Remembering Harry Belafonte - A Legend Of Music And Activism
Harry Belafonte, one of the most influential and versatile artists of the 20th century, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 96. He was a singer, actor, producer, humanitarian and civil rights icon who left an indelible mark on the world with his talent and his courage.
A Trailblazer in Entertainment
Belafonte was born in Harlem, New York, in 1927 to immigrant parents from Jamaica and Martinique. He spent part of his childhood in Jamaica, where he was exposed to the rich musical traditions of the Caribbean. He returned to New York as a teenager and joined the Navy during World War II. After the war, he pursued a career in acting and singing, studying with legends like Marlon Brando and Miles Davis.
He rose to fame in the 1950s with his distinctive style of calypso music, which blended folk, pop and jazz elements. His breakthrough album, Calypso, was the first LP to sell over a million copies and featured his signature song, "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)", which became a global anthem. He also starred in several movies, such as Carmen Jones, Island in the Sun and The World, The Flesh and The Devil, breaking racial barriers and challenging stereotypes.
He won numerous awards for his artistic achievements, including a Tony, an Emmy, a Grammy and an Oscar. He was also the first African American to have his own television show, The Revlon Revue: Tonight With Belafonte, which showcased diverse performers and musical genres.
A Champion of Social Justice
Belafonte was not only an entertainer but also an activist who used his fame and influence to fight for various causes. He was a close friend and supporter of Martin Luther King Jr., helping to organize and fund many civil rights events, such as the March on Washington in 1963. He also spoke out against apartheid in South Africa, poverty and hunger in Africa, AIDS awareness and prevention, nuclear disarmament and human rights around the world.
He collaborated with other artists and celebrities to raise awareness and money for various causes, such as We Are The World for famine relief in Africa, USA for Africa for humanitarian aid and Artists United Against Apartheid for sanctions against South Africa. He also served as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and received numerous honors for his humanitarian work, such as the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts and the NAACP Spingarn Medal.
Belafonte was a visionary who inspired generations of artists and activists with his passion, charisma and integrity. He once said: "Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization's radical voice." He lived up to that role until the end of his life. He will be dearly missed but never forgotten.