Harry Belafonte, the iconic musician, actor, and civil rights activist has died at 96. He is survived by his wife, Pamela Frank, and four adult children, Shari, David, Adrienne, and Gina. Representatives for Belafonte confirmed the artist passed away from congestive heart failure at his home in New York, with his wife by his side.
Belafonte rose to fame in the 1950s, thanks to his unique sound. He’s credited with popularizing the Jamaican Calypso music style and is widely regarded as the most successful Jamaican pop star of his time. His debut breakthrough album, Calypso, made history as the first LP to sell a million copies by a solo artist. Belafonte is also known for the hit tracks, “The Banana Boat Song,” “Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora),” “Jamaican Farewell,” and “Mary’s Boy Child.” While still releasing music, Belafonte also fostered an impressive career as an actor. He was featured in the films Cameron Jones, which historically featured an all-Black cast, along with the romantic drama Island in the Sun, and the film noir, Odds Against Tomorrow.
Aside from his work in the film and music industry, Belafonte was an active member of the Civil Rights Movement and fought against Western colonialism in Africa. He was notably a close friend and confidant of Martin Luther King Jr.—and reportedly refused to perform in South Africa during the height of racial discrimination.
Belafonte’s legacy is one that will always be remembered. As a respected artist, activist, and family man, he leaves behind a blueprint for championing equality, love, and self-expression. Belafonte’s daughter Gina reminded fans of that in a touching tribute written for her father on Instagram. “What a human!!!” she wrote. “1927-2023. There are so many things! You are my guiding light and will forever be a source of strength and wisdom… You lived with purpose and we are all better for your contributions,” she continued. “It’s surreal to speak of you this way or make a statement without reading it to you first! Ha! Love you Dad and so much more… you have joined the ancestors alongside, so many you have longed to see again! I know there are many at your table! Enjoy what comes next, as I’m sure you’re creating it for those next to follow.”
Associate Staff Writer
Bria McNeal is a Manhattan based journalist who is patiently awaiting B5’s revival. When she’s not writing about all things entertainment, she can be found watching TV or trying to DIY something (likely, at the same time). Her work has appeared in NYLON, Refinery29, InStyle, and her personal newsletter, StirCrazy.