As reported earlier, famed activist, actor, and musician Harry Belafonte died on Tuesday (April 25). He passed away in his home in Manhattan, New York, from congestive heart failure. He was 96.
Videos by American Songwriter
Born at Lying-in Hospital on March 1, 1927, in Harlem, New York, the singer, whose full name was Harold George Bellanfanti Jr., was the son of Jamaican-born parents Harold George Bellanfanti Sr. and Melvine Love.
In the 1950s, Belafonte rose to popularity as he brought the sounds of the Caribbean to American audiences, popularizing the Calypso style. His 1956 album, Calypso, was the first million-selling LP by a solo artist.
And here, we wanted to celebrate Belafonte’s life by diving into his Top 10 Songs.
1. “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)”
This traditional Jamaican folk song was made famous internationally by Belafonte in 1956.
2. “Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)”
“Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)” is a song originally written by Trinidad calypso artist Lord Kitchener that was later made famous by Belafonte in 1961.
3. “Island in the Sun”
Written by Belafonte and Irving Burgie, “Island in the Sun” was used in the movie of the same name in 1957. It dropped that same year on Belafonte’s album, Belafonte Sings of the Caribbean.
A song about a woman who took a man’s last penny, “Matilda” is credited by ASCAP to Harry Thomas, which is thought to be an alias of Belafonte. He first recorded it in 1953 and made the song a hit.
5. “Jamaica Farewell”
Written by Lord Burgess, this is an ode to the Island nation of Jamaica. It appeared on Belafonte’s 1956 album, Calypso.
6. “Mama Look a Boo Boo”
Also known as “Mama Look at Bubum,” “Mama Look a Boo Boo” was written by Lord Melody, Harry Belafonte, and Lord Burgess and it appears on Belafonte’s 1957 album, The Versatile Mr. Belafonte.
7. “Man Smart, Woman Smarter”
A traditional Caribbean song that Belafonte made his own. He recorded it three times with the first included on his 1956 album, Calypso.
8. “Mary’s Boy Child”
Recorded in 1956 by Belafonte, this is a traditional Christmas song written by Jester Hairston.
9. “Coconut Woman”
A 1957 single for the Calypso artist, this song hit No. 25 on the U.S. Billboard charts upon its release.
10. “Scarlet Ribbons”
Covered by Belafonte in 1952, “Scarlet Ribbons” was released four years later in 1956 on Belafonte’s self-titled second album. The track hit No. 1 on Billboard and stayed there for weeks.
Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images