1 November 2016 - HARRY BELAFONTE


G'day folks,

Welcome to the life of a well-loved singer. Harold George "Harry" Bellanfanti, Jr., better known as Harry Belafonte, is an American singer, songwriter, actor, and social activist.

Harry Belafonte’s remarkable career as a singer and entertainer is surpassed only by his accomplishments as an advocate for human rights. Born in Harlem, Belafonte lived with his grandmother in her native Jamaica during his formative years, where he was exposed to traditional Caribbean music. Returning to New York in his teens, Belafonte graduated from George Washington High School before serving in the U.S. Navy during WWII.

Belafonte signed to Victor in 1952, but made his first big splash with Calypso in 1956. The LP brought both the singer and Caribbean music to a significantly wider audience, becoming the first album in U.S. history to sell one million copies in a year and earning Belafonte his title as “King of Calypso.”

This marked America’s first mainstream exposure to music of the Caribbean and prefigured its eventual infusion into jazz, R&B, and rock. Songs like “Banana Boat (Day-O)” and “Jump in the Line” became hi-fi party staples. As Belafonte enjoyed widespread critical and commercial success, he also became an uncompromisingly vocal participant in the Civil Rights movement. He refused to perform in the segregated South during the late 1950s and established a meaningful friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr.

In fact, Belafonte constantly placed himself on the front lines for such moments, performing at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, becoming a leading critic of Apartheid in South Africa, roundly lambasting America’s foreign policies during the War on Terror, and serving his post as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador since 1987.

In addition to becoming the figure most closely identified with calypso music, even to the present day, Belafonte dedicated his career to exploring Western music in all its forms, dabbling in blues, gospel, folk, and standards to equal acclaim. Over a recording, performing, and acting career spanning a staggering seven decades, Belafonte has been the recipient of an Emmy, a Tony, three Grammys (a Lifetime Achievement Award among them), and a National Medal of Arts.

 Clancy's comment: He was one of my favourites as a kid, and a man who has been highly successful in more ways than one. 

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