13 Facts About Harry Belafonte

Facts About Harry Belafonte

Quick Facts

Birth Year: 1927
Nationality: American
Profession: Singer, Actor, Activist
Genres: Calypso, Pop, Folk
Net Worth: $28 million

In this article, we will delve into 13 fascinating facts about Harry Belafonte, the iconic singer, actor, and activist.

We will explore his life, accomplishments, and how he made an impact on the world.

Facts About Harry Belafonte

  1. Born in Harlem, New York, but raised in Jamaica: Harry Belafonte was born on March 1, 1927, in Harlem, New York. His parents were immigrants from the Caribbean, and he spent a significant portion of his childhood in Jamaica before returning to New York City. This upbringing greatly influenced his musical style, leading to his later success in the calypso genre.
  2. Served in the U.S. Navy during World War II: At the age of 19, Belafonte enlisted in the United States Navy and served as a munitions loader during World War II. After the war, he used the G.I. Bill to study acting at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School in New York.
  3. First album was “Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites”: In 1954, Harry Belafonte released his first album, “Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites.” Although not as successful as his later works, this debut showcased his unique blend of folk, pop, and Caribbean music.

    13 Facts About Harry Belafonte |
    Belafonte / Wikimedia Commons
  4. Became the “King of Calypso” with the album “Calypso”: Belafonte’s 1956 album “Calypso” was a breakthrough, becoming the first LP to sell over a million copies.

    With hits like “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” Belafonte earned the nickname “King of Calypso” for popularizing the Caribbean music genre.

  5. Won a Tony Award for “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac”: In addition to his musical success, Belafonte was also an accomplished actor.

    He won a Tony Award in 1954 for his role in the Broadway revue “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac”.

  6. Civil Rights Movement Activist: Belafonte was a dedicated civil rights activist, working closely with Martin Luther King Jr. and helping to organize events like the 1963 March on Washington.

    He also used his fame to raise funds for the movement.

  7. Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF: In 1987, Belafonte was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, using his influence to raise awareness and support for children’s issues around the world.
  8. Co-founder of the non-profit organization “Sankofa”: In 2013, Belafonte co-founded the non-profit organization “Sankofa,” which focuses on social justice issues, particularly those affecting African Americans.
  9. Recipient of numerous awards and honors: Throughout his career, Belafonte has received many prestigious awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Arts, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
  10. Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: In 1960, Harry Belafonte was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of his contributions to the entertainment industry.

    Harry Belafonte Star Hollywood Walk Of Fame
    Belafonte Walk of Fame / Wikimedia Commons
  11. Active in the anti-apartheid movement: Belafonte was a vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa and played a crucial role in raising global awareness about the issue.

    He was also a key supporter of the African National Congress (ANC) and helped organize the star-studded “We Are the World” recording for African famine relief in 1985.

  12. Published an autobiography in 2011: In 2011, Belafonte released his autobiography, “My Song: A Memoir,” co-written with Michael Shnayerson.

    The book chronicles his life, career, and activism, offering a unique insight into the man behind the legend.

  13. Father to four children: Belafonte has four children from his two marriages: Adrienne, Shari, David, and Gina.

    His daughter, Shari Belafonte, is also an actress and model, best known for her role in the 1980s television series “Hotel”.

In conclusion, Harry Belafonte is an iconic figure whose life and career have left an indelible mark on the worlds of music, film, and social activism.

His unique blend of Caribbean and American styles, combined with his tireless commitment to humanitarian causes, has earned him a place in the annals of history as a true trailblazer and inspiration for generations to come.

Harry Belafonte FAQ

What was Harry Belafonte’s biggest hit song?

Harry Belafonte’s biggest hit song was “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” from his 1956 album “Calypso.” The song became a global sensation and played a significant role in popularizing calypso music1.

How many albums has Harry Belafonte released?

Throughout his career, Harry Belafonte has released over 30 studio albums, along with numerous live recordings, compilations, and singles.

Did Harry Belafonte ever appear in movies?

Yes, Harry Belafonte appeared in several movies throughout his career.

Some of his notable film roles include “Carmen Jones” (1954), “Island in the Sun” (1957), “Odds Against Tomorrow” (1959), and “Kansas City” (1996).

Who were some of Harry Belafonte’s major influences?

Some of Harry Belafonte’s major musical influences include American folk singer Woody Guthrie, Jamaican folk singer Louise Bennett, and Trinidadian calypsonian Lord Kitchener.

What is the significance of the non-profit organization “Sankofa”?

“Sankofa” is a non-profit organization co-founded by Harry Belafonte in 2013, which focuses on social justice issues, particularly those affecting African Americans.

The organization seeks to use the arts and other cultural expressions to raise awareness, create dialogue, and inspire action for social change.

How did Harry Belafonte and Martin Luther King Jr. become friends?

Harry Belafonte and Martin Luther King Jr. became friends in the 1950s, after Belafonte attended one of King’s speeches.

The two bonded over their shared commitment to civil rights, and Belafonte became a key supporter of King and the movement, helping to raise funds and organize events.

Did Harry Belafonte ever host a television show?

Yes, Harry Belafonte hosted several television shows throughout his career.

In 1959, he hosted the first of several Emmy-winning television specials, “Tonight with Belafonte.” He also made history in 1968 by guest-hosting “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” for a week, becoming the first Black person to do so.

What is Harry Belafonte’s connection to the song “We Are the World”?

Harry Belafonte played a pivotal role in the creation of “We Are the World,” the 1985 charity single for African famine relief.

He proposed the idea of a star-studded recording to raise funds, and along with Ken Kragen, organized the collaboration between dozens of popular artists.

The song became a global phenomenon and raised millions of dollars for famine relief efforts.

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