Harry Belafonte Biography, Songs, & Albums |
Harry Belafonte was a Jamaican-American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. His breakthrough album Calypso is one of the most popular albums in history.
The where was harry belafonte born is a question that has been asked since the beginning of time. Harry Belafonte was born in Harlem, New York on March 1st, 1927.
Harry Belafonte, an actor, philanthropist, and self-proclaimed “King of Calypso,” was one of the most influential artists of the postwar period. Belafonte’s staggering talent, good looks, and masterful assimilation of folk, jazz, and worldbeat rhythms allowed him to achieve a level of mainstream eminence and crossover popularity virtually unheard of in the days before the Civil Rights movement — a cultural uprising that he himself helped spearhead.
Harold George Belafonte, Jr. was born in Harlem, New York, on March 1, 1927. He returned to his mother’s home Jamaica with his mother when he was eight years old, and stayed there for the following five years. Belafonte dropped out of high school to join the army when he returned to the United States. After his release from the Navy, he relocated to New York City to pursue a career as an actor, appearing with the American Negro Theatre and studying theater at Erwin Piscator’s prestigious Dramatic Workshop with Marlon Brando and Tony Curtis.
A singing part led to a series of cabaret appearances, and Belafonte ultimately established his own club. He began his recording career on the Jubilee label in 1949, using his smooth, silky voice as a straight pop singer; but, in the start of the 1950s, he found folk music, learning material from the Library of Congress’ American folk songs archives while also discovering West Indian music. Belafonte had his stage debut at the Village Vanguard with guitarist Millard Thomas in 1952, and he made his film debut in Bright Road in 1953, earning a Tony Award the following year for his role in the Broadway musical John Murray Anderson’s Almanac.
Belafonte rose to prominence after starring in Otto Preminger’s film version of Oscar Hammerstein II’s Carmen Jones; after signing with the RCA label, he released Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites, which charted at number three on the Billboard charts in the early weeks of 1956. His second album, simply named Belafonte, went to number one, igniting a national passion for calypso music. Calypso, released in 1956, topped the charts for a remarkable 31 weeks, thanks to songs like “Jamaica Farewell” and “Banana Boat (Day-O).”
Belafonte returned to cinema after the success of 1957’s An Evening with Belafonte, which included the song “Mary’s Boy Child.” He used his newfound power to produce the controversial film Island in the Sun, in which his character considers an affair with a white lady played by Joan Fontaine. Similarly, he played a bank robber with a racial accomplice in 1959’s Odds Against Tomorrow. In 1959, he released Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, a recording of a sold-out April concert that stayed on the charts for three years; in 1960, he published Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall, which included Odetta, Miriam Makeba, and the Chad Mitchell Trio.
Belafonte became television’s first Black producer at the turn of the 1960s, and his special Tonight with Harry Belafonte won an Emmy the following year. Despite his dissatisfaction with filmmaking, he continued to release albums with Jump Up Calypso in 1961 and The Midnight Special in 1962, the latter of which included the first-ever recorded performance by a teenage harmonica player called Bob Dylan. Belafonte’s commercial influence waned as the Beatles and other British Invasion artists started to dominate the music charts. His final Top 40 hit was Belafonte at the Greek Theatre in 1964, and following albums like An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba in 1965 and In My Quiet Room in 1966 failed to even reach the Top 100. Belafonte’s last Billboard chart entry came in 1969 with Homeward Bound, but he continued to record. In 1970’s The Angel Levine, he had his first film appearance in almost a decade, and he continued to concentrate on his activities as a civil rights fighter.
In addition to his continued work in recording (albeit less frequently after leaving RCA in the mid-’70s) and film (1972’s Buck and the Preacher and 1974’s Uptown Saturday Night), Belafonte spent a growing portion of the 1970s and 1980s as a tireless humanitarian; most notably, he was a central figure in the USA for Africa effort, singing on the 1985 single “We Are the World.” He took over as UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador from Danny Kaye a year later. Belafonte reappeared in the mid-’90s with a series of cinematic appearances, most notably in the reverse-racism drama White Man’s Burden and Robert Altman’s jazz-era period piece Kansas City, after a lengthy hiatus from the screen. Despite the fact that Belafonte had stopped recording new music at this point, he kept his name in the news by releasing live albums (including 1997’s An Evening with Harry Belafonte & Friends) and being an outspoken supporter of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and an opponent of the Bush administration. In the late 2010s, he organized The Legacy of Harry Belafonte: When Colors Come Together, a career-spanning anthology that included a re-recorded version of “When Colors Come Together (Our Island in the Sun),” which included a re-recorded version of “When Colors Come Together (Our Island in the Sun).” This rendition featured an interracial children’s choir to reinforce the message of inclusiveness, which was originally composed by Belafonte for his film Island in the Sun.
Harry Belafonte was a Jamaican-American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. He is the recipient of numerous accolades, including a Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Male Artist in 1961 for Day O. Reference: harry belafonte family.
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