Harry Belafonte is an icon in American music, having earned countless awards and accolades throughout his long and successful career. Here are the top 10 secrets about this legendary entertainer:
1. Harry Belafonte was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr., but he changed his name to honor his Jamaican father’s heritage. He did not know until later that “Belafonte” translates from Italian as “beautiful fountain”.
2. He was one of the first African-American artists to become a mainstream success and helped pave the way for other black musicians to follow suit. Belafonte has said that he wanted to use his popularity for good by using songs to further social issues like civil rights and racial equality.
3. He is best known for his song “Banana Boat Song”, which he performed in the 1957 film Calypso Heat Wave. The song was so popular that it topped both the pop and R&B charts at the time.
4. Belafonte had a long-standing feud with fellow entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., but they eventually reconciled before Davis passed away in 1990.
5. In 1951, Belafonte became the first African-American to win an Emmy Award when he was honored for his performance on the CBS program “Lights Out”.
6. He has been politically active since the 1950s, serving as a civil rights activist and an advocate for the poor. He has been awarded several honorary degrees in recognition of his work.
7. In 1985, Belafonte was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador by then-President Ronald Reagan.
8. The singer is also an accomplished actor, appearing in films such as Carmen Jones (1954), Island In The Sun (1957) and Uptown Saturday Night (1974).
9. In 1989, he recorded the popular children’s album “Hallo, My Baby” which featured favorites such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Singing in the Rain”.
10. At age 88, Belafonte is still working and recently released a memoir titled “My Song: A Memoir of Art, Race and Defiance” in 2018. In it he recounts his amazing journey from poverty to international stardom.
With such an impressive career spanning over seven decades, Harry Belafonte has earned his spot as one of America’s most beloved entertainers. He will always be remembered for his musical talent and social activism that contributed so much to the civil rights movement.