Sunday, 01 Oct 2023

Harry Belafonte, singer, actor and tireless activist, dies aged 96

Harry Belafonte, singer, actor and tireless activist, dies aged 96


Harry Belafonte, singer, actor and tireless activist, dies aged 96

Harry Belafonte, the singer, actor and civil rights activist who broke down racial barriers, has died aged 96.

He released his debut album in 1954, a collection of traditional folk songs. His second album, Belafonte, was the first No 1 in the new US Billboard album chart in March 1956, but its success was outdone by his third album the following year, Calypso, featuring songs from his Jamaican heritage. It brought the feelgood calypso style to many Americans for the first time, and became the first album to sell more than a million copies in the US.

He later focused on a series of African initiatives. He organised the all-star charity record We Are the World, raising more than $63m for famine relief, and his 1988 album, Paradise in Gazankulu, protested against apartheid in South Africa. He was appointed a Unicef goodwill ambassador in 1987, and later campaigned to eradicate Aids from Africa.

After recovering from prostate cancer in 1996, he advocated for awareness of the disease.

Belafonte was married three times, first to Marguerite Byrd, from 1948 to 1957, with whom he had two daughters, activist Adrienne and actor Shari. He had two further children with his second wife, Julie Robinson: actor Gina and music producer David. He and Robinson divorced after 47 years, and in 2008 he married Pamela Frank, who survives him.

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