Harry Belafonte was born as Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. on 1 March, 1927 Lying-in Hospital, in Harlem, New York. He is an American singer, songwriter, actor, and social activist. One of the most successful Jamaican-American pop stars in history, he was dubbed the “King of Calypso” for popularizing the Caribbean musical style (originating in Trinidad & Tobago) with an international audience in the 1950s. His breakthrough album Calypso is the first million-selling LP by a single artist.
Harry 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.
Belafonte is best known for singing “The Banana Boat Song”, with its signature lyric “Day-O”. He has recorded in many genres, including blues, folk, gospel, show tunes, and American standards. He has also starred in several films, most notably in Otto Preminger’s hit musical Carmen Jones (1954), Island in the Sun (1957), and Robert Wise’s Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and several 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 while his breakthrough album Calypso (1956) became the first LP in the world “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.