LEGENDARY singer Harry Belafonte was known for more than his talent, as he was involved in political movements and amassed a fortune worth an estimated $30million.
The trailblazing artist, who died from congestive heart failure at his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on Tuesday, rose from poverty to become the "King of Calypso" and described himself as a 'rebel heart.'
Born in New York City on March 1, 1927, Belafonte began his music career as a Midtown nightclub singer before performing to large crowds at the Village Vanguard jazz club in Greenwich Village.
A child of West Indian immigrants, he signed his first record deal with Roost Label in 1949 and quickly developed an interest in folk music.
His 1956 album, Calypso, shot him to stardom, reaching number one on the Billboard charts, with hits like Day – O (The Banana Boat Song) and Jump in the Line.
Belafonte, a major force in the civil rights movement, brought the Trinbagonian Calypso music style to a global audience while amassing his fortune and striving to change the world.
He amassed Grammy, Emmy and Tony Awards – as well as a special Academy Award – for his performances both as a singer and as an actor, and his work as an activist.
ACTIVIST AND REBEL HEART
Belafonte was the son of a Jamaican mother who worked as a servant.
The family grew up in poverty, which, Belafonte later revealed, impacted him from a young age.
He said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News that he's often asked when, as an artist, he decided to become an activist.
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“My response to the question is that I was an activist long before I became an artist. They both service each other, but the activism is first.”
Belafonte was known for breaking barriers throughout his career.
In 1960, he became the first Black person to win an Emmy for his series, Tonight with Belafonte.
He was also known to be one of the leaders at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement.
As a close confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Belafonte provided funds for Dr. King's organizations, including his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and helped start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
He took part in the March on Washington in 1963 while at the same time providing money to bail Dr. King and other civil rights activists out of jail.
Belafonte's activism extended globally, as he led a campaign against apartheid in South Africa and befriended Nelson Mandela.
He fought against HIV/AIDS and became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
In 1985, he devised the idea to record We Are the World with pop and rock stars Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen to raise money for famine relief in Africa.
In 2016, Belafonte was stopped on the streets of Harlem by a group of teens who asked him what he was looking for at this stage of life.
“What I’ve always been looking for: Where resides the rebel heart?” Belafonte replied.
“Without the rebellious heart, without people who understand that there’s no sacrifice we can make that is too great to retrieve that which we’ve lost, we will forever be distracted with possessions and trinkets and title.”
In his 2011 memoir, My Song, Belafonte wrote of his family and relationships.
He admitted to having affairs and also to having quite a temper.
In her autobiography Passion for Life, actress Joan Collins opened up about her brief affair with Belafonte, who was married at the time, while the two were filming Island in the Sun.
"Although we had no scenes together, the all-British crew teased me relentlessly when they noticed how often Belafonte — who was married — threw me suggestive glances," Collins wrote.
"He was mesmerising, and we soon began an affair, away from prying eyes, in my tiny apartment.
"But, after a few exciting liaisons, we knew we had to cool it. He went back to his wife and I moved on."
"Woe to the musician who missed his cue, or the agent who fouled up a booking," Belafonte wrote.
However, the singer influenced three of his four children to pursue careers in the arts.
Two of his three daughters, Shari and Gina, and his son, David, all went into the entertainment field as performers and even production executives, according to Yahoo.
Adrienne, his oldest daughter, chose to pursue a different path.
Belafonte is survived by his four children, Shari, David, Gina and Adrienne, five grandchildren, and his wife, Pamela Frank.
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