Harry Belafonte, the legendary Jamaican-American singer-songwriter, actor, and activist, has passed away. He was 96 years old at the time.

Ken Sunshine, Belafonte’s longtime representative, announced in a press release that the singer died of congestive heart failure. He died at home in New York at the age of 96, “with his wife Pamela [Frank] by his side.”

Belafonte was born in Jamaica and moved to America, where he settled in Harlem. Belafonte dropped out of high school to join the United States Navy. Belafonte returned to New York after receiving an honorable discharge before commencing his career and obtaining his first big part in June and the Pacock at the American Negro Theatre. Belafonte later won a Tony Award in 1954.

Belafonte was a multifaceted artist who performed in the jazz, pop, and folk genres as well as a singer and composer. Belafonte issued his debut album in 1954, the same year he received his Tony Award for Almanac. Belafonte made a comeback in 1956 with his breakthrough album Calypso, selling one million copies and earning the title “King of Calypso.” The album gave birth to “Day-O (Banana Boat Song),” which went on to become Calyspo’s most famous tune and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009. In 1960, Belafonte won an Emmy for his performance in The Revlon Revue: Tonight With Belafonte.

Activities related to activism occupied much of Belafonte’s life and career. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Belafonte collaborated in the civil rights movement early in their careers. He would draw on the support of artists everywhere to highlight the problems that affected African countries by fusing activism and creativity.

Most significantly, famine and warfare caused a $60 million investment in the country through the Hands Across America campaign, which featured “We Are the World.” Most recently, he had a virtual celebration for his 94th birthday to collect money for The Gathering for Justice, a nonprofit organization founded to halt the incarceration of children while attempting to eradicate the racial injustices that permeate the legal system. He represented UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador for the duration of his life.

Throughout his lifetime, Belafonte received numerous honors, including the Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award and the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton for his contributions to Africa and Africare.

His wife Pamela, four biological children, two adopted children, and eight grandchildren all survived him.

Enjoy your tranquility, William Belafonte.


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