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Biography #2

Harry Belafonte has been called the consummate entertainer. His distinguished career spans motion pictures, television, Broadway, recordings and concerts.

Born in Harlem and raised in Jamaica, Belafonte first supported his acting studies as an intermission singer at the Royal Roost, a famed New York nightclub, where his backup band included Max Roach, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. His world of jazz changed when he discovered The Village Vanguard and folk music. Watching artists like Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Josh White and Pete Seeger, Belafonte found the art form that became his ultimate expression.

A succession of club appearances led to his first Broadway appearance in the musical John Murray Anderson's Almanac, for which he won the Tony Award. A recording contract with RCA followed and, in 1955, against all advice, Belafonte recorded his third album, Calypso, which became the first album to ever sell over one million copies. It contained the Top 5 hit Banana Boat Song (Day-O), which was re-used to delightful effect in the 1988 Tim Burton hit film, Beetlejuice.

In 1953, Belafonte made his motion picture debut in Bright Road, opposite Dorothy Dandridge. He again starred opposite Dandridge the following year, in Otto Preminger's film version of Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones. His other films include Robert Wise's Odds Against Tomorrow; The World, The Flesh And The Devil; Uptown Saturday Night; Island in the Sun (for which he co-authored the title song), and the recent White Man's Burden with John Travolta. In 1960, Belafonte produced and starred in a stunning musical epic for television called Tonight With Belafonte, for which he won an Emmy.

Belafonte's concert tours have been worldwide sellouts since 1956, and his charismatic live show was captured on the double-album Belafonte at Carnegie Hall. He has also been instrumental as a patron and supporter of black musicians, including acclaimed South African singer Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela.

Harry Belafonte has dedicated his life to humanitarian and civil rights causes, working with President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. He believes that his work for human rights and his artistic pursuits give him the basis for a most productive and balanced life. In 1985, he played a central role in organizing the USA For Africa famine relief recording of We Are The World. Belafonte has been a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF since 1987.

Bio courtesy Fine Line Features (07-Jul-2002)