Hollywood is mourning Harry BelafonteCalypso singer, award-winning artist and activist, who died on April 25 from congestive heart failure at the age of 96.
The Caribbean-American entertainer was lauded as one of the most versatile recording artists of the 1950s and was one of the first Black lead men in motion pictures. He also had a fierce commitment to activism throughout the ’60s, and in 1963 (along with friend and actor Sidney Poitier) Martin Luther King Jr. speech.
“My friend Harry Belafonte was truly a man of cause, faith and principle,” Gordy, founder of Motown, said in a statement. “In addition to being a great entertainer, he was a prominent political activist during the Civil Rights Movement. I still remember the day Harry and I walked side by side in the Poor People’s Freedom March in 1968. I will miss him and offer my deepest condolences to his family.”
Bennett shared a photo with the late singer and recalled their early years together. “I met Harry in 1948 and I knew then that he was going to be a huge star. Moreover, she fought for social justice and equality and never, ever gave up,” she wrote. “Dear friends, he will be deeply missed by me and many others for all he has brought to the world.”
Oprah Winfrey shared her praise via Instagram. “Another ‘BIG TREE’ has fallen: Harry Belafonte, a Pioneer and Hero for all of us,” she wrote in the caption, along with a few screenshots from her interviews at AM Chicago in 1984. Thank you for your music, your artistry, your activism, your fight for civil rights and justice – especially since you risk your life to earn money for the movement. It’s a blessing to us all to be here on Earth.
Dr. King’s daughter, Bernice King, shared Belafonte’s childhood memories, sharing her condolences and uploading a photo taken at her father’s funeral. “When I was a kid, Harry Belafonte showed up for my family in very compassionate ways. He actually paid for the babysitter for me and my siblings.” “I won’t forget… Have a good rest, sir.”
Bootsy Collins also shared a friendly photo of her with Belafonte, writing: “Another brick has risen in our fabric, Mr. Harry Belafonte; (3-1-1927 – 4-25-2023) was an American singer, activist and actor. His breakthrough album Calypso (1956) was the first million-selling LP from a single artist. He is best known for ‘Banana Boat Song’. RIP Bootsy”
Speaking at the Time 100 summit, John Legend said that he and Belafonte have developed friendships over the past decade. “If you think about what it means to be an artist and an activist, he was literally the epitome of that,” she said. “I don’t know if people know how much he does. He’s very talented as an artist, as a performer, but he used his platform in an almost destructive way because he would secretly send messages – revolutionary messages – when people thought he was singing about the good times on the islands. He loved to infuse messages of protest and revolution in everything he did, and not only that, he used his resources. He is one of the most successful artists of his time. He used these resources to fund the civil rights movement.”
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