Harry Belafonte dead at 96, rep confirms cause of death

Harry Belafonte close-up.
Harry Belafonte has passed away. Pic credit: © Van Tine/StarMaxWorldwide

Harry Belafonte, the superstar singer and actor who campaigned for civil rights in the 1950s, has died at his home in Manhattan at age 96.

Belafonte, born to Jamaican parents in New York, was one of the most successful entertainers of his era but was equally heralded for his dedication to racial equality activism.

He was best known for his smash hit Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) and numerous other hits, including Angelina, Jump in the Line, and Jamaica Farewell. 

His spokesman Ken Sunshine revealed that his cause of death was congestive heart failure. 

Belafonte won three Grammy Awards, which include a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award. 

The late star received numerous accolades during his life and was the oldest person to receive a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honor in the Early Influence category. 

Harry Belafonte continued his activism until his death in the upcoming documentary, Following Harry

In March, Deadline reported that Belafonte was set to star in the documentary Following Harry. 

The outlet reported that principal photography had wrapped at the time of the report. 

The Susanne Rostock-directed project was set to debut at fall film festivals. 

Belafonte was an executive producer on the project, and the documentary is a follow-up of his 2011 Sing Your Song documentary.

“Following Harry is a feature documentary that shares the lived experience of Harry Belafonte, in the most public of places and the most intimate confines of his private life,” a description of the film reads, continuing: 

“The film unfolds like a poem, allowing audiences to experience the effect that the social justice icon has purposefully, and unintentionally, created. From Ferguson to Fruitland Park, and Ossining to Ghana, even in Harry’s kitchen in New York City, the life’s work of this cultural and civil rights icon is explored.”

Producer Julius Nasso said the upcoming doc is part of a planned trilogy of documentaries. However, it is unclear how his death will impact the release of the third project. 

Nasso said in the third statement that the third doc would be the Belafonte Remix Series, which is about leaders the late icon inspired. 

Harry Belafonte once bailed Martin Luther King out of jail 

Belafonte used his income from the entertainment industry to combat racism during his heyday, according to The New York Times

The outlet reported that the late singer provided the finances to bail Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists out of jail. 

Belafonte, who became a friend of King, also took part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. 

According to NYT, Belafonte had an insurance policy on King’s life, with the civil rights icon’s family as the beneficiary. 

In addition, he added his own money to ensure his family was taken care of after King was assassinated in 1968. 

In 2013, Belafonte sued King’s three surviving children in a dispute over documents that Belafonte said were his property while the children claimed it belonged to the King’s estate. The singer won the lawsuit the following year. 

Belafonte is survived by his four children, grandchildren, and his third wife, Pamela Frank. 

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