‘Banana Boat’ Singer & Legend Passes Away

Harry Belafonte, the legendary Jamaican-American singer, actor, and humanitarian, passed away at his New York home on Tuesday, at the age of 96. Belafonte’s representatives confirmed that the singer died of congestive heart failure, with his wife Pamela by his side. He was one of the most iconic voices of his generation, whose music and activism helped break Caribbean music through to a global audience.

Belafonte’s musical career began as a jazz act, but he soon became known for his folk music performances. His star was on the rise, and he quickly expanded his talents to the silver screen, breaking racial barriers in critically acclaimed hits like Carmen Jones, which co-starred Dorothy Dandridge. He also won a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway musical Almanac.

But Belafonte was not content to simply entertain. He used his platform to advocate for civil rights and other political and humanitarian causes. In 1968, he became the first Black person to host a late-night TV show when he assumed hosting duties on The Tonight Show amid national civil rights protests, welcoming guests like Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. He was also a staunch advocate for the Anti-Apartheid Movement and USA for Africa.

Belafonte’s humanitarian efforts changed the world. In 2005, he founded The Gathering for Justice, a social justice organization. Last year, he celebrated his 94th birthday with a star-studded virtual party, The Gathering for Harry, which raised money for the organization. Performances and guest appearances from entertainers and religious and political leaders like Common, Danny Glover, Chuck D, Bernie and Jane Sanders, Stacey Abrams, Aloe Blacc, Tamika D. Mallory, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Jackie Cruz honored the legendary singer’s lifetime of activism.

Belafonte’s legacy lives on, as he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Early Influence category last year, becoming the oldest living person to join the organization. Born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. in Harlem, New York, on March 1, 1927, Belafonte spent his youth shuffling between the city and his mother’s native Jamaica. “My mother took us there to avoid the pressures and the pains of New York,” he once said. “She took us there because it was easier to raise a child in the village than it was on the streets of New York.”



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