Harry Belafonte, a genre-defining musician and an activist who paved the way for artists of color through his work in the civil rights movement, has passed away at the age of 96.
According to his spokesman and longtime representative Ken Sunshine, the legendary entertainer died of congestive heart failure at his Upper West Side home in Manhattan.
Belafonte was one of the leading musicians of the 1950s, creating a space for Caribbean Americans, Black artists, and musicians of color in a largely homogenous industry.
Songs such as “Jamaican Farewell,” “Jump in the Line,” and particularly “The Banana Boat Song,” have become staples of the Trinbagonian Calypso style he popularized, with the latter surging in popularity thanks to its use in Beetlejuice.
Belafonte was also a noted actor, thanks to performances in movies such as Carmen Jones (1954), Islands in the Sun (1957), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).
In fact, his breakthrough album, his third studio record titled Calypso (1956), became the first LP to sell a million copies and topped the Billboard album charts for a staggering 31 weeks.
Among his honors include three Grammys, a Tony Award, and an Emmy Award, an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Kennedy Center Honor, and the National Medal of Arts.
Tributes have already started pouring in for the legendary entertainer, with Mia Farrow tweeting: “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.”