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Singer, actor, activist Harry Belafonte dies at age 96 in New York

Harry Belafonte died on Tuesday at his Manhattan house due to congestive heart failure at the age of 96

Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte

Sudeep Singh Rawat New Delhi

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Harry Belafonte, the American singer, actor and civil rights activist, died at 96 in his Manhattan house on Tuesday.

His spokesperson said the reason for the death was congestive heart failure. Belafonte was a "complete entertainer" who played a significant role in popularising calypso music in the United States. 

He was a celebrated versatile actor and concert star of the 1950s, and the first black leading man in Hollywood.

Early life

Belafonte was born in Harlem to a father from Martinique and a Jamaican mother. He spent some of his childhood in Jamaica before returning to New York. His journey wasn't easy, which shaped his musical and political outlook. He campaigned tirelessly for racial equality.

Belafonte's Caribbean music was influenced by West African and French music. He became famous after the release of his third album, "Calypso" in 1956, selling more than one million copies in the United States.

The album featured "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)", a song that became his signature song.

Harry Belafonte’s Struggle

He faced some real struggles in his early career, but he was never shy of his controversies.

He starred in a movie called "Island in the Sun" as a black politician living on an Island and involved with a woman from the white elite, it was Hollywood's first-of-its-kind interracial romance.

Then in 1954, he became the first African American to win a Tony award for his role in the Broadway musical "John Murray Anderson's Almanac."

He was also the first African American to win an Emmy Award for "Tonight with Belafonte." He won three Grammys and Humanitarian Awards from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science.
Once while accepting the award in 2014, he mentioned that the entertainment industry has a sorry past record on race, but offered hope for the future. 

He further said, "I really wish I could be around for the rest of the century to see what Hollywood does with the rest of the century."

"Maybe, just maybe, it could be civilization's game-changer."

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First Published: Apr 26 2023 | 12:36 PM IST

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