Who was Harry Belafonte? What Is The Cause of His Death?

Harry Belafonte was an American activist, singer, and actor who was born on March 1, 1927. He died on April 25, 2023, at the age of 96. His best-known work or say recordings, are Day-O, Jump in the Line, Jamaica Farewell, and Mary’s Boy Child.

Belafonte starred in various movies such as Island in the Sun, Odds Against Tomorrow, Buck and the Preacher, Uptown Saturday Night, etc. Belafonte worked as the American Civil Liberties Union’s spokesperson for matters relating to juvenile justice.

He won three Grammy awards which included Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an Emmy award, and a Tony award.

In this article, you will get to know about the cause of Belafonte’s death, his personal and professional life, and also about his social activities.

Who Was Harry Belafonte?

Belafonte was born in Harlem, New York City to Harold George Bellanfanti Sr. who was a chef and his mother Melvine was a housekeeper. From 1932 to 1940, Harry lived with his grandparents in Jamaica and attended Wolmer’s school.

When Harry returned to New York, he attended George Washington High School and after which he joined the U.S. Navy and worked during World War II. In 1940, he was working as a janitor’s assistant.

Who Was Harry Belafonte

At the end of1940, He took classes in acting at the dramatic workshop of the new school in New York City where Marlon Brando and Walter Matthau were classmates, was paid for by singing jazz, folk, and pop songs at New York clubs while being accompanied by bands that featured Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.

What Is The Cause of Harry Belafonte’s Death?

According to Sunshine, Belafonte died on Tuesday morning and the cause of his death was congestive heart failure. The high-profile figures paid tributes to Harry Belafonte which includes Joe Biden, the rapper Ice Cube and Mia Farrow.

Joe Biden, the Us president said, “Belafonte was a ground-breaking American who used his talent and voice to help redeem the soul of our nation”. He also tweeted, “Harry Belafonte’s accomplishments are legendary and his legacy of outspoken advocacy, compassion, and respect for dignity will endure forever.”

When Harry Belafonte Started His Music Career?

In 1954, he released his debut record, a collection of classic folk songs. In March 1956, his second album, Belafonte, debuted at No. 1 on the new US Billboard album chart for the first time, but the success of his third album, Calypso, which featured music from his Jamaican ancestry, the following year, eclipsed it.

It became the first record to sell over a million copies in the US and introduced the upbeat calypso sound to many Americans for the first time.

Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), an iconic Belafonte song that spent 18 weeks in the UK singles chart, including three weeks at No. 2. Later that year, his cover of Mary’s Boy Child topped the UK charts, and Island in the Sun peaked at number three.

Along with his 30 studio albums, he also collaborated on recordings with Miriam Makeba, Lena Horne, and Nana Mouskouri. The latter release earned him one of his two Grammys; he later received a Grammy for lifetime achievement and the President’s merit award from the Academy.

Who Was Harry Belafonte

In his debut film, the little-known low-budget drama “Bright Road,” Mr. Belafonte shared the screen alongside Dorothy Dandridge. Although they were both excellent singers, opera singers dubbed their singing voices for “Carmen Jones” despite their abilities.

The 1959 screen adaptation of “Porgy and Bess,” another Preminger film, received media attention for Mr. Belafonte’s rejection of it due to what he perceived as its unfavorable racial stereotypes.

Instead, his long-time buddy Mr. Poitier received the role of Porgy, which he publicly criticized for accepting. Belafonte received Grammy awards for the albums Swing Dat Hammer and An Evening with Belafonte/ Makeba in 1960 and 965 respectively.

In 1960, Harry won an Emmy, a first for a black performer, for his special “Tonight with Belafonte.

With a grant from the Ford Foundation, Mr. Belafonte’s Harry Belafonte Enterprises hired 15 Black and Hispanic apprentices to learn the craft of filmmaking by working on the crew of “The Angel Levine” (1970), which he produced and co-starred in with Zero Mostel.

The film is based on a story by Bernard Malamud. For Mr. Belafonte’s subsequent film, “Buck and the Preacher” (1972), a gritty western that also starred Mr. Poitier, one of them, Drake Walker, penned the script.

Who Was Harry Belafonte

But following his appearance as a mob boss (a parody of Marlon Brando’s character in “The Godfather”) alongside Mr. Poitier and Bill Cosby in the popular comedy “Uptown Saturday Night” (1974), which was also directed by Mr. Poitier. Mr. Belafonte took a break from acting until 1992 when he appeared in Robert Altman’s Hollywood satire “The Player.”

After that, he made an appearance on screen, most notably in Mr. Altman’s “Kansas City” (1996), for which Mr. Belafonte received a New York Film Critics Circle Award. In 2018’s “BlacKkKlansman” by Spike Lee, he played his final movie role.

How Many Times Was Harry Belafonte Married?

In 1948, Belafonte married to Margueritte Byrd, till 1957. They had two daughters named Adirenne and Shari Belafonte. They were separated when his wife Byrd was pregnant with Shari.

Who Was Harry Belafonte

On March 8, 1957, he married Julie Robinson who was a former dancer with the Katherine Dunham Company. In 2004, they divorced after 47 years of marriage.

In April 2008, Belafonte married Pamela Frank, a photographer.

Harry was survived by his wife Pamela, his children Adrienne Belafonte Biesemeyer, Shari Belafonte, Gina Belafonte, David Belafonte, two stepchildren Sarah Frank and Lindsey Frank, and eight grandchildren.

Contribution of Harry Belafonte in Political And Charitable Activities.

Harry Belafonte continued his professional career on and off, but he focused on charity work, organizing boycotts, Live Aid concerts, and running for the US Senate.

He was involved in the organization of the Live Aid concert, the all-star recording “We Are the World,” in the 1980s, and the cultural boycott of South Africa as a whole. All these events earned money to battle famine in Africa. He replaced Danny Kaye as UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador in 1987.

In the 2013 race for mayor of New York, Mr. Belafonte spoke out loudly on behalf of the Democratic candidate and ultimate victor, Bill de Blasio. He equated the wealthy industrialists known for their backing of conservative causes, the Koch brothers, to the Ku Klux Klan and referred to them as “white supremacists” during the campaign.

Who Was Harry Belafonte

He never stopped being politically active. On election day in 2016, Mr. Belafonte penned an opinion article for The Times in which he urged readers to abstain from voting for Donald J. Trump, whom he referred to as “feckless and immature.”

Regarding African American voters, he stated, “Mr. Trump asks us what we have to lose, and “we must answer: Only the dream, only everything.”

I 202, he spoke with pride about the racial protest that spread in the US after the death of George Floyd, writing that “we have never had so many White allies, wailing to stand together for freedom, for honor, for a justice that frees us all in the end…”


To conclude, Harry Belafonte was a great personality of the US who not only focused on his own career but also stands for their community rights. He died recently of heart problems.

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