Harry Belafonte, the singer whose dynamic a cappella shout of “Day-O!” from “The Banana Boat Song” and other music from world folk traditions propelled him to international stardom, and who used his entertainment fortune to help bankroll the civil rights movement at home and human rights causes worldwide, died April 25 at his home in Manhattan. He was 96.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said his spokesman Ken Sunshine.
Mr. Belafonte was born to Jamaican immigrants, grew up in poverty in Depression-era Harlem and became a major Black crossover success in popular music. He went on to smash a series of barriers during five decades as a movie, TV and stage star. His artistic and humanitarian work frequently overlapped, reflecting his belief that “the role of art isn’t just to show life as it is but to show life as it should be.”
A confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Belafonte spent years as a liaison between the civil rights movement and the entertainment capitals of Hollywood and New York City. He also used his clout to promote the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and famine relief through efforts such as the “We Are the World” recording and concerts in 1985.