Belafonte established himself on the scene via two smash hits from his 1956 classic album, Calypso, “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.” It was said to be the first album by a single artist to sell more than a million copies.
He also made his Broadway debut in the mid-50s, earning a Tony Award for supporting actor in the play John Murray Anderson’s Almanac. Belafonte went on to star in landmark films including Carmen Jones alongside Dorothy Dandridge, and in the 1960s, he became the first Black television producer. He also became a prominent fixture in the Civil Rights Movement, both in front of the camera, and more often, behind the scenes — including the time he and longtime friend/Buck and The Preacher co-star Sidney Poitier, personally flew a suitcase full of money to Mississippi to keep Freedom Summer going.
Belafonte also left a significant mark on Hip-Hop, as a producer of the 1984 landmark film, Beat Street. Melle Mel penned the track, "Beat Street Breakdown" for the movie, and recently spoke about having a sit-down with Belafonte prior to writing the song, which proved to be pivotal to his creative process.
"Harry is an eloquent guy, so I'm transfixed, just listening to him," Mel recalled.
With news of Belafonte's passing, Questlove, T.I., Royce Da 5'9, Rapsody, 9th Wonder, DJ Premier, and more paid tribute to the icon.