Harry Belafonte (born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr., March 1, 1927) is an American singer, songwriter, activist, and actor. One of the most successful Jamaican-American pop stars, as he popularised the Trinbagonian Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. His breakthrough album Calypso (1956) was the first million-selling LP by a single artist.
Belafonte is known for his recording of "The Banana Boat Song", with its signature lyric "Day-O". He has recorded and performed in many genres, including blues, folk, gospel, show tunes, and American standards. He has also starred in several films, including Carmen Jones (1954), Island in the Sun (1957), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).
Belafonte considered the actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson a mentor and was a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. As he later recalled, "Paul Robeson had been my first great formative influence; you might say he gave me my backbone. Martin King was the second; he nourished my soul." Throughout his career, Belafonte has been an advocate for political and humanitarian causes, such as the Anti-Apartheid Movement and USA for Africa. Since 1987, he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He was a vocal critic of the policies of the George W. Bush presidential administrations. Belafonte acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.
Belafonte has won three Grammy Awards (including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award), an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award. In 1989, he received the Kennedy Center Honors. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994. In 2014, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy's 6th Annual Governors Awards.