Harold George “Harry” Belafonte, Jr.¬†better known as a Harry Belafonte,¬†is an American singer, songwriter, humanitarian,¬†actor,¬†social activist¬†and the acknowledged¬†“King of¬†Calypso” for popularizing the¬†Caribbean¬†musical style with an international audience. Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing “The Banana Boat Song“, with its signature lyric “Day-O”.
Belafonte started his career in music as a club singer in New York to pay for his acting classes. The first time he appeared in front of an audience, he was backed by the Charlie Parker band, which included¬†Charlie Parker¬†himself,¬†Max Roach¬†and¬†Miles Davis, among others.
His first widely-released¬†single, which went on to become his “signature” song with audience participation in virtually all his live performances, was “Matilda“, recorded April 27, 1953. His breakthrough album¬†Calypso¬†(1956) became the first¬†LP¬†in the US “to sell over 1 million copies within a year,” Belafonte said on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s¬†The Link¬†program on August 7, 2012. He added that it was also the first million-selling album ever in England.
Belafonte has starred in several films. His first film role was in¬†Bright Road¬†(1953), in which he appeared alongside¬†Dorothy Dandridge. The two subsequently starred in¬†Otto Preminger‘s hit musical¬†Carmen Jones¬†(1954).
Belafonte received the¬†Kennedy Center Honors¬†in 1989. He was awarded the¬†National Medal of Arts¬†in 1994 and he won a¬†Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award¬†in 2000. He performed sold-out concerts globally through the 1950s to the 2000s.