The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Harry Belafonte, a singer, composer, and innovative actor who began his entertainment career belting “Day O” in his 1950s smash song ‘Banana Boat’ before turning to political activity, died at the age of 96.
According to his longtime spokesperson Ken Sunshine, Belafonte died of congestive heart failure.
As a Black starring man who explored racial themes in 1950s films, Belafonte went on to collaborate with his buddy Martin Luther King Jr. during the early 1960s civil rights movement in the United States. In the 1980s, he was the main force behind the celebrity-studded, famine-fighting smash song “We Are the World.”
Belafonte once stated that he was constantly in a state of rebellion motivated by rage.
“I’ve got to be a part of whatever the rebellion is that tries to change all of this,” he said to the New York Times in 2001. “Anger is an essential fuel.” Rebellion is beneficial.” Belafonte was born in Manhattan, New York City, but spent his early childhood in his family’s native Jamaica. Early in his career, he was dubbed the “King of Calypso” because he was both handsome and sophisticated.
He was the first Black person to be allowed to perform in many opulent nightclubs, and he also made racial advancements in film at a period when segregation was prevalent throughout much of the United States.