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The king of Calypso Harry Belafonte, dead at 96

Harry Belafonte, the Grammy-winning Caribbean-American folk singer and civil rights activist who became one of the first leading Black actors in Hollywood, died early yesterday, of congestive heart failure in Manhattan. He was 96.

Born in Harlem in 1927 to Caribbean parents, Belafonte would serve in the US Navy during World War II before gaining popularity singing in New York jazz clubs and stage-acting. His 1956 album “Calypso”—featuring Caribbean folk hits “Day-O” and “ Jamaica Farewell” — became the first album to sell more than 1 million copies, launching his music career into film and TV. His 1959 TV special “Tonight with Belafonte” would earn him an Emmy—the first for a Black performer.

Beyond entertainment, Belafonte was an outspoken civil rights activist for seven decades, both in the US and abroad, including as a confidant and financial sponsor for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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