The singer, actor and civil rights activist passed at the age of 96 on April 25 and leaves behind a loving family.
Harry Belafonte, the legendary singer and civil rights activist, passed away on April 25, 2023, at his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, reports The New York Times. He was 96 years old and died due to congestive heart failure, according to his spokesperson, Ken Sunshine. His son, David Belafonte, paid a special tribute to his father, honoring his life and legacy upon his death. "It is with a heavy heart that we have said goodbye to our beloved dad, father-in-law and grandpa, the beyond amazing Harry Belafonte," David said in a statement to TODAY. He added that he, his wife, Malena and their two children, Amadeus and Sarafina, are heartbroken by the passing away of Belafonte.
"To the world he was a legend, but to us he was Dad, Harry, Farfar — which means Grandpa in Danish — and he will always mean the world to us. We are heartbroken to have lost such a big presence in our lives and we will honor him in everything we do," the family said in the statement. "His legacy is passed on to his four children, Adrienne, Shari, David and Gina, as well as his five grandchildren, Rachel Blue, Brian, Maria, Sarafina and Amadeus, all of whom he was so incredibly proud of."
Belafonte also left behind his third wife, Pamela and his former wife, Julie. He took immense pride in each one of his loved ones and his spirit lives on through their achievements. "We will miss him dearly," the family added in the statement.
Belafonte was known for popularizing the calypso style of music with his 1956 album, "Calypso," which included the hits "Day-O" and the "Jamaica Farewell." Both of these songs were reportedly top of Billboard albums and it was said to be the first album by a single artist to sell more than a million copies. Harry won two Grammy awards in his lifetime and a Tony Award for best actor in a featured role in a musical for "John Murray Anderson's Almanac" in 1954. Moreover, he was the first black producer in television and won an Emmy award in 1960 for his special, "Tonight with Belafonte."
We have lost the great Harry Belafonte-beautiful singer, brilliant and brave civil rights activist, a deeply moral and caring man. Miss you already Harry 💔 pic.twitter.com/ZfxYLWqSMU— Mia Farrow 💙🏳️🌈 🌻 (@MiaFarrow) April 25, 2023
That's not all, as he also gained EGOT status in 2015 when he was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy Awards. He was the first Black actor to attain major success in Hollywood as a leading man. However, his stardom was short-lived and it was his friendly rival, Sidney Poitier, who actually became the first bona fide Black matinee idol. His prime focus in the late 1950s became civil rights. He had befriended Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. early in his career and became a lifelong friend and supporter of Dr. King. He provided funds for many anti-segregation organizations and was known to have bailed Dr. King and other activists out of jail, according to the BBC.
In 1985, he also organized the charity single "We are the World," which was an all-star musical collaboration to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. "A lot of people say to me, 'When as an artist did you decide to become an activist?'" Belafonte said in a National Public Radio interview in 2011, "I say to them, 'I was long an activist before I became an artist.'" In his late 80s, Belafonte spoke out on race and income equality; he even requested that President Barack Obama help the people living in poverty. Reflecting on his life and professional journey, Belafonte acknowledged his achievements but remained vigilant. He noted in his autobiography: "About my own life, I have no complaints. Yet the problems faced by most Americans of color seem as dire and entrenched as they were half a century ago."
Harry Belafonte was a barrier-breaking legend who used his platform to lift others up. He lived a good life – transforming the arts while also standing up for civil rights. And he did it all with his signature smile and style. Michelle and I send our love to his wife, kids, and… pic.twitter.com/g77XCr9U5b— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 25, 2023