In Pics: Farewell Harry Belafonte, music legend, style icon, and civil rights activist

The lyrics of the Calypso classic Jamaica Farewell have been on everyone’s mind from the time Harry Belafonte, singer, style icon, and civil rights activist, left us yesterday at the ripe age of 96 to take his sailing ship to the afterlife, if there is such a thing — we hope there is, and that charming, handsome Harry, a man of incredible talent and great principles, is still smiling his huge smile up there.

Harry Belafonte was born in America but spent eight years in Jamaica as a child. Photo courtesy: Instagram/faroutmagazine

Apart from his legendary music career spanning decades and his screen appearances, the Jamaican-American singer was closely involved in the American civil rights movement, fighting segregation and other injustices with Martin Luther King Jr, the foremost leader of the movement. Belafonte also sang against apartheid in South Africa, delivering a power-packed melodic punch with the cover version of British-Guyanese artiste Eddy Grant’s hit song Gimme Hope, Jo’anna.

Harry Belafonte with civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr and his wife Coretta Scott King. Photo courtesy: Instagram/thekingcenter

Though an American citizen by birth — he was born in 1927 in Harlem, New York — Belafonte spent eight years as a child in Jamaica, the native country of his hard-working and financially struggling parents. He returned to America to finish school but learning difficulties got in the way. During World War II, he had a brief career as a munitions loader in 1944 at a military base in New Jersey.

With the end of WWII, Belafonte developed the desire to become an actor, and took acting classes in New York, where he met Sidney Poitier, another aspiring entertainer who would also go on to become a legend. Belafonte paid for these classes with small music gigs.

Harry Belafonte with his former classmate Sidney Poitier, who became the first black actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor. This is the B&W version of an image captured by Life magazine photographer Francis Miller. Photo courtesy: Instagram/billshapiro

His ascent to superstardom began in 1954, with the release of a debut album that was a compilation of folk songs. His eponymous second album, Belafonte, was a chart-topper in 1956. The third album, Calypso, which drew upon his Jamaican heritage, made waves in America in 1957 and became the first album in the United States to cross 1 million copies in sales.

With a colourful personality to match his one-of-a-kind voice, Harry Belafonte was too much of a giant for his life to be described in a few words. These images, shared online after his death, give a glimpse into his extraordinary life and times.

Harry Belafonte began his rise to superstardom in 1954, with the release of his debut album. Photo courtesy: Instagram/torydevonsmith
Harry Belafonte was as famous for being handsome and stylish as he was for his magnificent voice. Photo courtesy: Instagram/debimazar
Two music legends, Julie Andrews and Harry Belafonte. Picture courtesy: Instagram/julieandrews_online
The famous Harry Belafonte smile. Picture courtesy: Instagram/moshimoshi_nyc
A Harry Belafonte portrait by Carl Van Vechten. Photo courtesy: Instagram/fifival
Harry Belafonte with the younger Hollywood hottie, Michael B Jordan. Picture courtesy: Instagram/bakarislegacy