Tuesday, May 7

Harry Belafonte: Singer used his platform in leisure to assist break down racial obstacles

“Get them to sing your song and they will want to know who you are, and if they’ve made that first step, we can find a solution to hate.”

This is the mantra that Harry Belafonte lived by, based on his Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame introduction; a abstract of an artist who used his platform in leisure to assist break down racial obstacles on the earth of tradition and past.

As a singer and performer, Belafonte was a pioneer who helped popularise Caribbean music within the Nineteen Fifties. Best identified for his trademark tune Banana Boat (Day-O), he was the primary solo artist, of any style, to promote 1,000,000 copies of an album in a yr.

Harry Belafonte (R) with Dr Martin Luther King Jr (C) in Atlanta in 1965

As an activist, he was a civil rights campaigner who labored with Martin Luther King Jr on his “I Have A Dream” speech, the end result of the march on Washington in 1963, and organised the USA For Africa single We Are The World, that includes artists together with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Bruce Springsteen, in 1985.

He was additionally the founding father of Sankofa, a US social justice charity which focuses on problems with injustice that disproportionately have an effect on the “disenfranchised, the oppressed, the underserved”.

The Grammy, Emmy and Tony successful star died aged 96 of congestive coronary heart failure at his New York residence on Tuesday, along with his spouse by his aspect, based on a spokesperson.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame with an “early influence” award in November 2022, Belafonte was the oldest residing star to obtain the honour – he’s probably the one recipient of each this standing and the Martin Luther King Jr nonviolent peace prize.

Born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr in Harlem in New York City in 1927, to oldsters from the Caribbean, he moved again to his mom’s native Jamaica as a toddler as she believed it was a safer place for her son to develop up.

Kingston was “an environment that sang”, and it was there that he was uncovered to the calypso music that might turn into a part of his sound. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Belafonte’s mom introduced him again to Harlem however he struggled with dyslexia and left highschool early.

He ended up enlisting within the US navy, serving for just below two years as a munitions loader earlier than returning to New York, working in packaging within the metropolis’s vogue district, and as a caretaker’s assistant.

How he entered the leisure world

It was by probability that the world of leisure opened up; given a ticket to a manufacturing at Harlem’s American Negro Theatre (ANT) as fee for finishing up some upkeep work on an residence, the younger Belafonte caught the bug.

Singer Harry Belafonte is shown Oct.2,1956 during a performance at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. (AP Photo/Al Lambert)
Belafonte in 1956 throughout a efficiency at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Pic: AP

In 1945, he joined the Dramatic Workshop of the New School of Social Research, beneath the tutelage of famend German director Erwin Piscator and alongside fellow college students reminiscent of Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau, Bea Arthur, Rod Steiger and Tony Curtis. It was additionally right here that he met Paul Robeson, the person who impressed his social activism.

At the identical time, Belafonte pursued his love of jazz music – making his first skilled look with none aside from Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Tommy Potter and Al Haig as his “back-up band”.

Singer Harry Belafonte is shown Oct.2,1956 during a performance at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. (AP Photo/Al Lambert)
Pic: AP

Embracing the New York folks scene within the Nineteen Fifties, Belafonte “created a new repertoire of folk songs, work songs, and calypsos, providing an authentic and dignified look at black life”, based on his Hall Of Fame induction.

‘The King of Calypso’

He signed with RCA Victor in 1953 and his first broadly launched single, Matilda, got here out that yr. But it was his third album, Calypso, launched three years later, that might be his actual breakthrough; it was the singer’s second to prime the Billboard chart and the file that might turn into the primary to promote 1,000,000 copies. The album launched Caribbean folks music to American audiences, who dubbed Belafonte the King of Calypso.

It is a method that has had an enduring affect on fashionable music, with artists together with Gotye, Lil’ Wayne, and Jason Derulo all sampling The Banana Boat Song in recent times. Belafonte’s model of Jump In The Line (Shake, Senora) additionally had a latest resurgence, going viral on TikTok in 2020, and that includes within the 1988 movie Beetlejuice and its 2019 Broadway musical manufacturing earlier than that.

Other hits included the Christmas tune Mary’s Boy Child (coated by Boney M in 1978), Island In The Sun, and Jamaica Farewell.

Singer Harry Belafonte, far right, is shown with actress Jayne Mansfield, second from left, her boyfriend Mickey Hargitay, left, and movie columnist Mike Connolly after his opening at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, Ca., Jan. 31, 1957.  (AP Photo)
Belafonte (far proper) with actress Jayne Mansfield, her boyfriend Mickey Hargitay (L), and film columnist Mike Connolly in Los Angeles in 1957. Pic: AP

Throughout his profession in leisure, Belafonte labored throughout quite a few fields. According to his Sankofa profile, he was the primary black producer in tv, successful an Emmy for his CBS manufacturing of Tonight With Belafonte.

Gongs for stage performances

As a stage actor, he received a Tony award for his Broadway efficiency in John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, and on the silver display screen he starred in movies together with Carmen Jones, which featured an all black solid, in 1954, and alongside the late Sidney Poitier in Buck And The Preacher in 1972.

Belafonte’s profession in showbiz helped present a platform for his activism. He had met a younger Martin Luther King Jr within the early Nineteen Fifties and had additionally been impressed by Robeson. “Belafonte’s global popularity and his commitment to our cause is a key ingredient to the global struggle for freedom and a powerful tactical weapon in the civil rights movement here in America,” King later stated of his pal. “We are blessed by his courage and moral integrity.”

After King’s assassination in 1968, Belafonte served as an executor of his property and chaired the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Fund, based on the Martin Luther King Jr Research and Education Institute. In 2013, Belafonte and King’s household have been concerned in a authorized dispute over possession of a few of the late civil rights chief’s paperwork, however the matter was settled the next yr.

Writing within the Guardian in 2013 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of King’s well-known “I Have A Dream speech”, Belafonte stated: “One of my abiding memories of the day was something I will probably never experience again: such a tide of people leaving with such a sense of satisfaction and hope. That was America at its greatest.”

In 1960, he was appointed by then-president John F Kennedy to be the cultural adviser to the Peace Corps, a task he served in for 5 years. In 1987, he turned a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, two years after organising the We Are The World single to lift funds for these affected by warfare, drought and famine in Africa. It is a task for which he “set a high standard”, the charity has stated. He was additionally lively within the anti-apartheid motion.

Harry Belafonte, left, and Sidney Poitier pose in the audience at the 43rd NAACP Image Awards on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Belafonte (L) and Sidney Poitier on the forty third NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles in 2012. Pic: AP

In 2013, Belafonte acted as a grand marshal of New York City’s Pride parade and in 2017, he suggested on the Women’s March on Washington, which occurred the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president.

Awards and accolades all through the years embrace the nationwide medal of the humanities from then-US president Bill Clinton in 1994, the Ronald McDonald House Charities’ award of excellence in recognition of his humanitarian work, the Nelson Mandela braveness award, the Audrey Hepburn humanitarian award for 25 years of service to UNICEF, and the Spingarn Medal – the best award given by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People).

He has additionally obtained honorary levels from City University of New York, Spellman College in Atlanta, Tufts University, Brandeis University, Long Island University, Bard College and Columbia University, amongst others.

Harry Belafonte from the film "Sing Your Song" poses for a portrait in the Fender Music Lodge during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 21, 2011 in Park City, Utah.   (AP Photo/Victoria Will)
Belafonte on the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Pic: AP

In 2020, the performer’s archive was acquired by the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture – a set together with audio-visual recordings, letters, manuscripts and photographs documenting his life and profession over greater than 70 years.

His intensive household

Married thrice, he leaves behind his spouse, Pamela, 4 kids – Adrienne, Shari, David, and Gina – eight grandchildren and his great-grandchildren.

Belafonte had instructed his story in his memoir My Song, launched in 2011 alongside a documentary, Sing Your Song, that launched on the identical time. The movie premiered on the Sundance Festival, backed by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute.

So many have described Belafonte as an inspiration and hailed his barrier-breaking achievements. But as Redford merely summed up: he was a person whose story ought to be instructed for generations to return.

Content Source: information.sky.com