs in order to pay for his acting classes with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Max Roach. He was discovered at the Village Vanguard and soon signed to RCA Records, for whom he enjoyed worldwide commercial success; his 1955 album Belafonte became the first title to reach the top spot on the newly-created Billboard album chart, while its 1956 follow-up Calypso not only hit #1 but stayed on the chart for over 30 weeks. His popularity made him a television personality and he appeared in films of many genres sporadically through the years. He retired from performing in 2007 but continued to be an ambassador for charities.
Belafonte died in 2023 from congestive heart failure at the age of 96.
- Carmen Jones (1954)
- Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
- The Angel Levine (1970)
- The Player (1992)
- Prêt-à-Porter (1994)
- White Man's Burden (1995)
- Bobby (2006)
- BlacKkKlansman (2018)
Tropes in Harry Belafonte's songs:
- Christmas Songs: His recording of "Mary's Boy Child", a calypso-styled carol written by veteran Gospel Music composer Jester Hairston, was a big hit in 1956 and is still heard frequently today. He also recorded a full seasonal album, To Wish You a Merry Christmas, in 1958.
- Non-Appearing Title: "The Banana Boat Song". It is, however, alternatively called "Day-O", which does appear in the song.