Belafonte, Harry [Harold George]
- Ronald M. Radano
(b New York, March 1, 1927). American popular singer and actor. He lived in Kingston, Jamaica, for five years (1935–40), returning to New York in 1940. In 1945 he began a career as an actor, having studied in Erwin Piscator’s drama workshop at the New School of Social Research. He experienced greater commercial success, however, as a popular singer, making his début at the Royal Roost, New York, in 1949. The following year he rejected his popular song repertory and began to sing traditional melodies from Africa, Asia, America and the Caribbean, which he collected in folk music archives. Having secured an RCA recording contract in 1952, Belafonte went on to become the most popular ‘folk’ singer in the USA. His interpretations of Trinidadian calypso music between 1957 and 1959 won him his greatest success and marked the pinnacle of his career. His mass appeal through the 1950s, moreover, enabled him to resume his work as an actor, and he appeared in several films. During the 1960s and 70s his popularity waned, but he continued to record, and to perform in nightclubs and theatres for a predominantly white, middle-class audience. In ...