By now you will know that iconic US entertainer and political activist HARRY BELAFONTE has died. He passed away, yesterday, 24th April, in his New York home. He was 96 and it was suggested that cause of death was congestive heart failure
Belafonte was born in Harlem but his first forays in the music biz was as a Caribbean calypso-style singer His enjoyed huge hits like ‘The Banana Boat Song’ and ‘Jump In The Line’. He later diversified, becoming an all-round entertainer, performing pop, show tunes and world music. Notably he was a key organizer and part of USA For Africa’s ‘We Are The World’.
Belafonte was also an admired actor debuting in the 1953 film, ‘Bright Road’. His other acclaimed roles were in ‘’Uptown Saturday Night’ and ‘White Man’s Burden’
But more importantly, Belafonte will always be remembered for his commitment to civil rights and humanitarian causes – not just in the USA but worldwide. He was a close confidant of Martin Luther King and was a UNICEF ambassador for over 30 years and his pacifist views made him an outspoken critic of the Iraq War. Famously he described US president George W Bush as “the greatest terrorist in the world” and he went on to compare Bush’s secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, both of whom were black, to slaves who worked in their master’s house rather than in the fields.
Among his many awards, Belafonte was bestowed with a Kennedy Centre Honour in 1989 and the National Medal of Arts in 1994. He was an EGOT – one of a rare group of people who have received all four of entertainment’s biggest awards, an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.
Oprah Winfrey paid tribute saying that Belafonte was “a trailblazer and a hero to us all…Thank you for your music, your artistry, your activism, your fight for civil rights and justice. Your being here on Earth has blessed us all.”
John Legend (for whom Belafonte had been a mentor) posted: “We just have to thank God that we had Harry Belafonte for 96 years. He used his platform in almost a subversive way, because he would sneak messages in there, revolutionary messages, when people thought he was just singing about good times. He gave so much, lived through so much [and] helped us grow so much as a nation and as a world.”