Harry Belafonte Hollywood Legend

This phenomenal actor, singer, musician and activist was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. in Harlem New York, on March first 1927.  His mother was a Jamaican housekeeper, and his father a chef. It is unclear as to where Harry’s father is from originally.  Some sources say Jamaica while others point to the Caribbean Island of Martinique.  A young eight year old Belafonte moved to Jamaica with his mother and lived there from 1935-1940.  After returning to the United States as a teenager, he dropped out of high school to join the navy in 1944.  When he returned from the navy he focused on acting.  He joined The Dramatic Workshop where his classmates included Marlon Brando, Walter Matheau, Beau Arthur and Tony Curtis.  Harry eventually became one of the key figures of the folk music scene in the 1950’s.  He also spent time working as a stage hand with The American Negro Theater (ANT) in his early days.  Harry played an important role in popularizing Calypso music from the island of Trinidad. He was even commonly known as the “King of Calypso”.  Mr. Belafonte is recognized as “one of the most successful Jamaican, American pop stars in history”.  In the mid 1950’s Harry released “Harry Belafonte” and “Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites”, which were the first two albums of many in a series containing hit folk songs.  He had garnered great experience performing with musical greats like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and other musicians.  his role was a Jazz singer among them.  When it comes to his acting and producing careers, Mr. Belafonte is quite accomplished.  He won a Tony award for his performance in the Broadway play John Murrey Anderson’s Almanac(1953-1954).  He made his film debut in 1953 in “Bright Road” in which he played a principal.  He then co-starred with Dorothy Dandridge in the musical “Carmen Jones”(1954), “Island in the Sun”(1957), again with Dandridge; “Odds Against Tomorrow”(1959), Television special “Tonight with Belafonte”(1959), in which he reviewed African American Music.  Harry won an Emmy for his work on this project.  Mr. Belafonte was the first black American T.V. producer in the 1960’s and he produced several productions. For the folk album “Swing dat Hammer”(1960), he won a Grammy award in the Best Folk Performance category.  Then came another Grammy award for his work on a collaboration album with Africa’s Miriam Makeba.  “An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba”(1965), won for Best Folk Recording.  Other film credits include; The Angel Levine(1970), Buck and the Preacher(1972), Uptown Saturday Night(1974), The Player(1992), Kansas City(1996), Bobby(2006), and Blackkklansman(2018).  Harry Belafonte was a supporter of the civil rights movement and a close friend of Martin Luther King Jr..  He was a prominent figure in the African humanitarian song, We Are The World(1988), in which he collaborated with many prominent musicians to record and sing that iconic song in a effort to raise funds for impoverished children in Africa.  He became the Unicef Goodwill Ambassador in 1987.  He also received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture arts and Sciences(2014).  It is said that “Belafonte’s staggering talent, good looks, and masterful assimilation of folk, jazz and world beat rhythms allowed him  to achieve a level of mainstream eminence and crossover popularity virtually unparalleled in the days before the Civil Rights Movement..”.

 

miriam makeba


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